Police arrested three right-wing activists overnight Monday on suspicion that they had attacked participants of an event organized by a group that works to expose alleged misconduct by the Israel Defense Forces against Palestinians.
The three men, in their twenties and residents of the northern city of Kiryat Shmona, were arrested on suspicion that they had blocked the path of a car carrying students who attended a presentation by the Breaking the Silence group, threatened the occupants, and pelted the vehicle with eggs, police said in a statement Tuesday.
Video shot by one of the students in the car showed the vehicle surrounded by protesters shouting abuse and throwing eggs. It was aired by Hadashot TV news on Monday night. Police who had been alerted about the demonstration could be seen in the video apparently standing by as the protesters targeted the vehicle.
The attorney and far-right activist Itamar Ben Gvir, who is representing the three suspects, said, “Police who were at the scene did not see a reason to carry out arrests, and the [eventual] arrests made are only due of political pressure.” Ben Gvir further claimed that left-wing activists ran amok during the presentation but were not arrested.
במכללת תל חי התקיימה הרצאה של ארגון שוברים שתיקה במהלכה נשמעו קללות וגידופים כלפי הפעיל שהגיע מטעם הארגון. אך האירוע החמור התרחש לאחר ההרצאה כשפעילי המתינו לסטונדטים שיצאו מההרצאה ואף תקפו מספר בנות בזמן שיצאו מהמכללה http://bit.ly/2KJWCWE | אוהד חמו
Posted by החדשות – N12 on Monday, May 7, 2018
Police noted that although no complaint had been filed, the suspects were to be brought for a remand hearing before the Kiryat Shmona Magistrate’s Court later in the day.
The incident took place as Breaking the Silence staffer Achiya Schatz gave a presentation about the group at the Tel Hai College campus outside Kiryat Shmona.
A counter-protest was organized by residents of the city, and protesters heckled the speakers at the event. At one point, two people clashed violently in the presentation hall and were asked to leave.
After the event ended, students were told to remain inside the campus as right-wing activists gathered outside to look for “left-wing” participants, Hadashot reported. The group of students who left in a car were intercepted outside the campus by the protesters and recorded the clash from inside the vehicle.
Police said Monday, “We take a serious view of any violent incident, and an investigation has been opened.”
Breaking the Silence, which publishes testimony of former Israeli soldiers who report on alleged abuses by the IDF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, has raised the ire of Israeli officials and drawn criticism from those who challenge the authenticity of its mostly anonymous claims.
In a statement, the group blamed the clashes on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, all of whom have spoken out against it.
“This incident proves that the incitement by Netanyahu, Bennett and Shaked will end in blood — and their hands will not be cleansed of that blood,” Breaking the Silence said Monday. “This is an example that shows the incitement against Breaking the Silence and the left transforms words into hate and violent thuggery. It will interesting to see whether the attorney general and the state prosecutor, the gatekeepers, will break their silence.”
In February a bill empowering the education minister to ban organizations critical of the Israeli military from entering schools passed its first reading in the Knesset.
The legislation was first proposed in 2016 amid intense public debate over the legitimacy of left-wing groups operating in Israel. It is primarily directed at the Breaking the Silence organization, but would give the education minister the power to ban any groups “that work to damage the IDF” from entering academic institutions.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.