JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said the left-wing group Breaking the Silence was committing “treason” by questioning soldiers about classified security issues.
Yaalon made the statement to high school students in northern Israel on Monday, days after ordering an investigation into Breaking the Silence, which aims to expose alleged human rights violations and war crimes by Israeli troops.
He ordered the probe Thursday following the airing by Israel’s Channel 2 of footage in which activists from Breaking the Silence were seen interviewing soldiers on classified tactical and operational procedures that did not appear to be directly connected to the group’s stated mission. Yaalon did not name the alleged violations he suspected had occurred.
“What was revealed on Channel 2 was that [Breaking the Silence members] are also asking the soldiers questions that are unrelated to routine operations and morality, that [they are also asking questions] … that are considered a military secret,” Yaalon said Monday, Haaretz reported.
“So whether they are using it outside [abroad], which is very serious – if you distribute this material outside it is treason,” Yaalon said.
He added that it is treason also if the group keeps the information for itself.
“Who is guarding this material? Why do [they] need to know which equipment do we use?” the defense minister asked.
Ron Zeidel, the chief investigator for Breaking the Silence, was filmed presenting the questions to soldiers just out of active duty.
Among his questions: “The mortar detachments are they positioned, like, inside the checkpoint compound?” Also: “The company deployed there, are they, like, not a part of the security detail around the fence?” He also asked a soldier: “What were the missions in the sector?”
Referring to actions designed to prevent infiltration into Israel from the Gaza Strip by Hamas terrorists, Zeidel asked: “What kind of tunnel work do you mean?” and “Was it operational or experimental?”
Breaking the Silence said it warns witnesses of disclosing classified information and said the questions are being asked to verify facts, according to Haaretz.