Former soldiers rush to defense of officer who hit activist

Former soldiers rush to defense of officer who hit activist

In letter to defense minister and chief of staff, troops call Eisner a 'moral, ethical commander'

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Eighty-three former subordinates of the senior IDF officer who struck a protester in the face with his rifle on Saturday expressed their support for their former commander on Monday in a letter to Chief of Staff Lt.-Col. Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

“We wish to express our support and appreciation for Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner as a man, a friend, and as an ethical and moral commander,” they wrote.

“During the entirety of his command, Eisner insisted on standing in the front lines and adhered to the mission according to the core values of the IDF. As a man, Eisner behaved with special delicacy in dealing with the welfare of his soldiers, as he also did in commanding during extraordinary incidents,” they said.

They concluded that “we are convinced that his many merits will accompany him in your decision regarding his command.”

The Military Police began investigating on Monday evening the incident in which Eisner, confronted by a group of pro-Palestinian protesters outside Jericho, struck Andreas Ayas in the face with his M-16.

Initial findings showed that Eisner decided not to use crowd control measures, even though they were at his disposal. The Border Police contingent that was summoned to assist Eisner and his men did not arrive because they were dealing with another incident. One of Eisner’s soldiers was supposed to record the incident, but the battery in his camera died before the flare-up began.

Eisner repeated his claim that he was attacked and wounded by one of the protesters, but admitted that retaliating was unnecessary.

Bakr Abdul-Haq, the Palestinian cameraman who videotaped the incident, told Ynet News that Ayas didn’t attack Eisner; Eisner had said he “thought” Ayas attacked him from behind, breaking his fingers.

Abdul-Haq, a writer and photographer for Nablus TV, said that a Civil Administration officer was in Kfar Ouja and tried to manage a dialogue with the protesters, but Eisner began hitting the activists. Abdul-Haq also claims to possess the complete video footage of the incident which shows that Ayas never struck Eisner.

“[Ayas] stood in place and [Eisner] suddenly approached and hit him with his rifle. I am prepared to give all the video material to anyone who will investigate the incident and bring the truth to light,” he said.

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