Will Lt. Col. Shaul Eisner, who was filmed over the weekend hitting a Danish protester with his rifle butt in the Jordan Valley, be dismissed from the army for his behavior? Probably not, at least based on how past incidents of soldier violence have been handled.
Very few of the investigations into alleged acts of gratuitous violence by Israel Defense Forces soldiers against Palestinians or protesters in the West Bank have resulted in criminal prosecution or discharge from the army, even when the incidents were filmed and generated a public outcry.
Human rights organizations say this proves that although the military establishment condemns such violence when it occurs, it does not prosecute perpetrators to the full extent of the law.
Military defense attorneys believe that Eisner will get off with a reprimand, given the sequence of events as he describes it.
Eisner, who has expressed regret for his behavior, said the video shown all over the world was a mere snippet of a two-hour incident. Before he hit the protester with his rifle, Eisner said, he was wounded by the pro-Palestinian activists, who were beating the soldiers with sticks.
An examination of several cases that made headlines over the years shows that most of them resulted in no significant action being taken against the accused perpetrators.
In 2005, Armored Corps battalion commander Lt. Col. David Kimchi head-butted a Palestinian protester in the stomach near Qalqilyah. Military Police conducted an investigation, but no charges were filed.
Violence against protesters
Kimchi was promoted three years later, and is now head of the combat doctrine department in the Operations Directorate.
In late 2003, during a demonstration in which sections of the security fence were cut in the Biddya area, left-wing activist Gil Naamati was shot in the leg. It took a year for the Military Police to investigate, after which they decided not to file criminal charges against any of the soldiers or commanders involved.
In 2007, Capt. Yair Amitai, commander of a reserve company, was filmed kicking one protester and sticking the barrel of his weapon into another. Though the Military Police investigated, no criminal charges were brought. The commander of the Judea and Samaria Brigade at the time, Brig.-Gen. Noam Tibon (now a major general ) made do with reprimanding Amitai for conduct unbecoming an officer.
In 2008, an IDF officer was filmed firing a rubber bullet at close range at demonstrators near Bil'in, in what appeared to be a violation of IDF regulations. A Military Police investigation was launched only two months later, following a demand by the human rights group B'Tselem. The file was closed in August, after two-and-a-half years, with no legal measures taken.
Criminal indictments have been filed in at least two prominent incidents. The IDF said more than 30 indictments have been filed against officers and soldiers since 2007 for violence or abuse of Palestinians.
In one of the incidents, in July 2008, an Armored Corps battalion commander, Lt. Col. Omri Broberg, was filmed holding a bound Palestinian while telling a soldier under his command, Leonardo Corea, to shoot a rubber bullet at him at close range. Broberg was removed from his command, and the two were charged with unbecoming conduct.
In response to a petition filed against the weak indictment, the High Court of Justice, in an unusual move, said the charge was "extremely unreasonable."
As a result, the indictment was reissued and Borberg was charged and convicted of improper threats and conduct unbecoming an officer. But he was not demoted; he was sentenced with not being promoted for two years. Corea was charged with illegal use of a weapon and demoted to private.
In a 2009 incident, Capt. (res.) Adam Malul was charged with using undue violence against Palestinians while questioning them in Kafr Kadum. The military tribunal sentenced him to 64 days in a military lockup and 32 days of house arrest.
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