Calls in Israel to Investigate Anti-occupation Group's Spokesman Over Alleged Crimes Against Palestinians

Breaking the Silence's Dean Issacharoff said publicly he beat Palestinian stone-thrower in army; justice minister says if it’s true, he must be punished

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Olivier Fitoussi

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked asked the attorney general on Tuesday to open an investigation against Dean Issacharoff, the spokesman of the anti-occupation veterans group Breaking the Silence, who has declared publicly that during his military service in Hebron he beat a Palestinian who had been throwing rocks.

Shaked said Issacharoff had admitted the commission of a crime, and if true, he should be subject to punishment.

In her letter, Shaked said that in a video, Issacharoff described how “in the course of his military service, he beat ‘until bloody’ an alleged Palestinian rock-thrower for no reason.” The minister appended letters from the chairman of Reservists at the Front, and from Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who in early May had requested that she pursue an investigation into the matter.

“In light of the great importance I attach to upholding the good name of Israel and of IDF soldiers, I felt it proper to ask you to examine the veracity of this matter,” Shaked wrote to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.

“If the reports turn out to be true, immediate steps should be taken to try Issacharoff, who served as an officer in the Nahal Brigade, and said in a Breaking the Silence video that the rock-thrower would not let the soldiers handcuff him. ‘As a combat soldier, I never knew what to do with someone who resists us nonviolently,’ he said. ‘My company commander told me to handcuff him. I didn’t know what to do. I was going to threaten him, but he doesn’t speak Hebrew, I don’t speak Arabic, so I grabbed him by the neck and started kneeing him in the face and chest until he was bleeding and dazed.”

In an interview with Army Radio today, the justice minister said, “The spokesman of Breaking the Silence stands up and says that he himself committed a crime against a Palestinian and needlessly beat on him. If that is really what happened, he should certainly be investigated and punished. If it didn’t happen, as soldiers who were under him say, the state needs to officially declare that it didn’t happen.” Shaked added that in other instances, organizations like Reservists at the Front and My Israel have “been able to refute the lies that he spreads.”

In early May, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had called upon Shaked to launch a criminal investigation against Issacharoff, writing, “The things that were said in the video are very grave and require an investigation – either the officer is admitting to having committed a serious crime, or else he is telling a made-up story that supposedly took place before his commander and other soldiers, and is thereby tarnishing the reputation of the IDF and of his military comrades.” Lieberman pointed out that the video was getting a large number of views, and urged that the matter be investigated quickly.

In response, Breaking the Silence said the testimonies it publicizes “depict the use of violence against Palestinians as an inseparable part of the occupation regime, with the aim of exposing the immorality of ruling over millions of people in the territories. If the justice minister believes that with a hypocritical attack on the testimony of one Breaking the Silence activist she will succeed in deterring soldiers from testifying about and opposing the occupation, she is greatly mistaken. There is only one way to stop us, and that is to end the occupation.”