IDF soldiers made use of a burgeoning new social media meme Wednesday to express support for a soldier who faces investigation after cocking his weapon at a Palestinian teenager, saying they were sick of having their hands tied when dealing with Palestinian provocateurs in the West Bank.
A rapidly rising number of uniformed men and women were posting photographs of themselves throughout the day – their faces covered to avoid punishment – holding signs with the words “I am also with David of the Nahal Brigade.”
The meme emerged from a Facebook page of the same name, which was created early on Wednesday and by evening had already garnered almost 60,000 likes — a number that was rising precipitously.
The soldiers in the photographs appeared to be members of a wide range of units throughout the military, judging by their berets and insignia. The photographs weren’t limited to military personnel, however. Many civilians also posted their own photos, including some of their pets ‘holding’ the signs; some photographed their notebooks; yet others photographed small children apparently expressing support for the soldier.
Whatever the manner of expression, the phenomenon appeared to be spreading like wildfire.
The Facebook page bore the notice: “IDF soldiers are sick of being abandoned to the enemy and treated as pawns.”
In the video posted on YouTube earlier this week, the soldier David was recorded in an exchange in the city of Hebron with a Palestinian 15-year-old, who appears to be brandishing brass knuckles. At one point, the Palestinian made a sudden move toward the soldier, who, apparently feeling threatened, drew and cocked his rifle in response and pointed it at the youngster. After another youth joined the scene from behind David, the soldier shoved him away. The two Palestinians appeared to decide to leave, and as they walked away David kicked them and yelled curses and threats at them.
The video then shows the soldier calling for backup.
A friend of the soldier who spoke anonymously to Channel 10 said David was not a violent person. “He is a somewhat irritable person, but he’s never been violent or cursed.”
The friend said David “became stressed, just as anyone would have.”
“He did cock the weapon, but not in order to fire, only to deter. There’s no chance that he would have fired. He’s a good person,” the friend added.
The soldier’s commanders backed his action in drawing his weapon, but said that the curses and threats captured on the video were unbecoming of an IDF soldier.
According to the IDF, reports that the soldier had been sent to prison because of the incident were false. However, the anonymous friend’s claim that his friend had never been violent before were in dispute.
“The IDF regrets the erroneous reports on the punishment of the soldier and emphasizes that his imprisonment stemmed from violence against his officers and was not connected to the video in question, which will be investigated as a separate matter when he returns to duty,” the IDF said in a statement. “Incidents of violence in the Nahal brigade are taken very seriously and are not consistent with IDF values.”
Prior to the release of the video, the soldier had been sentenced by a battalion commander to 20 days in prison stemming from two prior violent incidents.
The soldier denied the connection between the documented incident and his imprisonment in a Facebook post on his personal profile.
While officials said that the soldier could face dismissal after he finishes his prison sentence, they stressed that IDF soldiers have the right to draw their weapons in situations where they feel threatened, and that pictures from the incident clearly show the Palestinian boy had brass knuckles in his hand.
Spencer Ho contributed to this report.