On March 31, J Street Columbia, with the help of Hillel, hosted the controversial NGO, Breaking the Silence, represented by Avner Gvaryahu.
1. “We are not violating Hillel’s Standards of Partnership.” – Brian Cohen, Director of Columbia/Barnard Hillel
Hillel’s standards of partnership state that no Hillel or Hillel-affiliated organization can host a group or speaker that demonizes, delegitimizes, or applies a double standard to Israel. Hillel denies violating these standards by bringing Breaking the Silence.
Gvaryahu demonizes Israel, painting a grotesque picture of the IDF, accusing them of things that amount to nothing less than war crimes. portraying them as monsters who take over people’s houses, steal from them, and torture them for fun. A former IDF soldier spoke to him about an image on the cover of BtS’s book about the 2014 Gaza War, claiming that his unit that was there. He said, “I have my own pictures of that mosque, the reason we blew up that mosque was that there was a tunnel, 3 Hamas fighters came out of the tunnel and shot two of our combat soldiers.” Breaking the Silence’s demonization of the IDF, making it look like they burned the mosque down for fun, while completely omitting or distorting the crucial context or imperative for the actions they decried, is undermining its ability to defeat its enemies by turning Israel against itself.
Gvaryahu also applies double standards. When asked if Israel is the most moral army in the world, he scoffed: “I’ve never heard of the moral army olympics!” When asked to name a more moral army than Israel, he broke down and said he couldn’t, but we need to focus on making ourselves more moral, not more moral compared to other armies. He claims to be pressuring the Israeli army because he’s Israeli. Fine. Then why are you pressuring non-Israelis to pressure the Israeli army and not other armies like the American army? Why are they taking this outside Israel instead of changing from within?
J-Street, the group that brought BtS, was caught on record saying, “If Israel is going to engage in the occupation and be required to engage in violence and human rights abuses to maintain it, maybe Israel shouldn’t exist.” That counts as delegitimization, or denying the inherent right of the Jewish People to the State of Israel by making it conditional.
2. “J Street is not part of Hillel at Columbia” – Alon Friedman, President of Hillel Israel
Hillel Israel coordinator Alon Friedman stated on GLZ Army Radio that J Street is not part of Hillel. I recently published an article directly refuting the claim, with a screenshot of J Street’s inclusion as a Hillel Student Group on their website. After its publication, Hillel took the page down.
3. “We are here to ask questions about the morality of the IDF” Avner Gvaryahu, Diaspora Outreach Coordinator for Breaking the Silence at Columbia
No, you are here to sell testimonials to foreign governments that pay you for each one. If BtS cared one iota about the morality of the IDF, or the “brutality of the occupation,” it would be eager to help the IDF investigate the testimonials, which it has refused to do. If the IDF cannot investigate the alleged human rights abuses, what is the point of Breaking the Silence anyway? Refusal to cooperate with the IDF means that they are not here to make the army better, they are here to demonize, and make money off of it.
The ONLY way to reform the army is from within. As much as they claim they wish to get outside “allies” to put pressure on the IDF, by refusing to help the IDF investigate, they are not doing what they claim their entire purpose is to do, because the IDF cannot improve without knowing exactly what it is doing wrong and why, on a logistical level that isn’t covered in the testimonials.
The only reason I could think of as to why they are not cooperating with the IDF’s desire to investigate their claims is that if the IDF fixes the issues they complain about, their cash flow would disappear, or that they have something to hide. I suspect both.
4. “Israel Commits War Crimes, we need to discuss it to make Israel the moral country we want it to be, I say this as a patriot.” -Avner Gvaryahu at Columbia University
Gvaryahu spoke of his “experience” serving in the army, involving stealing, misuse of ammunition, blindfolding, handcuffing, hostage-taking, destruction of property, abuse of the sick and elderly, and other human rights abuses.
His story, however, is a flat-out lie, according to those who served with him. Not a single one of his comrades who served with him backed up anything he said. In fact, they made this video where they refuted everything.
