Video Sheds New Light on Fight Between Soldier, Palestinian

After first video goes viral, second video shows Palestinian to have held prayer beads, not brass knuckles.

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A second video, recorded and uploaded to the Internet late last week by the same organization whose video of a confrontation between an Israeli soldier (“David the Nahlawi”) and young Palestinians in Hebron has made a splash in the local media, sheds new light on the incident.

Among other things, it raises questions about the object that one of the Palestinians, Saddam Abu Sneinah, is holding in his hand during the confrontation.

Abu Sneinah, who was arrested and questioned last week, says he was holding a Misbaha, a string of Muslim prayer beads, and not brass knuckles as reported in some accounts. The new video confirms his claim, but nevertheless the saga – which began with the reassignment of the soldier for reasons other than aiming his gun at a Palestinian holding brass knuckles that themselves may never have existed – refuses to die.

“David the Nahlawi,” named because he is serving in the Nahal Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces, has been enveloped in a virtual hug by both the left and right. Why has the story of David Adamov, from the Nahal’s 932nd Infantry Battalion, given rise to such a viral protest? Is it because it makes real the daily conduct of the IDF in the West Bank, “when soldiers are sent to rule millions of Palestinian civilians,” as members of the Breaking the Silence organization claimed? Or perhaps because “the soldiers are at the front, not in the TV studios, risking their lives, facing rifles, rocks and hostile cameras,” as Economy Minister Naftali Bennett wrote on his Facebook page, adding he “would have acted in the same way” as David the Nahlawi, had he faced the same situation.

The story put the conflict in the West Bank back on the media agenda in a way that Palestinian, and sometimes even Israeli, deaths no longer does. The wide coverage also reminds Israelis that soldiers are often assigned to the territories for extended periods of time, sometimes for as much as nine months at a time.

The expressions of support for Adamov also brought to the fore the wide gap between the high-ranking officers and the soldiers serving in the territories. The “digital rebellion” puts the senior command structure, few of whose members even have a Facebook account, at a significant disadvantage vis-à-vis their smartphone-toting subordinates in the field.

But what created the gap was not the potential for unfiltered, personal expression offered to soldiers by social media; the David the Nahlawi protest is a challenge to the IDF’s response policy in the territories.

While the highest-ranking commanders believe that every Palestinian death in the West Bank undermines military security, some soldiers feel their hands are tied in violent confrontations with Palestinians where guns are not used. One senior officer emphasized his belief that commanders understand the positions of the soldiers and vice versa, but added that the David the Nahlawi affair has made a statement that the army ignores at its peril.

The voices of the soldiers are being heard loud and clear; in the next election, these voices will translate into one more Knesset member for Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi party.

Screenshot from first video of Hebron fight, red circle around hand holding prayer beads.

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