Representatives from Israeli veterans’ group Breaking the Silence will be in London next week hoping to win a highly prestigious Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award.
Consisting of ex-Israeli military conscripts, the group aims to collect and share testimonies about the realities of military operations in the Palestinians Territories, and has been praised for “bringing Hebron to Tel Aviv”.
Since 2004, the group has collected over 1,000 statements from Israelis who served their military duty in the West Bank and Gaza, aiming to “expose the Israeli public to the realities of everyday life in the Occupied Territories”.
However, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) has faced mounting pressure in the last two years, being singled out for criticism by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
In shortlisting the group for an international campaigning award, Index of Censorship said: “In 2016, the pressure on the organisation became particularly pointed and personal, with state-sponsored legal challenges, denunciations from the Israeli cabinet, physical attacks on staff members and damages to property.”
Since the 2015 publication of a damning report on Israeli military tactics in Gaza, the Israeli government sought to force the group to identify a soldier whose anonymous testimony was part of a publication raising suspicions of war crimes in the Strip.
The organisation’s leaders said losing the case would set a precedent that would make it almost impossible for them to operate in the future, which led hundreds of other Israeli soldiers – past and present – to voice support for the group.
Those supporters claimed victory earlier this month, when a state prosecutor finally asked a court to dismiss its previous request to force Breaking the Silence to reveal the soldier’s details.
In nominating the candidacy, Index officials also noted that “the [Israeli] government has also recently enacted a law that would bar the organisation’s widely acclaimed high school education programme”.
The Awards Night will be held at The Unicorn Theatre in London on Wednesday 19 April. Breaking the Silence are up against an LGBT group from Honduras, an academic human rights defender in Morocco and an opposition activist from Russia.