Andreas Ayas, the Danish activist struck in the face by Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner at a pro-Palestinian protest on Saturday, said Monday that the suggestion that he had broken the officer’s fingers moments earlier was “a direct lie.” Eisner reportedly told investigators probing the incident that he thought the blond activist had been the person who hit him from behind during the confrontation, breaking two of his fingers.
Eisner struck Ayas in the face with his rifle. The incident, filmed and posted on YouTube, prompted condemnation from Israeli political and military leaders, as well as some declarations empathizing with Eisner. Activists said Monday that the officer also struck another protester and two Palestinians in the incident, on route 90 near Jericho. Eisner has been suspended.
Speaking with reporters on Monday, Ayas, who required stitches for a split lip, said he and his fellow activists were not acting violently, but “participating in a peaceful activity, a bike ride through the Jordan Valley to visit different Palestinian villages.”
“We were stopped by the Israeli army at Road 90,” Ayas said in an interview with Channel 2 News. “This road is in ‘Area C’ and they say that we have no permission to be there, so we stopped our bike ride… The Israeli army blocked our way, so we waited for half an hour and then we decided to try to walk peacefully toward the soldiers and try to pass them… they reacted immediately with brutal violence. A soldier punched me in my face with his M-16 rifle; I fell to the ground and was carried away from the scene, into the ambulance.”
Eisner has spoken only briefly with reporters since the incident, but said Monday that he thought Ayas was the same activist who, Eisner said, had hit him with a stick and broke two of his fingers.
“That is a direct lie. It has nothing to do with reality,” Ayas said in response. “If these claims had anything to do with reality, we would have seen documentation by now.”
Eisner called his action a mistake. He said he was not pleased by his actions, but “I believe in myself.”
The initial findings of the Military Police investigation indicate that the soldiers Eisner was commanding at the scene of the incident were not adequately prepared for the incident, that border policemen had been present earlier but left before the bicyclists arrived, and that the activists committed only minor violence against the soldiers.