IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz plans to promote a colonel who has been censured for justifying the use of violence on Palestinians to become the top commander of the infantry and paratrooper corps.
Col. Itai Virov, head of the Kfir infantry brigade, was censured by Israel Defense Forces Central Command chief Gadi Shamni, and the IDF opened a criminal investigation against him before closing the case for lack of evidence. The promotion would carry with it a rank of brigadier general.
Virov's most controversial statements were delivered when he testified in 2009 in military court, during the trial of Lieutenant Adam Malul, who was convicted of assaulting Palestinians. In his testimony in military court, Virov stated that "a slap, sometimes a blow to the neck or chest, or sometimes choking to calm down [a suspect], is reasonable."
Virov stressed that the extent of violence required should be in proportion to circumstances. Under certain situations, he testified, "a blow can be a grave transgression, whereas in another situation it is an integral part of carrying out an assignment."
In response to the outcry following his statements, Virov issued clarifications, claiming that his remarks "were not understood properly." He stated that "things should be understood precisely, so that in the field we behave with values." He added that Malul's behavior "was mistaken."
As a result of the controversy surrounding his statements, Virov was passed over for promotions for the past two years, during which he studied at the national security college. He also served as commander of a reserve unit he had headed in the past over this period.
Virov's attorney, Oded Savoray, pointed out yesterday that the IDF closed its criminal investigation of Virov.
"Though statements made by [Virov] in the courtroom were taken a certain way, the IDF investigation showed that Col. Virov did not use violence; nor did he give orders for the use of such violence."
Haim Erlich, director general of the human rights organization Yesh Din, stated that "the promotion of someone who justified the beating-up of innocent civilians shows that the IDF has not come to terms with the importance of attitudes displayed toward a civilian Palestinian population."
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