Israeli Army Says B'Tselem Created Incident for Video Posted on Haaretz

IDF spokesman accuses organization of seeking publicity even through the use of provocation

Screen grab from video by B'Tselem of incident near Yitzhar – February 2017
Screen grab / B'Tselem

Israeli army spokesman Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz attacked Israeli human-rights organization B'Tselem on Wednesday, saying "You will continue making videos as if in the name of the freedom of speech and we'll continue to defend the residents of the State of Israel."

Almoz was writing on his Facebook page after the publication in Haaretz this week of a column by Amira Hass in which she castigated "the Israel Defense Forces officer with the mole on his upper lip" over his role in an incident near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar in February.

Video by B'Tselem of incident near Yitzhar – February 2017 B'Tselem

In the B'Tselem video embedded in the online version of Hass' piece, the officer instructs one of his soldiers to point his rifle at Ahmed Ziyadah, a Palestinian volunteer in B'Tselem's camera project, who was subsequently arrested — violently, according to Ziyadah. According to Almoz, the officer "acted as expected, with the full backing of his commanders."

"We don't always respond, since sometimes all you want is a campaign and free publicity even by provocation and a decision that a video or a statement is more important than anything else, including the truth," Almoz wrote. "There is a substantial difference between filming an incident as it is happening and the creating of an incident by arriving at a place with a camera. You usually choose the second option and cause friction that wouldn't have otherwise taken place. The officer in the video acted as expected with the full backing of his commanders. You will continue making videos as if in the name of the freedom of speech and we'll continue to defend the residents of the State of Israel and to insure the safety of its citizens without pulling the army into a political discussion." Almoz did not mention B'Tselem by name in his post.

B'Tselem responded to Almoz's post, saying "Palestinians don't 'arrive at a place with a camera, 'but live there, on their land. Unfortunately, the IDF spokesman's post clarifies again that the state's objective is to promote the expropriation of land and the illegal settlement project, while treading Palestinian human rights by the army. The use of the army for the promotion of a political agenda — expropriation and settlements — is what pulls the army into a political discussion. The ending of the occupation will end this too."