International Solidarity Movement posts YouTube video of IDF soldiers beating leftist activists who took part in a bike ride in the Jordan Valley; IDF suspends officer in video; IDF chief says he sees matter as ‘grave incident.’
A senior IDF officer was filmed hitting a leftist activist in the face with an M-16 rifle on Saturday.
In the video, which was posted by the International Solidarity Movement on YouTube on Sunday, Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner is seen beating youths who took part in a pro-Palestinian bike ride in the Jordan Valley.
On Saturday, a group of some 250 activists, mostly Palestinian youths from the West Bank, went on a bike ride in the Jordan Valley in a silent protest. At a certain point, several dozens of IDF soldiers stopped the activists, and events quickly escalated into a confrontation. IDF soldiers hit the activists and threw their bikes over a tunnel across the road.
One of the volunteers who organized the bike ride said that the soldiers were waiting for the activists and began clashing with them.
Lt.-Col. Eisner was filmed hitting one of the activists in the face with his M-16. “We did not expect any harassment on the part of the Israeli soldiers, we just came for fun,” one of activists told Haaretz. “I tried to talk to them, to say that we only want to enjoy the beautiful road and the Jordan Valley in the springtime, but we were unsuccessful. The activists were beaten badly, and the officers just told us we couldn’t be in that area.”
Four activists who sustained wounds on their faces and backs were evacuated to a hospital in Jericho, while three more youths who were beaten refused to receive medical care.
Eisner recounted his version of events, and said that the youth that he beat had hit him beforehand, and even broke two of his fingers. He said that the incident lasted two hours, and that the activists were trying to block a road in the Jordan Valley.
Eisner claimed that he carried out his job after two hours of trying to stop lawbreakers.
Palestinian media reported on Saturday on the events that took place during the bike ride. After the video was posted Sunday and showed testimony of what transpired, GOC Central Command Nitzan Alon ordered the IDF to investigate the matter.
Following the incident, the IDF decided to suspend Eisner indefinitely until the matter is thoroughly investigated.
The IDF Spokesperson said in a statement that, “This is a grave incident. GOC Central Command Nitzan Alon ordered a thorough investigation in which the circumstances of the incident will be examined. Lessons will be derived and the appropriate steps will be taken.”
National Union MK Michael Ben Ari issued a response to the incident and congratulated the IDF officer who hit the leftist activists. “Well done to the IDF officer who did what Bibi and Aharonovich have no brain or courage to do,” Ben Ari said. “Radical leftists must be handled with a heavy hand. There was a tangible threat to the lives of the soldiers and the officer had no other choice. If it was a settler who was beaten we would not have heard the cries of the hypocrites on the left. Turns out they are not interested in human rights but the rights of terrorists and pro-Arabs.”
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said he sees the incident as very grave.
Rabbis: Officer reacted to ‘highly unusual’ circumstances
Prominent rabbis rally to aid of officer who assaulted foreign activist; slam military’s ‘rash decision’ to suspend him
Several prominent rabbis expressed their support for Lieutenant-Colonel Shalom Eisner, who was suspended after assaulting a Danish pro-Palestinian activist with an M-16 rifle, saying that the military’s decision to suspend him was impetuous.
Eisner expressed remorse over his action, saying that while he should not have flung his weapon at the activist, the video footage released depicted only “60 seconds out of a two-hour event.”
Rabbi Haim Drukman, who was Eisner’s mentor, described his former pupil as “a fine man, an idealist. He didn’t choose a military career because he needed a job – he is there to give his life for the security of Israel,” he told Ynet Monday.
“Seeing such images is naturally disturbing, he continued, “But that’s just a few seconds that do not depict the entire incident. This is not someone who likes violence. He found himself in an unusual situation and this is what happened.”
Rabbi Drukman further said that he was sure the IDF inquiry into the incident will “get to the bottom of things.”
Former Chief IDF Rabbi Avihai Ronski slammed the decision to suspend Eisner, who he described as “a highly ethical individual.”
The reaction, he said, “most likely stemmed from the fact that the activist had just assaulted him and broke his hand. It was instinctual.”
Ronski also questioned what he called the rash decision to suspend the officer: “What’s the rush? Conduct your inquiry first and impose discipline only if the result warrants it.
“How can you say this was ‘a serious event’ after only a few seconds of footage? These kinds of incidents are why today’s commanders feel they have no backing.” Military Judge Advocate General Brigadier-General Avi Mandelblit ordered a criminal investigation against Eisner.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Benny Gantz condemned the incident, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “Such conduct does not represent the IDF, its officers and soldiers and is utterly unacceptable.”
“The incident does not reflect IDF principles and will be thoroughly investigated,” Gantz said.