Statement on Arrests of Breaking the Silence Director, Communications Director and Human Rights Attorney

August 31, 2018

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement in response to the arrests and detention of the Director and Communications Director of Breaking the Silence, Avner Gvaryahu and Achiya Schatz, and distinguished human rights attorney Michael Sfard:

“The arrests and detention of the Director and Communications Director of Breaking the Silence, along with preeminent human rights attorney Michael Sfard, are deeply troubling. I am proud to count Avner Gvaryahu and Michael Sfard as personal friends and close colleagues, and proud of J Street’s partnership with them over the years.

This incident comes as another example of the Israeli government’s increasing hostility toward the rights of individuals and organizations to express dissent or question the policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his allies.

The fact that these arrests occurred near and in connection to Mitzpe Yair, an illegal outpost in the West Bank, is not coincidental. It has long been clear that the Israeli occupation is in direct conflict with the core democratic values to which Israel has aspired since its founding — values that the Netanyahu government has steadily undermined, including recently through the passage of the Nation-State Law.

By arresting dissidents internally and detaining perceived critics of Israeli government policies in airports and at border crossings, the Netanyahu government is destroying the fabric of shared Jewish and democratic values that have united Jews around the world and been the basis of the US-Israel relationship.

Arresting those who dissent from the government’s policies is not the practice of a healthy democracy. All those who are dedicated to democratic principles — particularly in the Jewish community, both in Israel and around the world — have a responsibility to speak out.”

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