Assuming, of course, that no money changed hands, it seems that the Guardian’s Chris McGreal decided to provide free PR to ‘Breaking the Silence’ (BtS), an NGO which promotes false “war crimes” charges against Israel based on unverifiable hearsay “testimonies” by select ex-soldiers.
The article (“‘I became more and more violent’: shocking testimonies of abuse by IDF veterans”, Dec. 15) by McGreal – who was previously the outlet’s Jerusalem correspondent, and is now based in the US – was inspired by an exhibit he attended in New York City.
This is well worth your time if you're in New York https://t.co/0V9kMGadYD
— Chris McGreal (@ChrisMcGreal) December 14, 2022
Here are the opening paragraphs of the article:
Sgt Gil Hillel flinches, awareness written across her face, as she looks to the camera and describes how the power of life and death over another human being changed her.
“Over time I became more and more violent. I went through a crazy transformation in that job. From a very calm and relaxed person to a very violent and aggressive person who takes their frustrations out on the object they can take it out on, which was the Palestinians and the detainees,” said the former Israeli military police officer.
“I hit more, I was more abusive. I didn’t really see them at all. They’re invisible people you don’t see.”
As Hillel speaks, the voices of other Israel Defence Forces (IDF) veterans bubble away in the background on screens scattered around a New York city exhibition space. Each monitor speaks to a theme of the brutal reality of how Israel maintains its 55-year occupation and domination of the Palestinians.
The destruction of Arab homes as collective punishments. The physical abuse of arrested Palestinians. The humiliation of families at roadblocks because a soldier is having a bad day. Some of the hardest testimony comes about the abuse of children and the torture of detainees.
The faces of these soldiers – some grimacing at the thought of who they used to be, others blank and matter-of-fact – are among hundreds who have given testimony to Breaking the Silence, a group founded by Israeli combat veterans to document military abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Breaking the Silence is well-known, and much vilified, in Israel. Ori Givati, a former Israeli tank commander and the group’s advocacy director, said it has brought the video testimonies to New York and Washington because Americans should know what $4.9bn in annual US military aid to Israel is paying for.
The rest of the article includes additional unsubstantiated allegations. But, here are few factual clarifications on the excerpts we cited:
There are no “destruction of Arab homes as collective punishments” by the IDF. McGreal is likely alluding to the practice of demolishing the homes of Palestinian terrorists, which can hardly be characterised as “collective punishment” – a term which refers to “action taken against a group in retaliation for an act committed by an individual” – as only the terrorist’s home is demolished.
Also, the amount of military aid Israel receives annually from Washington is $3.8nb, not “$4.9bn”.
The rest of the article follows the same script, with McGreal uncritically citing the unverified claims of former Israeli soldiers.
We say “unverified” because the soldiers chose to give their testimony to BtS rather than having gone through the normal army chain of command and filing complaints – despite the army’s injunction to report any violation of regulations that results in harm to non-combatants. The claims are unfalsifiable because there aren’t enough details – such as the date, location, etc – of the alleged abuse for the army to investigate or refute them.
In fact, quite tellingly, we learned that McGreal didn’t even bother approaching the IDF for a comment on the soldiers’ allegations.
As CAMERA previously observed, “fact-checking investigations by even sympathetic journalists have shown that many or most BtS claims are either entirely false or grossly exaggerated”. That is the nature of propaganda. Responsible journalists would, thus, be well-advised to accept tales by BtS “witnesses” with the utmost of caution – which helps explain why the Guardian’s Chris McGreal accepts the group’s claims at face value.