Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Hypocrisy Of Nominating Breaking The Silence For The Sakharov Award (Updated)

Throughout the years of Israel’s existence there has been war. Victorious wars, and also wars which Israel was not allowed to win. Each and every day – literally every day – there is the expectation of a terrorist act or a new war.”
Elena Bonner, Sakharov’s widow

Look who's been nominated for the 2010 Sakharov Prize:
"Breaking the Silence": An Israeli NGO established by former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and veterans who collected testimonies about their military service in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem during the Second Palestinian Intifada. It gives serving and discharged Israeli personnel and reservists a platform to describe their experiences in the Israeli-occupied territories. The group is being nominated by the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) and the Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL).
Michael Dickson, Israel director of StandWithUs, notes the hypocrisy in nominating 'Breaking the Silence' for the Sakharov award:

Breaking the Silence is hypocritical about its aims and even its name. If it wanted to present a true picture of the IDF, it would not blatantly omit the context of terrorism, the goals of Israel’s enemies, the deadly rocket fire from Gaza. It would not omit how the enemy hides behind Palestinian civilians and attacks Israeli civilians. It would raise awareness about the moral dilemmas the IDF faces. But instead, it omits this vital context in its reports, which often consist of anonymous, unverified testimony.

There isn’t even any “silence” to “break.” Israel is an open and democratic society that regularly criticizes its own actions, and anyone is free to present complaints and findings to government officials and the courts.
It is no surprise that liberal European groups nominated Breaking the Silence for the award, seeing as how it is practically a European creation, heavily financed by foreign donors--as recorded by NGO Monitor:
Europe just wants to protect its investment.

Isn't odd though, that while Europe funds these self-proclaimed human rights groups in Israel, over in the West Bank we see the same Europe money at work--but not invested in protesting human rights abuses, but rather in maintaining the corrupt and incompetent infrastructure that has failed in the West Bank, lost the confidence of the Arabs--and of course has wasted millions of European taxpayers' euros.

So in Israel, European funds groups that undercut, demonize and delegitimize Israel.
In the West Bank, European funds go towards maintaining the status quo--and ignoring human rights abuses.

Nominating Breaking the Silence for the Sakharov Award, of all thing, reminds us how we have been reduced to celebrating self-proclaimed human rights activists in democratic societies as if they were heroes, comparable to the real heroes who regularly risk their lives in repressive societies.

I'll close with a more complete quote from Elena Bonner, which I used to begin this post:
Throughout the years of Israel’s existence there has been war. Victorious wars, and also wars which Israel was not allowed to win. Each and every day -- literally every day -- there is the expectation of a terrorist act or a new war. We have seen the Oslo Peace Initiatives and the Camp-David Hand-shake and the Road-map and Land for Peace (there is not much land -- from one side of Israel on a clear day you can see the other side with your naked eye).
Now, a new motif is fashionable (in fact it’s an old one): “Two states for two peoples.” It sounds good. And there are no objections inside the peace-making Quartet, made up of the U.S., the UN, the EU, and Russia (some great peace-maker, with its Chechen war and its Abkhazian-Ossetian provocation). The Quartet, and the Arab countries, and the Palestinian leaders (both Hamas and Fatah) put additional demands to Israel. I will speak only of one demand: that Israel accept back the Palestinian refugees. And here a little history and demography are needed.
According to the UN’s official definition, refugees are considered those who fled from violence and wars, but not their descendants who are born in another land. At one time the Palestinian refugees and the Jewish refugees from Arab countries were about equal in number -- about 700-800,000. The newly-created state Israel took in Jews (about 600,000). The UN officially acknowledged them as refugees (Resolution 242), but did not help them. Palestinians, however, are considered refugees not only in the first generation, but the second, third, and now even the fourth generation. According to the UN Works and Relief Agency’s report, the number of registered Palestinian refugees has grown from 914,000 in 1950 to more than 4.6 million in 2008, and continues to rise due to natural population growth.
The entire population of Israel is about 7.5 million, of which there are about 2.5 million ethnic Arabs who call themselves Palestinians. Imagine Israel then, if another five million Arabs flood into it; Arabs would substantially outnumber the Jewish population. And adjacent to Israel a Palestinian state will be created, completely cleansed of Jews. In addition to the demand that Palestinian refugees return to Israel, there is also the demand that Israel give Judea and Samaria to Palestinians and cleanse the area of Jews -- today in Gaza, there is not a single Jew.
The result is both strange and terrifying, not only because Israel will essentially be destroyed – after all, it will be another time and other Jews. It is terrifying because it shows what a short memory the august peace-making Quartet, their leaders and their citizens will demonstrate if they let this happen. Because the plan “two states for two peoples” is the creation of one state, ethnically cleansed of Jews, and a second one where there will be the potential to do the same thing. A Judenfrei Holy Land. The dream of Adolph Hitler will at last be realized. So think again, those who are capable of objective thinking, who are the fascists today and where can they be found? [emphasis added]
...And who are the groups and countries supporting them.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal highlights how ludicrous the Breaking The Silence nomination is:
"Like Andrei Sakharov himself," the European Parliament's website explains, all the [past] winners of the prize have shown how much courage it takes to defend human rights and freedom of expression." But the biggest threat Israeli activists face is a sunburn from those long meetings at Tel Aviv cafes. Despite its name, there is no "silence" to break. Israel is a noisy liberal democracy in which sitting prime ministers are investigated on corruption charges, a supreme court rules on behalf of Palestinian petitioners against the Israeli government, and a strong press routinely criticizes the government and military.
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NormanF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NormanF said...

I think Sakharov would be mortified at what is being done in his name.

And of course international NGOs have little real interest in human rights abuses in repressive societies. This shows how much the "human rights" meme has been perverted for far more nefarious ends than the late Soviet dissident and human rights activist could ever have imagined.

Don't hold your breath waiting for the relentless obsession among global NGOs with Israel to change in the foreseeable future.

Jerry Haber said...

For my answer to the Wall Street Journal's anonymous editorial (probably written by an Israeli foreign ministry hack -- no other mainstream paper in the world has even reported on the short list) see

By the way, thanks for the post. If the gang gets the prize, it will be because of the Wall Street Journal and, most of all, because of my shul mate, Gerald Steinberg.

There is no truth to the rumor that he is on BtS's payroll.