In a rare move, the army’s spokesperson lambasted the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem on Wednesday for publishing a video of an IDF officer guarding outside the a West Bank settlement, which he said was filmed purely to “manufacture an incident.”
In the video in question, one of the organization’s Palestinian photographers and two other people approach the officer and his soldiers, who tell the three men to stay back. There is then a brief, mostly verbal altercation between the photographer and the officer, before the soldiers detain him and apparently use tear gas to force the other two men to leave the area.
In a Facebook post, IDF Spokesperson and Head of the Manpower Directorate Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz defended the officer’s actions and accused B’Tselem of “provocation.”
Almoz did not mention the group by name, referring to it only in the second person, but the description of the video left no doubt as to the post’s subject.
“There’s a difference between filming an event as it happens and manufacturing an event by arriving somewhere with a camera,” Almoz wrote.
“You largely choose the latter option and cause friction that didn’t exist beforehand,” he wrote. “You will continue to make movies ostensibly out of freedom of expression… and we will continue to defend the residents of the State of Israel and ensure the well-being of its citizens, without putting the [Israel Defense Forces] into political arguments.”
In response to Almoz’s post, B’Tselem said in a statement: “We’ll clarify for the spokesperson that the Palestinians aren’t ‘arriving somewhere with a camera’ but live there, on their land.”
The group also defended its actions, saying, “The use of the military to advance a political agenda — dispossession [of land] and settlement — is what got the army into a political fight. The end of the occupation will end that as well.”
The organization, led by Hagai El-Ad, uses Palestinian photographers and videographers in the West Bank to document the conduct of Israeli soldiers and settlers in the area.
B’Tselem has a rocky relationship with the IDF. While the group has often drawn the ire of the Israeli government, it maintained some level of a professional relationship with the military, specifically the advocate general and police.
Last May, the group publicly announced that it would no longer approach the military with reports of abuse and other Palestinian complaints, citing a lack of faith in the system.
The organization said it would still abide by court orders and official requests for information. If police request a copy of a video filmed by a B’Tselem volunteer, for instance, it will be honored. But the group said it would no longer operate as a “sub-contractor” for the Military Police’s investigation’s unit.