Netanyahu condemns beating of pro-Palestinian activist by IDF officer
IDF Chief of Staff says incident in which a senior officer was filmed hitting leftist activist in the face with an M-16 rifle is very grave; officer suspended, expected to be dismissed from his position.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday condemned the beating of a pro-Palestinian activist by a senior IDF officer, which was seen in a film posted on YouTube earlier Sunday.
"Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel," Netanyahu said.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz also commented on the incident in which a senior officer was filmed hitting a leftist activist in the face with an M-16 rifle, saying he sees the incident as very grave, and the IDF announced on Sunday that the deputy commander of the IDF's Jordan Valley brigade who was filmed hitting the activist will be dismissed from his position.
"The incident does not reflect IDF principles and will be thoroughly investigated," Gantz said.
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.
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.
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.
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"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."