by Doris Strub Epstein
For too long, the Israeli Armed Forces, the IDF, has been the target of slander and vilification. They have been unjustly condemned by NGO’s, campus anti- Israel organizations, local leaders and academic figures outside of Israel. The tipping point came for reservist Avihai Shorshan last year with the May 2015 report by Breaking the Silence on the Gaza war – Operation Protective Edge. It was filled with distortions and half truths, devoid of context and obsessive blow-ups of Israel’s minor mistakes, while ignoring the massive humanitarian efforts that the IDF implemented.
Shorsham wrote a Facebook post that went viral overnight. He wrote about the requirement of adhering to a strict moral code to save lives, that often endangers the Israeli soldiers -something no other army in the world has. He began a Hebrew Facebook page called HaEmet Sheli, My Truth, to counter the untruths being told about the army and educate about the way the IDF operates. In just half a year it reached at the European Parliament, garnered 23,000 likes and started an organization called My Truth, staffed with nine reserve soldiers like himself, all volunteers.
“For too long people have been telling lies and distortions about the IDF and we decided that the best way to fight back is to collect these stories (eye witness accounts from soldiers) and compile a comprehensive formal report detailing how the IDF really operates,” said Emanuel Miller, who served as a tank driver and runs My Truth’s English language Facebook page.
In its reports, Breaking the Silence testimonies are anonymous, unverified and lacking vital context. They blatantly omit any mention of terrorism or the deadly rocket fire and terror tunnels from Gaza. They omit how Hamas hid behind Palestinian civilians and attacks Israeli civilians. In videos from Israeli soldiers, you will see a child strapped with a suicide bomb. An ambulance filled with explosives uses a pregnant woman in an attempt to pass a security check.
Their representatives travel the world to spread horror stories about the IDF. When they came to Brussels to speak to the European Union, in June of 2015, they expected to have the floor to themselves which they usually do, piggy-backing with the Palestinian anti Israel lobby to address various legislatures.
This time they had a surprise. Matan Katzman co-founder of My Truth was there to tell the truth and break their false accusations. A commander and officer in the IDF, he served in military operations in the last Gaza war. “The Israeli army has one policy that is clear to every soldier and that we all abide by,” he told the European Union Human Rights Commission last year. “Go to every length humanly possible to save lives. When in doubt don’t shoot.”
He described how the army send texts, drops leaflets from planes, uses dummy missiles before real missiles to warn the civilians. He spoke about the field hospitals Israel sets up to treat Palestinians. They do not rain down bombs from the safety of airplanes as the Americans did in Afganistan, but fight, endangering themselves, on the ground house by house. “We choose to lose our element of surprise to save people, and Hamas knows this.”
“They (Hamas) turn their houses into weapon centres, their neighbourhoods into battlefields. Civilians are used for hostages and human shields.” And he had the photos to back up everything he said.
Today, Katzman is a law student at Bar Ilan University and works part time for StandWithUs Israel. He is a reserve infantry officer in the IDF and co founder of the My Truth movement.”There has been too much silence in countering the group’s (Breaking the Silence, who he calls “paid propagandists”) claims and its intensive lobbying effort to get foreign countries and NGOs to attack Israel…No longer will its delegitimization efforts go unchallenged. That is a silence I and soldiers like me, will continue to break.”
“The European Union experience made us realize how important it is that for the first time, Israeli soldiers out of the army, will have a public platform. ( While in the army, soldiers are represented by the official army spokesperson.) No political organization can represent us as effectively as we can ourselves,” said Shachar Liran-Hanan, CEO of My Truth in a phone interview from Israel.
Shachar will be speaking in Toronto on Wednesday, January 11, at 7:30 pm at the Lodzer Synagogue , 12 Heaton St. Her talk is titled, IDF Moral Dilemmas From the Battlefield; Soldiers Testimonies from Combat Fighting. She will also be speaking to students at CHAT and a few universities. “One of my goals is to help them understand the moral dilemmas Israeli soldiers face and the crazy realities we live with,” she said.
Shachar describes My Truth as a grass roots, non profit, non political organization, comprised of IDF reserve soldiers of diverse backgrounds. While in the army, she served in a special unit operating during war times, teaching combat soldiers about geo-political, historical and cultural aspects of the areas of combat in order for them to understand and be sensitive to the needs of the citizens living there.
The event is being organized by CIJR, the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. Admission is free.
To register call CIJR at 1 855 303 5544, or [email protected]/event