Martin Banks – 5th October 2010
The Magnes Zionist offers his congratulations here
We wish to raise awareness and bring about change– Gila Orkin
One of this year’s parliament Sakharov prize nominees has spelled out how they are trying to bring peace to the war-torn Middle East.
Breaking the Silence (BTS) has been nominated for the annual prize by the Greens and European United Left groups.
It is one of nine nominees in the running for a prize that recognises the work of human rights activists around the world.
BTS is an Israeli organisation set up in 2004 by a group of soldiers recently discharged from the Israeli army.
Gila Orkin, director of international relations for the organisation, said the men and women felt compelled to explain why controlling a civilian population was “very problematic” and needed more dialogue.
She said, “We are not advocating any particular political solution but, rather, trying to create a moral discussion about the price of occupation
“There is a lack of awareness about what life is like in the occupied territories, particularly in Israel and that is something we are trying to address.
“We wish to raise awareness and bring about change. We demand accountability regarding Israel’s military actions in the occupied territories perpetrated by us and in our name.”
She said that winning an award such as the Sakharov prize could help raise awareness of the work her organisation does in trying to bring peace to the region’s warring factions.
“It would be very important to us because it would secure more credibility for the work we are doing and also to create more of a debate about what is going on in the occupied territories. This is clearly important in light of the current Middle East peace process.”
Orkin, accompanied by Dana Golan, another director of BTS, met MEPs to explain the “important role” they play within Israeli civil society.
The merits of the nine nominees for the Sakharov prize were debated by MEPs on the foreign affairs and development committees on Tuesday.
Among the list this year are online activists, a Syrian human rights lawyer, Cuban Doctor Guillermo Fariñas, Sahrawi human rights advocate Aminetu Haidar, Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak, Ethiopian politician Birtukan Mideksa, Vietnamese priest Father Thadeus and a group supporting persecuted Christians.
A shortlist of three will be drawn up by the conference of presidents and the winner announced on 21 October.
I would like to offer congratulations to the IDF veteran’s group, “Breaking the Silence” for being one of nine people/organizations nominated for the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament by the Greens and the United Left party. See about that here.
Whether they win the prize or not (you better believe that Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, run by the Russian ethno-nationalist Yvet Lieberman, will do everything to prevent that happening), it is a feather in their cap, of course. I suppose that Lieberman, Netanyahu, and Gerald Steinberg’s NGO Monitor deserve some credit for boosting the NGO’s image in the world among enlightened, civilized folk. But, of course, the real kudos go to the group, which has done more than other group to raise the awareness of the price of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Even the IDF, the arch critics of the group, have relied on their testimonies indirectly in their response to the UN