Breaking the Silence—and filling it with propaganda


Capital Fringe Festival, a Washington, D.C. arts and entertainment presentation, prides itself on being “able to connect exploratory artists and adventurous audiences.” The 22-day festival (it closes on August 2) has drawn crowds to various venues, including sold-out productions at the Atlas Theater of It’s What We Do, described on the Fringe Web site as “A Play about the Occupation.”

The Pamela Nice-written and directed effort better could be described as anti-Israel agit-prop. Festival publicity declares that in It’s What We Do, “courageous Israeli soldiers from Breaking the Silence dare to speak out against the Occupation [capitalization in the original] policies they enforce. Their service in the Palestinian territories was a transforming experience. They show us a reality they can no longer hide.”

Except that’s not what Breaking the Silence does. The Washington Post (“Israeli soldiers allege ‘ethical failure’ in Gaza,” May 5, 2015) noted that “the testimonies in the report [Breaking the Silence’s collection of soldiers’ allegations about last summer’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip] are anonymous and impossible to independently verify. … Breaking the Silence does not provide the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] with any proof of their claims.”

Fringe spokesman Seth Morrison said the script of It’s What We Do would not be released. He added, however, that the bulk of Nice’s dialogue essentially paralleled the book Our Harsh Logic, by Yehuda Shaul. Shaul is a founder and current co-director of Breaking the Silence.

Nice herself has said “the play is drawn directly from the testimonies in the book.”

Unfortunately, festival audiences aren’t likely to know that NGO-Monitor, CAMERA and other organizations have described Breaking the Silence as dedicated to providing non-Israelis with defamatory, often unsubstantiated allegations about the IDF.

Shaul’s book contains roughly 70 first-hand accounts from troops in the military between 2000 and 2010. But tens of thousands served then; Shaul’s sample may be unrepresentative.

Breaking the Silence advertises itself as a not-for profit Israeli organization, but receives a great deal of foreign donations. These come mostly from European groups or governments opposed to Israeli policies if not to Israel itself. For example, Broederlijk Delen, a Belgian Christian charity, supports Breaking the Silence. It also donates large sums to anti-Israel groups.

Another significant funder of Breaking the Silence is Terre Solidaire, a French company that has boycotted Israeli products or service providers such as the Orange telephone firm.

According to NGO-Monitor, the more recipients of such European money publicize what Breaking the Silence calls the “catastrophes of Israel,” the more funds foreign donors provide. This returns us to It’s What We Do. In repackaging Breaking the Silence’s anonymous, unverifiable accusations for theatrical purposes, it amounts to one more ripple in a stream of propaganda—artistic, academic, journalistic and political—intended to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

What would a “daring, courageous” look at Israel’s occupation policies in the “Palestinian territories,” theatrical or otherwise, actually tell us?

That Israel hasn’t occupied the Gaza Strip since its unilateral withdrawal in 2005? That the Strip has been ruled since then mostly by Hamas, an Islamist terrorist movement whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel and genocide of the Jews? That Israel’s military incursions, in response to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist mortar and rocket barrages have resulted, according to U.N. estimates, in lower non-combatant-to-combatant casualty rates than those caused by U.S.-led coalitions in Afghanistan and Iraq? That the standard of living in Gaza—partial Israeli and Egyptian blockades notwithstanding—is, according a recent Bloomberg News article, higher than in much of the developing world (and higher yet in the West Bank)?

Bucking the group-think of anti-Israel agit-prop and telling a factual, complicated story in an entertaining manner—now that would take real artistic creativity and courage.

Another Fringe offering this summer, Artful Justice, a Hitler “comedy,” might simply have been a show biz mistake. But It’s What We Do was no mistake; it was an anti-Israel hit-job.

The writers are, respectively, a student at Stern College in New York City and intern at the Washington office of CAMERA, and CAMERA’s Washington director.

See also: Another perspective on ‘It’s What We Do’ and Breaking the Silence

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