Picture worth thousands of complicated words
All of this month’s letters are in response to Michele Alperin’s Reporter’s Notebook, “Picture worth thousands of complicated words” (May 9). See Why we covered Breaking the Silence for NJJN’s response.
It is always admirable when a newspaper reporter addresses controversial issues that inevitably arise with the State of Israel. The readership of NJJN wants to know. Likewise, we are all accustomed to the story of the naïve New Jersey Jewish youth falling in love with everything Israeli, only to be disappointed later when they find out that a functioning Zionist state has flaws and insurmountable problems. There is some similarity to members of Breaking the Silence, soldiers who are somehow surprised about the horror of war and the inconsistencies of a “just” army committing what they consider unacceptable acts. That is not the problem with this group and the article.
Citizens of Israel are permitted to express disagreement with the government. They are free to hold rallies, publish complaints, file lawsuits, and, most of all, to solicit votes to change what they believe are unjust and destructive policies. What Breaking the Silence is doing that is wrong and deplorable is that they are giving comfort to enemies of Israel who, rather than wanting to correct imperfections, are bent upon her complete destruction. When Breaking the Silence meets with foreign government officials, offers inside information to enemies of the state, and publishes photographs and testimonies outside of Israel, they are more likely to cause damage to the State of Israel than improvements.
It is difficult and frustrating to move Israeli politics and effect change. But that is how democracies operate. Going to the countries’ enemies and foreign critics is more anti-democratic than constructive. I don’t believe the good people of Breaking the Silence are aware of the damage they are causing by not confining their protests to Israel internally.
When NJJN publishes articles supporting Breaking the Silence and J Street, it is assisting Israel’s enemies, even though this assuredly is not the intention. There are many ways to complain and take action to improve Israel other than giving comfort to her enemies.
I am writing in support of NJJN’s thoughtful and nuanced article. Michele Alperin is a fine writer and reporter and we here in New Jersey benefit from her independent journalism.
Your readership appreciates the high standards of your newspaper and your commitment to showing many sides of a question, allowing the intelligent reader to judge for him or herself.
Keep up the good work.
A few of the numerous criticisms of NJJN’s article are not mentioning the unreliability of the statements made by Breaking the Silence (BTS), the organization’s refusal to cooperate with IDF investigators, the fact that it relies on foreign funding, and that it promotes its work to international audiences.
While the article shares experiences of soldiers serving in the West Bank and Gaza, what’s not mentioned is an investigation by Israeli TV news magazine “HaMakor” which found that a large number of the group’s accounts are false or exaggerated. BtS has and continues to rely on anonymous statements, many of which are impossible to verify.
There’s nothing wrong in seeking a complex understanding of Israel. However, NJJN should be promoting an understanding that is based on an honest discussion of the facts, not on anti-Israel propaganda.
I am distressed about your article because any piece about Breaking the Silence that appears in NJJN should be balanced, and optimally critical of this anti-Israel organization and its supporters. It distresses me that Breaking the Silence accepts money from foreign governments that have their own political agenda and often airs their findings to audiences outside of Israel suggesting that they care more about fomenting criticism of Israel than improving the most humane armed forces in the world. Mostly I am distressed that your article failed to provide any credible context about this dubious organization thereby in effect misrepresenting the organization to your readers. Please in the future present the whole truth or your reader base will further erode.
G. H. Mayor
Shame on NJJN. Breaking the Silence is not a group worthy of your coverage, especially in the absence of context and mention of the specific criticisms of the group.
Time to offer apologies to your readers.
I was a bit taken aback by your article. We get enough biased, anti-Israel reporting from the New York Times. We don’t need it from NJJN too.
Aside from the fact that Breaking the Silence uses foreign money to spread unreliable and damaging reports about Israel to international audiences, a credible investigation by an Israeli television news team found that Breaking the Silence’s claims are unreliable.
I don’t understand how it was possible for NJJN to run this article without pointing out that an investigation showed the organization’s claims were not accurate. Jewish news outlets, like all news outlets, have an obligation to provide readers with the facts that affect BDS’s credibility.
I look forward to a follow up article that tells a lot more of the story.
Steven A. Finkler
Michele Alperin always writes about things with compassion and complexity. I teach in Ann Arbor at religious schools for Reform and Reconstructionist congregations, and I always appreciate when Jewish writers combine those qualities.
The article was very troubling and not up to your usual professional standards.
Breaking the Silence has a long and very troubling record of unreliability and even falsification. They base many claims on unsubstantiated oral reports and refuse to cooperate with IDF investigators who are in a position to address genuine concerns.
Bringing such a biased photo exhibit to a public venue such as Princeton University, where it can make mistaken impressions on people with superficial knowledge of a complex and nuanced subject matter, or worse, present damaging ammunition to already biased and hostile elements (of which, unfortunately, there are plenty), is not serving any productive cause.
I do not know the agenda for hosting this photo exhibition, but disseminating “alternative facts” is never helpful. NJJN should be at the forefront of shedding light, not buying into counterproductive or hostile agendas.