Several soldiers have tired of being besmirched and accused of war crimes while participating in important military operations.
Two IDF soldiers are now suing a fellow soldier who served with them in the same tank after he gave testimony to Breaking the Silence and accused his fellow soldiers of participating in indiscriminate fire against innocent civilians during Operation Protective Edge.
Attorney Tzur Polk, who serves as the legal advisor of the ‘Ad Kan’ organization, is representing the soldiers and drafted the complaint. In the complaint he writes, “In 2014, the IDF entered the Gaza Strip as part of Operation Protective Edge after three teenagers were kidnapped and rockets were fired at Israel. Soldiers endangered their lives and many were killed or injured. Five months later, they discovered a book ‘How we Fought in Gaza’ published by Breaking the Silence, which contains statements from 111 soldiers with 10-12 particularly outrageous claims about what the soldiers allegedly did.
“The statements include an alleged bet over who could murder a motorcyclist from furthest away just because the soldiers were bored, a supposed competition over who could destroy more vehicles from furthest away, an outlandish story about a soldier who didn’t like the color ‘orange and thus asked his commander if he could destroy an orange building, the alleged execution of an elderly man, and the burying of an elderly man alive.”
These statements, explains Attorney Polk, received significant media coverage throughout the world including in European Parliaments and other forums. Polk continued, “The Ad Kan Organization has previously noted that Breaking the Silence is not careful about verifying claims and publishes wild accusations. After these accusations were made, soldiers’ good names were damaged and the accusations were brought before them by the military police. The military police presented the soldiers with testimonies from videos on the Breaking the Silence website and asked the soldiers to comment.”
“All of the cases were closed and the soldiers were determined to be innocent of the charges,” emphasizes Polk. “This case was brought by two soldiers, Costa and Shneur, the commander and another soldier in the tank, who are suing Yaron Zeev who was in charge of the artillery. Yaron provided testimony to Breaking the Silence and his testimony was split into 15 parts and published as separate pieces by Breaking the Silence. Yaron made many very specific claims about what others did, yet alleged that he had no part. However, it is known that a tank is unable to fire unless the entire team takes part since without any one member it will not work. Therefore all of the soldiers in the tank were interrogated about these incidents.”
“We identified the soldiers and questioned other soldiers who served with them. We determined that the alleged actions were not technically feasible. Furthermore, Gilad Ach, the Director of Ad Kan, traveled with Shneur to Germany where Yaron is currently living in order to meet with him. Yaron had avoided telephone calls from his fellow soldiers and upon seeing them, he fled and refused to cooperate.”
Attorney Polk continues, “We recently received materials from the military police. Yaron Zeev was arrested by the military police when he visited his family and was interrogated. After the interrogation, the military police determined that in every case he mentioned the shooting was either justified or never actually took place. Yaron claims that the statements he provided to Breaking the Silence were edited. It is indeed clear that the testimony he gave to the military police is quite different from what was published by Breaking the Silence.”
According to Polk, every fa can be proven and he expects that “Yaron Zeev will attend the hearings, and will either argue that he and all of his fellow soldiers are murderers or admit that he lied.”
Polk also laments the ease with which IDF soldiers are attacked. He notes that the testimony of Yaron was widely published in Israel and around the world, with Breaking the Silence receiving support from anti-Semitic organizations around the world, including even in European Parliaments.
“I am asking Breaking the Silence, what happened to you? Is this your goal? To besmirch IDF soldiers with ugly lies? The time has come to pay. We filed a libel suit for 2.6 million shekels. It so happens that the suit was filed just a week after the ruling on the film ‘Jenin Jenin,’ which sets a strong precedent for our case. The soldier in that case was besmirched less so than in our case. Here, these soldiers were interrogated by the military police, their friends and family knew who they were and now they seek to clear their good name.”
Polk also emphasized that this suit is just the first of many that could follow. “The report by Breaking the Silence is full of lies and we intend to prove it. We hope that no soldier will fear that any organization will lie and besmirch him when he returns home. Instead of praising our soldiers as heroes, they accuse them of war crimes.”
Following the initial announcement of the libel suit in ‘Yediot Achronot’, Breaking the Silence sent a letter to its supporters stating, “The libel suit by Ad Kan is baseless and will be dismissed in court. Regarding the article, we are pleased that testimonies from soldiers in Operation Protective Edge have finally made it to the front pages of Yediot Achronot. The time has come to discuss what was done in Gaza and to listen to the soldiers who served there. This is one positive development from this lawsuit. The attacks on us did not stop us in the past and won’t stop us now. Since the recent wave of attacks, people have contacted us to support us, donated to us, and most importantly given testimony.”
Polk also mentioned this response and noted that it did not address any of the claims in the suit. “We know that the number of testimonies they receive has dropped from over one hundred per year to less than ten. They even state this on their website. We are entering a long-term battle and we hope that the courts will rule in accordance with the truth. The truth is that Breaking the Silence libeled Shneur, Costa and many other soldiers who have not yet found the inner strength to stand up to Breaking the Silence.”