Hevron resident argues with Breaking the Silence member
Hevron resident argues with Breaking the Silence member Garrett Mills / Flash 90

Breaking the Silence (BTS) has justly been getting kicked around within the Israeli political system following a damning report published by Im Tirzu, that included the organization of former IDF soldiers among ‘foreign agents”. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has revoked any contact between the organization and the IDF, while Education Minister Naftali Bennett has stopped any and all contact between Breaking the Silence and any schools.

Dr. Yoaz Hendel, head of the Institute for Zionist Strategy, spoke to Arutz Sheva about the problems inherent in the organization.  

“Firstly, I would like to say that I agree in theory with the fact that we all want the IDF to be a moral army. The issue with BTS is not the cases that they are bringing to light per se, but rather that they are creating a warped picture of the IDF. They take exceptional cases and make them out to be rules that apply across the board, and that simply isn’t true.”  

Every army finds itself from time to time in difficult situations of a complex moral nature. The same holds true for the IDF. But what offends many in Israel and around the world, is when an army is vilified because of a handful of incidents. “BTS finds the one exceptional incident that happened, and claim that this is how the entire military behaves at all times. I find that insulting,” said Hendel.

Hendel, who served for six years as a soldier and an officer in the Israeli Navy, said that he is not aware of another military, anywhere in the world that spends so much time deliberating about courses of action in order to maintain the highest moral standard possible. “I don’t know of another army that spends so much time on dealing with protecting the innocent, or other moral dilemmas that come up. Nor do I know of another military that is put in such tough situations as the IDF is almost on a daily basis.”

Hendel said that the sources that BTS uses are often unverified, and “remain anonymous” because they are warped, or twisted and only represent a kernel of truth. “With respect to all of the anonymous testimonies, I can testify from my own experience from my own six years and from all the wars that I have fought in since then, and I’ve fought in all of them, that Israel has the most moral army in the world.”  

“I was taught, and I taught my soldiers, to maintain only the highest moral standards, and purity of arms in all situations. And what we deal with are some of the most complex situations faced by a military anywhere in the world.”

Hendel said that the work of BTS is not only an affront to soldiers but is an affront to Israelis and anyone who supports Israel anywhere in the world. “It is a personal affront to me and to soldiers like me and pretty much every other soldier in the IDF who work so hard on trying to upkeep the incredibly high moral standard that the IDF sets for itself.

“It hurts on a personal level. The worst thing that they do, which is to fabricate history by warping some exceptional case and pretending these things always occur, it hurts, and it hurts us all.   

“Some of the stories they tell, no one can look into and check if they are correct. Some are outright lies. While others are simply warped situations that they create. They go to a place that is a very complicated situation and they try to implicate soldiers to commit acts of moral turpitude.”

Hendel believes that BTS not only warps cases, but that they consciously leave out the cheques and balances that Israel has which makes it a moral system. “In the articles and the narrative that they (BTS) show, there is no moral dilemma discussed by the officers in the IDF. There is no Supreme Court which analyzes everything that goes on. There is no dialogue or discussion.  There is just Israel depicted as an evil place in which the military and others kill innocent babies.”

“I am angry, and it is an emotional anger. We are in a global world, and BTS is not the only people who are doing this. But they are giving credit to others to go even further, because they claim that they have been there as soldiers and have seen what is going on.”

Hendel claims that BTS could be doing things in a more appropriate fashion by dealing with cases or issues that they see in military procedure internally, like most other countries would. Instead they send everything outward and expose it to the world in a slanted and dishonest fashion in order to vilify Israel.  “This is a personal affront to Israelis, and I too take it personally.”

Dr. Yoaz Hendel is the head of the Institute of Zionist Strategy, and has served as a fighter and a commander in the Israeli Navy for six years. He holds the rank of major in the Reserves where he serves each year. He has also published two books: "Let the IDF Win", together with Professor Zaki Shalom and "Israel vs Iran - the Shadow War", together with Yaakov Katz.

In 2011, Hendel was appointed head of the Public Diplomacy Directorate at the Prime Minister’s Office, a position he held until 2012.