Breaking the Silence: Israeli Soldiers Speak Out

Venue: Les Halles de Schaerbeek

Contact: Marlis Gensler, Email, Tel.: +32 (0)2 738 7663

Organisation: Les Halles de Schaerbeek, l’Union des Progressistes Juifs de Belgique (UPJB) (European Jews for Peace), Dor Hashalom und Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Brussels


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Website Les Halles de Schaerbeek

Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence (BTS) was founded in June 2004 by recently discharged Israeli ex-combatants. Noting the vast gap between the reality they witnessed during their service in Hebron and the knowledge of this reality in mainstream Israeli society, a group of 65 soldiers assumed the duty to inform the Israeli public and decision-makers about that which is being done in their name in the OPT. Through a photo exhibition in Tel Aviv, we broke our silence about our experiences in Hebron, revealing the daily human rights abuses that have become the norm after more than four decades of Occupation.

Since then, we have grown to be a significant voice both within Israel and in the international community. We collect and publish testimonies from soldiers who, like us, served in the OPT – the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem – since the start of the Second Intifada in the year 2000. To date, we have conducted interviews with more than 700 conscripts and reservists who represent all strata of Israeli society and cover nearly all units that operate in the OPT. We also organize hundreds of guided tours to the West Bank each year, enabling thousands of Israeli and international participants to directly encounter life in the OPT.

In recognition of our work, we are proud to have been one of the three finalists for the 2010 Sakharov Prize, awarded by the European Parliament to human rights defenders across the world.
Video Exhibition

During the past year, Breaking the Silence has been busy filming 30 former Israel men and women soldiers as they provide testimonies of their service in the OPT with their identities revealed. These unmasked video testimonies serve as a powerful and unprecedented means of exposing how the Occupation is enforced on a day-to-day level and its corrosive effects on the human rights of the Palestinian population and on our own moral standards. By giving up their anonymity, the testifiers have made their voices much harder to ignore or discredit.

Each of the interviews with the former soldiers lasts between 12 and 16 minutes, and covers a number of separate episodes from their time during the army. As a medium, video provides an effective platform for placing the soldier’s voice – and thus our message – unequivocally at the center, making the testimony even more compelling and communicative. These videos will also humanize the testifiers, helping to increase the audience’s identification with the witnesses.

The testimonies will be showcased at a video exhibit in Tel Aviv in early 2011. After opening in Israel, we plan to take the exhibit to other locations across the world. Using space in a gallery or other suitable location, we will set up a large number of TV screens, each playing 4-5 testimonies on loop. Attendees will be able to move through the room, watching and listening to the testimonies on each screen. For each international location, we will produce subtitles of the testimonies in the relevant language. Altogether, the exhibit will include more than 80 stories from the Occupation, told by the young Israeli men and women who were charged with its enforcement.

Website Breaking the Silence