State Aid for Israeli Officer in Lawsuit Brought by Man He Hit

Convicted of beating five West Bank demonstrators, Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner is being sued by one of them; state representation in such cases is unusual.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Israeli army Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner hitting an unidentified activist with an M-16 rifle, April 14, 2012.
Israeli army Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner hitting an unidentified activist with an M-16 rifle, April 14, 2012.Credit: AP / ISM
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Six months after an Israel Defense Forces officer was convicted of beating five demonstrators, the state is representing him in a civil suit filed by one of the men he hit.

A military court convicted Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, in a plea bargain, of beating five Palestinians and foreign activists with both his rifle and fists during a demonstration in April 2012. Some of the demonstrators needed medical treatment. Now, one of the five is suing Eisner for damages.

Naim Shakir, 36, of Al-Sawiya, was part of a group of cyclists who sought to block a road near Jericho to protest Israel’s presence in the West Bank. During the ensuing confrontation between demonstrators and soldiers, Eisner – then a deputy brigade commander – hit Shakir in the back with the butt of his rifle, according to the military court verdict issued in December 2013.

As a result, Shakir said in his suit, he needed physiotherapy. He also still suffers pain that affects his functioning and has impaired his ability to work in construction. He is therefore seeking 16,000 shekels ($4,620) in medical costs, plus 60,000 shekels ($17,320) to cover his lost earnings.

Eisner was convicted of exceeding his authority to an extent that would pose a danger to life and health, as well as unbecoming conduct. Even before the court approved his plea bargain, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz had decided to cancel Eisner’s planned appointment as deputy commander of a training base, and to bar him from any command position for two years. The court then also sentenced him to two months’ community service.

Police officers convicted of beating demonstrators are generally denied representation by government attorneys in civil suits. For example, when policeman Salman Abu Asla was convicted of beating two demonstrators at an illegal settlement outpost in 2007, the state refused to represent him in a damages suit filed over the same incident. Similarly, it refused to defend a border policeman convicted of beating an ultra-Orthodox demonstrator in Beit Shemesh in another civil suit. Nevertheless, the state will be representing Eisner in this lawsuit.

A Justice Ministry spokesman said the state decided to represent Eisner “in recognition of its responsibility as the one who sent him, on condition that he accepts the state’s line of defense, which reflects the legal decisions in his case.”

At his sentencing hearing last December, Eisner acknowledged he had “made mistakes” during the incident, but noted that the demonstrators had injured him as well: He suffered a broken hand. “Everything I’ve done ... was out of a sense of mission, love for my people and my country, and a desire to fulfill my responsibilities,” he added.

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