In the heart of the city, in the middle of the day
David Ben-Sheetrit was on his way to an appointment arranged by IDF Spokeswoman Brig. Gen. Ruth Yaron. He arrived a little early, went to the kiosk, and was then attacked by the guards, who beat him ruthlessly until both his legs were smashed.
If someone wants to know what really is going on in those places that are hidden from sight, they should look at what happens in Israel in open view.
A week ago, documentarist filmmaker David Ben-Sheetrit came to visit me, though if I had known the full extent of his condition I would have gone to visit him. We have been in close touch since he was attacked by security guards from the Defense Ministry, or perhaps the army, who broke his bones. Ben-Sheetrit came to my office leaning on crutches after spending some three months in the hospital, having been sent home only a few days ago. He came frail and broken.
At the end of April he was on his way to an appointment arranged for him by IDF Spokeswoman Brig. Gen. Ruth Yaron. He arrived a little early, went to the kiosk and bought a sandwich, and was then attacked by the guards, who beat him ruthlessly until both his legs were smashed.
It went on for several minutes right under the windows of the IDF Spokeswoman's Office, without anyone stopping it, a kind of reverse serenade of a contemporary sort, about an unquenchable desire for unbridled violence. None of his shouting helped, and all the short breathed explanations that he was invited as a guest of a high-ranking officer, something that could have easily been checked, were in vain. In Israel, according to the new norms, a beating comes first and then the investigation. If at all.
This case, which took place in the middle of the day, in the middle of the city, gave me no rest. I wrote at the time to the IDF Spokeswoman, expressing my hope that the incident - yet another "incident" - would be thoroughly investigated and the proper conclusions drawn, including punishment for the deserving.
The spokeswoman was quick to write back and promised me that two separate inquiries had begun, one by the Defense Ministry and another by the police. She promised to "closely follow" the investigations and keep me notified.
I waited patiently more than three months. To the best of my knowledge, nothing happened. That's not new. After every incident of the type that shouldn't happen, inquiries and investigations are promised, but where the hell are the findings? Has anyone heard them, has anyone seen them? The defense establishment always hopes that time will pass and the investigation will fade on its own.
Last week, after Ben-Sheetrit's visit, I sat down and wrote again to the IDF Spokeswoman, wanting to find out how her "close following" was going. This time, I wrote, I cannot agree to the evaporation of the investigation. This is a "test case," because this is a case in which it is relatively easy to discover the truth, with dozens of witnesses, and if it is difficult in this case for the authorities find out what really happened, then there's no chance of finding out anything here. I also wrote to the chief of the Tel Aviv police, Commander Yossi Sedbone, and I called and asked what was taking so long. He also owes me an answer.
I want to hope that Yaron won't lay the blame at the feet of others and give me the brush-off. Ben-Sheetrit was on his way to see her, and she bears at least some responsibility for the security men. But both as a host and as the spokeswoman of the system, she must explain what happened: how did it transpire that an important film director goes to meet her for an appointment, and is sent home crippled for life. Yes, that is Ben-Sheetrit's condition now, crippled for life, no longer able to carry on his shoulder his talented movie camera.
Presumably, what could the "system" claim: Ben-Sheetrit looked suspicious, "like an Arab," he didn't identify himself fast enough, he did not speak "nicely" to the security guards, and such. Let's assume it's all true, for argument's the sake; but after he was knocked to the ground, and injured, did he need to be battered until bones were broken? And were the two guards not enough - was it necessary to bring over another two? Is there anyone in the public ready to accept such a "security version" of the events?
Let there be no mistake: even after the explanations are given, and even if conclusions are drawn, the defense establishment will have to pay for this thuggery, which seemingly was done with permission and authority. A law suit is on its way.
And now it is clear what really happens far from our view - not necessarily in the heart of Israel - and how to treat most announcements that "the IDF is investigating the circumstances of the incident."