Breaking the Silence, the left-wing NGO that gathers testimonies from Israeli combat veterans, was accused on Israel’s Channel 2 News Thursday night of gathering classified military intelligence on operational and tactical matters with no obvious connection to human rights, the NGO’s professed area of interest. During the segment, hidden camera footage captured Breaking the Silence asking combat veterans about sensitive military matters, including the detection of cross-border tunnels and troop positions.
Channel 2 journalist Ofer Haddad claimed that the Military Censor had prohibited the broadcast of additional reels of hidden camera footage, owing to the sensitivity of the information allegedly solicited by Breaking the Silence.
The raw footage was obtained by Ad Kan, a controversial new group that has planted “moles” in left-wing NGOs in a bid to uncover wrongdoing. In January, Ad Kan aroused a stir in January with hidden camera footage purporting to show far-left activist Ezra Nawi conspiring to deliver to the Palestinian Authority a Palestinian who wanted to sell land to Jews, ostensibly exposing him to torture or execution.
During the news segment, former Shin Bet head and present Likud MK Avi Dichter, said that if this information were communicated to a foreign state, it would be considered “suspected espionage.” He elaborated: “If you hadn’t given me the background, I’d have said this was a spy handler gathering information.”
Breaking the Silence CEO Yuli Novak claimed that the sting operation was part of a right-wing campaign to “silence” critics of the government and those that act to end the Occupation. Novak declined to state where her organization stores and safeguards any potentially classified information that reaches its hands from soldiers giving testimony. In a statement later that night, Breaking the Silence rejected allegations that it is sitting on classified information, despite claims by Channel 2 that the Military Censor had expressly forbidden the broadcast of certain material in the possession of the organisation.
On Twitter, politicians across the aisle rushed to condemn Breaking the Silence. Minister Zeev Elkin (Likud), claimed, without substantiation, that the story “raises suspicion that classified IDF information was… sent to foreign agents.” Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid went so far as to accuse the group, which he said had “no right to exist in a country that fights terror daily,” of “subverting the State of Israel.” By morning, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had ordered the military advocate general to open an investigation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already declared, hours after the broadcast, that his security services were investigating. He charged Breaking the Silence with “crossing another red line,” an accusation also made by opposition MK Eitan Cabel of the left-wing Labor Party.
It remains unclear how and why classified information reached the hands of Breaking the Silence in the first place, since the interlocutors from whom it was gleaned were operatives of Ad Kan. The left-wing NGO may indeed have asked irrelevant questions about operational matters, which should raise concerns and eyebrows, but for the organization to be in possession of secretive information, as according to the hidden camera footage, then it must have been divulged by the group that sought to entrap it.
Indeed, left-wing activist Haggai Matar immediately alleged on the Hebrew blog Mekomit that Ad Kan had divulged classified information, and that Breaking the Silence had refused to publish it because it was not deemed credible and would not pass censorship. Ad Kan founder Aviram Zeevi deflected the concerns, stating. “The question is not who divulged, but who asked: whoever holds the full testimony knows the answer.” A spokesman for Ad Kan declined to comment further on these concerns.