5. “We are doing this to stop the occupation, not Israel.” -Avner Gvaryahu, in his talk at Columbia University
Gvaryahu states: “We are not here to make the occupation nicer, we are here to end it altogether.”
If this was their goal, they would be better off showing the IDF why the “occupation” is a bad idea and not helping Israel. Except they are not doing so, because their chosen path is more lucrative, and lets them get away with lying.
Breaking the Silence, through their actions, intend to weaken the IDF to such an extent that Israel would no longer exist and play into the hands of those who deem it a pariah state. Since they are soldiers, how could they not realize the extent to which they are undermining the State of Israel?
We are in an all-out war. We cannot afford to “take the high road.” If we sit there while they attack us and don’t assert our strength, we would be obliterated. Our magnanimity and moral code was already taken advantage of a great deal in the Gaza incursion of 2014. Instead of using precision missiles, the IDF chose to enter Gaza in order to reduce civilian casualties. Dozens of soldiers died needlessly as a result.
If the Palestinian Authority wants Israel to end its “occupation,” they would stop sending rockets and terrorists into Israel, stop inciting violence, and recognize Israel’s right to exist. Since they are not, they have no right to complain when their civilians die as a result of their actions. The military is better off safe than sorry, and in the Arab world, if you don’t assert your power, you will be taken advantage of and not respected. The IDF, like every other army, does not, and should not, make itself a sacrificial lamb onto the altar of a peace that will never come.
6. “We are being framed by the Israeli government!” – Avner Gvaryahu at Columbia
Recently it has been exposed that Breaking the Silence has been trying to get classified information about Israeli operations that have nothing to do with human rights.
Gvaryahu tries to whitewash these accusations, claiming: “There is a group of Israelis spying on anti-occupation groups, planting moles inside groups like BtS, we had 4 people who sat down and lied to us, in some cases tried to trick us into trying to publish classified info, one is sitting in the Israeli parliament, Oren Hazan. He was one of the guys who tried to trick us and fabricated an entire story and because we do our work well we caught that and made sure it wouldn’t be published.”
The truth is very different. Yes, members of the group Ad Kahn have been acting as moles in the organization. However, contrary to what Gvaryahu is saying, the Ad Kahn moles were asked for classified information that is in no way related to Breaking the Silence by BtS activists, not the other way around. This discovery has been documented in a Channel 2 video report. Since they are selling testimonials to foreign governments, it is suspected that they are gathering this classified information that has nothing to do with human rights to sell to them as well. What else would they do with it?
7. “Israeli soldiers are told to shoot to kill” – Avner Gvaryahu at Columbia
If such were the case, this debacle involving an Israeli soldier who fired a second shot at a terrorist that was already neutralized, that resulted in his death, would not be happening.
The soldier, who was perceived by some to have “shot to kill,” is being tried in court, and may have potentially faced a murder charge if he had done so. Since it was not intentional, he is probably going to face a charge of manslaughter.
The IDF upholds a strict moral code, and prosecutes those who do not follow it, those who engage in activities Gvaryahu talks about to the fullest extent of the law. Interestingly, this moral code wasn’t at all mentioned by Gvaryahu, who only focused on demonizing the IDF.
8. “Hey Donors, we are Pro-Israel!” – Hillel International
Hillel claims to be pro-Israel, in order to get donations from pro-Israel bigwigs such as Robert Kraft and Ira Rennart, who built the building and room in which the Breaking the Silence talk took place in.
The truth is far more sinister. According to a source, Hillel has a long history of inviting and hosting groups such as Breaking the Silence, the New Israel Fund, Rabbis for Human Rights, and B’tselem that demonize, delegitimize, and apply double standards to the State of Israel. That would make Hillel not only in violation of its own Standards of Partnership, but also, as per the accepted State Department definition, complicit in condoning antisemitism.
Hillel may be a home away from home for Jewish students, but it is most certainly not a safe space for unapologetic Zionists.
