Breaking the Silence released video footage Monday showing the aftermath of an arrest in which the organization’s spokesman claims to have beaten a Palestinian.
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It was the most recent attempt by the group to disprove assertions by the authorities that the assault never happened in a tangled story that has confounded the country in which a human rights activist claims personal wrongdoing and right-wing governmet officials and the police say it did not happen and have used the episode to question the honesty of the organization as a whole.
Dean Issacharoff, spokesman of Breaking the Silence, an activist group of Israeli military veterans who oppose the occupation, had testified that when he was an officer in the Nahal infantry brigade, he assaulted a Palestinian man in Hebron after the man was arrested for throwing stones at soldiers in February 2014.
The footage shows Issacharoff leading a handcuffed Palestinian who had been arrested for throwing stones. It doesn’t show the arrest itself or the violence Issacharoff claims to have used, but it does show the Palestinian with facial injuries.
Breaking the Silence obtained the footage from another organization, B’Tselem, which filmed the man’s arrest.
But police announced last week that they had closed the case because the Palestinian whom Dean Issacharoff allegedly assaulted denied that any assault ever occurred. But Issacharoff had claimed that they interviewed the wrong Palestinian. The video clip was released in an effort to prove that claim.
The footage shows that a deputy company commander who has backed Issacharoff’s story was indeed present. But according to sources in
Breaking the Silence, none of the soldiers in the company who denied that an assault occurred and claimed that Issacharoff invented the story can be seen in the clip.
Moreover, the sources said, the footage shows that the company commander police questioned, who also denied Issacharoff’s story, is a different company commander than the one who was present at the scene.
Breaking the Silence collects and publishes testimony from soldiers about alleged crimes which they or their comrades committed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Normally, all such testimony is anonymous, which has led many Israelis to question its credibility and accuse the organization of conducting smear campaigns. But in an unusual move, Issacharoff declared publicly in April that he had personally assaulted a Palestinian during his army service in Hebron.
After footage of his statement was publicized by Reservists on Duty, a group that opposes Breaking the Silence, numerous organizations and officials, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, demanded a criminal investigation. State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan then ordered police to open one.
But after the prosecution announced last week that it was closing the case because no assault ever happened, Issacharoff accused both police and prosecution of whitewashing his crime for political reasons.
On Monday, the prosecution said that based on Issacharoff’s own description of the event, together with that of his company commander, police had concluded that he must be referring to the arrest of Hassan Julani in February 2014. Julani told the police that he had resisted arrest, but that the soldiers used no force beyond that necessary to subdue him, and that contrary to Issacharoff’s description, he was not left bleeding and never lost consciousness.
The prosecution is unfamiliar with the new footage, its statement continued, but “if anyone believes that a crime of violence was committed on a different date, he has the option of bringing his allegations before the relevant authorities.”
Separately, in a letter sent Monday to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel responding to that organization’s criticism of how the case was handled,
Deputy State Prosecutor Nurit Litman said Issacharoff’s claim that Julani was the wrong Palestinian “doesn’t fit with the evidence, or with the information that he himself gave during his interrogation.” Julani, she continued, was identified primarily based on Issacharof’s own statements, and “the claim that there was another incident which ostensibly fits the many details he gave in his interrogation is a belated claim which doesn’t fit the evidence in the case.”
She also rejected the charges of politicization leveled by both Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. Both the decision to open the investigation and the decision to close it were purely professional judgments made on the basis of the evidence, Litman wrote.
B’Tselem said Monday that the police and prosecution have what they called “a long tradition of negligent investigations” in the territories. “Now it’s been revealed that they conducted another negligent investigation – this time as a tool of the justice minister, but for exactly the same purpose: whitewashing in the service of the occupation.”
Avner Gvaryahu, the executive director of Breaking the Silence, said that when the prosecution, “on the basis of an embarrassing and negligent investigation, decides that Dean Issacharoff is a liar, that ought to frighten every citizen of the country who cares about democracy.”
“The fact that the truth came to light only because Breaking the Silence managed, in four days, to conduct the investigation the law enforcement agencies failed to conduct in half a year — after dedicating themselves to a political agenda — is horrifying,” he said.