Breaking the silence: Inside the Israeli right’s campaign to silence an anti-occupation group

In this photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. Yehuda Shaul, co-founder of
Yehuda Shaul, a co-founder of Breaking the Silence, after a media briefing in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Nov. 21, 2017. (photo: Oded Balilty / AP)
This small organization of Israeli veteran combatants has found themselves at the center of an orchestrated campaign to discredit their anti-occupation and human rights work.

By Mairav Zonszein | The Intercept | Mar 3, 2019

For Breaking the Silence, the discovery of a network of spies was just the tip of the iceberg.

On Jan 12, 2016, Yuli Novak called her staff of a dozen people together in their Tel Aviv offices to reveal the identity of a spy who had infiltrated the organization. At the time, Novak was the executive director of Breaking the Silence, an Israeli anti–occupation group that collects testimonies of Israeli soldiers operating in Palestinian territories. She informed the staff that a man calling himself “Chai” had been secretly videotaping them. Chai had been active with the group for a year and a half, visiting their office on a weekly basis, and had grown close to several staff members.

“The moment I said it, everyone’s first reaction was to look left and right,” Novak told me over iced tea in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, in July. “The initial feeling was paranoia — everyone thinking to themselves, Who else? People were automatically suspicious. In that moment, you don’t know who is for you and who is against you.” Frima Bubis, who joined Breaking the Silence just before Chai was exposed, remembers the feeling. “Your mind just runs — I even suspected Yuli. It was awful. Everyone scared of the other, but everyone looking to others for support,” Bubis said. “I remember it as a moment of serious trauma of trust. It was a relief that it wasn’t anyone from the staff.”

Chai, whose real name turned out to be Chaim Fremd, had been hired by a right-wing Israeli group called Ad Kan, or “no more” in Hebrew. Ad Kan, part of the powerful political network that supports Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, holds as its mission to dig up dirt on Israelis who “seek to join the anti-Israel platform.”

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