1. Gvaryahu implies that Israel is an Apartheid State. a form of demonizing blood libel
Twice during his talk, Gvaryahu alluded to Israel being an “Apartheid State.”
First, when talking about altercations between Israelis and Palestinians in Hebron, he stated: “We try to talk about two legal systems,” proceeding to complain about how unfair it is that Israelis and Palestinians are tried differently, without explaining the context that it is because the Arab and Jewish sectors are controlled by separate governments with different systems, according to the wishes of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, who do not wish to be governed by Israeli law.
Later, when asked specifically about his thoughts on the issue, he did not give a yes or no answer. He beat around the bush at first, claiming “Apartheid is thrown around a lot.” He then proceeded to all but directly accuse Israel of apartheid: “It’s a different reality, we are not talking about two places that are equal.”
His comments on the term echo the arguments of those who directly accuse Israel of apartheid.
2. Gvaryahu gloated about breaking Israeli law
Gvaryahu bragged that Breaking the Silence still presents in schools, even though it is against Israeli law.
“The Education Minister is trying to stop that but we are STILL doing it, pre-military schools, High Schools, Universities,” said Gvaryahu.
Later in the talk, he reiterated: We had principals and schoolteachers invite us into schools and we go even though we’re banned.”
3. Hillel wholeheartedly supports Breaking the Silence.
Despite Breaking the Silence’s proven record of lying, Gvaryahu said, “Listen, I don’t feel censored here at Hillel. I think there is an ongoing sort of healthy discussion that sometimes we can be part of and help promote within Jewish American society and community about what can be discussed in Jewish spaces.”
The crowd went wild when the president of the Columbia chapter of J Street U, Shoshana Lauter, thanked Hillel Director Brian Cohen for his support and close collaboration. Gvaryahu himself reiterated her gratitude, claiming that “the fact that we are having this evening tonight says great things about CU community, J street chapter has been working within Hillel and managed to explain why my voice is important.”
4. Breaking the Silence defends Abbas.
“Abbas just gave an interview today in Uvda, Israeli 60 mins, and said pretty interesting stuff, speaking out against Palestinian attacks on civilians, reiterating his call for a resolution.” – Avner Gvaryahu.
The man is too naive to realize, in is defense of Abu Mazen, that what he says in Hebrew or English versus what he says in Arabic are two completely different things. He is literally defending the man who said “we welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem,” the man who incites knife attacks on Israelis, and arguing that he wants peace.
5. Breaking the Silence blames “the occupation,” and therefore Israel, for the latest round of Palestinian violence
While Gvaryahu blamed some of the violence on incitement and Arab World influence, he places the bulk of the blame on Israel, its army, and its “occupation.” He explains the knife attacks on Israelis as the result of hopelessness among Palestinians as a result of the “occupation”: “A lot has to do with the fact that there is no hope for them, what is their future?”
6. Breaking the Silence is a dangerous organization, both undermining the security of the State of Israel and subverting an entire generation of Jews against the State.
On GLZ Army Radio in Israel on Wednesday, I reiterated my disagreement. “I know so many students who hear the constant accusations of Israeli war crimes coming from our campus, and criticism from within adds an extra layer of legitimacy. These students no longer wish to support Israel as a result.” Indeed, the BDS movement is so strong, and J Street is nothing but a gateway drug to Jewish Voice for Peace, the Jewish group that supported the Apartheid Wall. After all, if all the terrible things J Street accuses Israel of are true, combined with the dearth of positive things J Street says about Israel, anyone involved with J Street understandably wouldn’t see a reason to support Israel. J Street uses the same rationale, the same arguments that JVP uses against Israel. They claim to oppose BDS and support Israel’s right to exist, but their actions and arguments speak louder than their words. They claim to oppose BDS but give no reason why they oppose BDS. They claim to support Israel but give no reason why they support Israel.
Inevitably, the natural progression of any student involved in J Street or Breaking the Silence is to support BDS, JVP, and SJP. It’s what J Street, in its constant attacks on Israel, is priming these students to do.