Empty noises from Breaking the Silence
The latest in a wave of critical attacks on the Israeli army is based on flawed methodology and half-baked research
Today's publication by an organisation called Breaking the Silence, claiming to examine the Israeli army's conduct during the Gaza conflict, is the latest in a wave of attacks by NGOs using human rights claims. Instead of allegations of misdemeanors by individual soldiers, Breaking the Silence is another political group seeking to portray a "grim picture" of the IDF's response to mass terror in order to impose its views.
A brief consideration of the report's flawed methodology exposes the absence of any reasonable research standards. By Breaking the Silence's own admission, the allegations are comprised of "the testimony of around 30 combatants" - a fraction of the thousands of Israeli combat troops deployed during the Gaza conflict. This extremely narrow and presumably hand-picked sample is an absurd basis on which to pass judgment, and even these limited testimonies were entirely unverifiable.
All statements are anonymous, and so-called "evidence" is further compromised by the absence of any details of where and when alleged incidents occurred. Consequently, were the report intended to prompt the IDF to investigate individual allegations, Breaking the Silence has made this impossible.
As for the allegations themselves, they frequently rely upon secondhand evidence and hearsay. Media reports have claimed that the study reveals the use of "permissive" rules of engagement in Gaza. Yet a soldier admits that "I wasn't witness to such cases but I heard people talking, that soldiers shot at people here and there." A chain of whispers is hardly a concrete foundation to condemn an army's response to incessant rocket fire on its civilians. Tellingly, the report provides eyewitness evidence of Hamas's well-documented use of human shields. One soldier states that "In Gaza there were bursts of fire from above." He explains that this gunfire from civilian building could only have been due to Hamas, as IDF troops were not allowed on rooftops.
Precedent shows that the IDF is not immune from censure, and Israel is very open to self-examination, where warranted. The Winograd Commission which followed the 2006 Lebanon war was highly critical of both Israel's military and political leadership. In contrast, Breaking the Silence's half-baked research and the undeserved attention it is receiving thanks to funding from the British Embassy in Tel Aviv and the EU, is an illegitimate basis for such soul searching.