Israeli TV Journalist Reacts to Outcry After Saying Occupation Turns Soldiers Into 'Animals'

Oshrat Kotler, who received death threats for her comment, says she can't ignore 'heavy price that we are paying through our children for ruling over another people'

Oshrat Kotler during a segment of "Magazine" on Channel 13, February 23, 2019
Channel 13 Twitter account

TV journalist Oshrat Kotler on Saturday responded to the uproar she caused last week, when she said Israeli soldiers become "human animals" during their army service in the West Bank.

“They send children to the army, to the territories, and get them back human animals. That’s the result of the occupation,” Kotler said last week following a piece on the five Israeli soldiers who were indicted for beating two detained Palestinians, which aired on her Channel 13 show, "Magazine."

On Saturday night she spoke again toward the end of the program to clarify her comments, choking with tears as she spoke.

“Last week we broadcast here a very complex and painful report about the soldiers of the ‘Netzah Yehuda’ [battalion] who were involved in a series of harsh acts of violence,” she said. “For two weeks we investigated, filmed and edited, reporter Arik Weiss and myself, this report with the greatest caution because both of us understood that the matter was very charged and very hard to absorb.”

Thousands of complaints were filed against Kotler, as well as death threats, after which Channel 13 decided to provide her with a security guard. Many politicians rushed to condemn her comments, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, both demanding she apologize.

Kotler criticized politicians in the midst of an election campaign for making "cynical" use of her comments and portraying them out of the story's context. “What I said here was directed only at the soldiers who violated the law and not toward IDF soldiers in general. They were spoken with great pain,” said Kotler. Channel 13 News came to her defense, saying she was allowed to express her opinion, even if it does not reflect the opinion of the entire editorial staff.

“The purpose of the story, as was the purpose of my comments that followed it too, was to make us as a society to take personal responsibility for the actions of the soldiers of Netzah Yehuda, because it is impossible to accuse them of crossing moral and legal boundaries when we are the ones who put them in an impossible situation day after day,” she added. “The public criticism should not be directed at the soldiers, and it would be proper for the court to consider that and be lenient in their sentencing."

Later in the segment, Kotler choked back tears and said she was “sorry from the depths of my heart if what I said offended any one of you, but I cannot help but see the heavy price that we are paying through our children, our soldiers, for the reality of ruling over another people. A reality that has lasted for 52 years. And no, I don’t have any magical solutions. I’m not a politician,” said Kotler.

At the end she turned to her critics who said she had crossed the line when she expressed an opinion as the anchorwoman of the show, supposedly meant to remain neutral and read from the teleprompter.

"You should know I write it....it is not just a journalistic right, but a professional obligation to express an opinion on the situation in which we live. So, despite the thousands who wished for my death this week, some of whom even called to harm my family, and even though I’m afraid, I swear: I very much hope that I will have the strength to continue and express an opinion and in doing so, do my job. That’s all,” said Kotler.