Opinion |

How Israel Avoided Breaking the Silence About the Occupation

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked thought she was being smart when she called for an investigation into a member of the anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence. More fool her

B. Michael
B. Michael
Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff, who confessed in a video to beating up a Palestinian in the West Bank while in the Israeli army.
Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff, who confessed in a video to beating up a Palestinian in the West Bank while in the Israeli army.Credit: Breaking the Silence
B. Michael
B. Michael

For some reason, there are those who attribute a considerable amount of intelligence to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. There are even those who say she’s smart – but it’s not clear why.

It’s hard to find a lot of intelligence, wisdom or knowledge in the nonsense she spews out every time she pronounces about matters relating to the law, the separation of powers, the High Court of Justice, democracy, “majority rule” and a host of other important subjects.

As if to prove my point, along came the case concerning Dean Issacharoff, a spokesman for the anti-occupation veteran’s group Breaking the Silence.

Issacharoff spoke publicly about how, during his army service, he had brutally beaten a Palestinian detainee. When his remarks surfaced, soldiers from his unit immediately got together and vehemently denied his claim.

You can understand them. After all, each of them has a behind that needs covering, lest they too become suspects.

Then Justice Minister Shaked entered the picture and demanded an investigation so Issacharoff could be put on trial.

So the world could see how moral our army really is. So those Breaking the Silence people would learn that they too will be brought to account.

“Oy vay!” was no doubt the worried utterance echoing through the corridors of the State Prosecutor’s Office.

One can also assume that a number of people there went pale upon hearing such ministerial drivel.

That’s all they need: the civil trial of an occupying soldier who freely admits to abuse. A defendant who would doubtless take advantage of such a prominent legal platform to generate headlines with an account of routine military brutality.

Lawyers would enlist more and more witnesses to testify about how the authorities turned a blind eye. Public debate would confirm the countless reports – both Israeli and Palestinian – of daily beatings, serial humiliations and overt abuse. After all, one soldier had already confirmed Issacharoff’s account, and this would just be the beginning.

The situation that ensued became the height of absurdity: a suspect who openly confessed to his deeds, ready to stand trial, being pitted against law enforcement officials who were prepared to do everything in their power to foil his plans.

No one would have been surprised if the prosecution even considered arguing that Issacharoff’s confession was secured through torture and was therefore inadmissible.

Ultimately, a brilliant idea was born: Bring in Issacharoff’s supposed victim, who could say he hadn’t actually been beaten up that much – and if the scoundrel refused, he could be sent to skilled interrogators, who could beat him until he admitted he hadn’t been beaten.

In a flash, an appropriate Palestinian was found, who uttered just what was hoped for, even adding his own educated opinion about the reasonableness of the assault – as if he himself were actually a spokesman for the Justice Ministry’s police misconduct unit.

And then something truly historical happened: For the first time ever, the state prosecution gave credence to a Palestinian witness, favoring his account over that of an Israeli soldier.

Until now, the Israeli legal system has always taken the view that the confession is the “queen” of all evidence. Ninety percent of all convictions in the colonial courts have been based on such a queen. And then everything was overturned – a revolution! In Issacharoff’s honor, the queen was ejected from her royal throne and her scepter handed to one of the natives. Amazing. That never would have happened at Israel’s Ofer Military Court in the West Bank. They never would have agreed to create such a dangerous precedent.

But now, at last, we can breathe easy. There will be no trial. The silence has not been broken. The file on another abusive Israeli soldier has been closed, as per usual. And there’s even a bonus: the entire Breaking the Silence organization can be accused of lying.

Here is the story in a nutshell: The Justice Ministry threw a stone into a swamp. The sages at the State Prosecutor’s Office all rushed into the mud to retrieve it. They managed, just about, to calm the ripple of the waves a little. But it will take many years before they manage to cleanse themselves of all the mud that has stuck to them. From the morass of politicization, flattery, panic, cloying obedience and utter negligence.

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