Meretz chairwoman MK Zehava Galon criticized Defense Minister Moshe Ya`alon`s decision to forbid Breaking the Silence activists from taking part in activities involving IDF soldiers, accusing Ya`alon (Likud) of practicing ”McCarthyism” and saying the defense minister was uncomfortable with the fact that the IDF does not have a ”monopoly on the information that comes out of the territories regarding the wrongful actions of the army.”

Galon accused the defense minister of legitimizing incitement against a ”transparent and serious” organization and the soldiers that participate in it.

Breaking the Silence, its website says, is ”an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.”

In explaining his announcement, Ya`alon wrote that ”If Breaking the Silence were really concerned about our morals, as we are concerned, they would be working directly with the IDF, instead of tarnishing the face of our soldiers abroad.”

Ya`alon said in a tweet on Sunday that the organization ”had malicious motives and we will harshly fight such movements.”

Galon told the Knesset plenum Monday evening that ”a civilized society should be proud of such soldiers. In a civilized democracy, criticism against the government should be permitted, and those who muzzle organizations and seek to persecute them and prevent criticism against the government are aiding the delegitimization of the State of Israel.”

”These people are heroes, not traitors; stop persecuting them,” Galon implored, while stressing that the Meretz faction ”stands by Breaking the Silence.”

Galon`s comments created an uproar, during which MKs Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu), Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) and Nava Boker (Likud) were removed from the plenary hall.

In response to Galon`s remarks, MK Lavie said ”There are people who are taking advantage of this stage to serve as spokespersons of the terrible organization Breaking the Silence, which aims to slander the State of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces and Israel`s soldiers. This was the first time I have been removed from the plenary hall, and justifiably so. I couldn`t listen to the lies that were told here on the stage.”