Breaking the Silence released footage Monday that appeared to corroborate the testimony of its spokesman who claimed he had assaulted a Palestinian during his army service, the latest twist in a bizarre saga during which Dean Issacharoff has tried to prove his guilt and defend the organization from charges of lying.
Issacharoff was branded as a “liar” by right-wing lawmakers after the State Attorney’s Office announced last Thursday that it had closed its investigation into his confessed assault, saying that it had never taken place.
But new footage of a March 2014 incident uncovered from the B’Tselem rights group’s archives and released to the media Monday shows Issacharoff leading away a handcuffed Palestinian with bruises to his face. No actual beating is shown.
Standing close to Issacharoff is Ruben Silverstone, the company commander’s assistant, who released a video Friday corroborating Issacharoff’s version of events amid the growing attacks on the NGO spokesman.
But another soldier seen in the video, Ori Brachia, said Issacharoff was lying when he said he had beaten the man in question.
“I just saw myself in this clip,” he said. “Everything he’s saying is nonsense. Nothing of the sort happened. It’s all one big lie.”
Breaking the Silence, which publishes the testimonies of former Israeli soldiers who report on alleged human rights 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 question the authenticity of its mostly anonymous claims.
The initial probe was launched after Issacharoff told a Breaking the Silence rally in April that in 2014, during his army service in the West Bank, his commander ordered him to handcuff a man who had thrown rocks at Israeli soldiers as part of a protest and was passively resisting arrest.
Issacharoff said that in front of his platoon, he “began to knee him in the face and chest until he was bleeding and dazed,” and then dragged the Palestinian to detention.
The decision to open the probe in April was also derided at the time as politically motivated.
In light of the new footage, the NGO blasted the conduct of State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan as “negligent,” and demanded that the investigation be reopened.
“When right-wing organizations attack Breaking the Silence and call us traitors and liars, that is one thing, but when the State Prosecutor’s Office makes a decision based on a shameful and negligent investigation and determines that Issacharoff is a liar, it should frighten every citizen in this country who believes in the importance of democracy,” said Breaking the Silence director Avner Gvaryahu.
“The fact that the truth came to light only because Breaking the Silence was able to carry out through a four-day investigation what law enforcement failed to do in six months due to its surrendering to a political agenda is horrifying,” Gvaryahu added.
Hours earlier, deputy State Prosecutor Nurit Litman announced that her office would not be reopening the probe, despite repeated requests from Breaking the Silence and a host of other left-wing NGOs.
In a letter explaining the decision, Litman labeled “baseless” Issacharoff’s allegations that the investigation had been politically motivated and acted improperly.
Responding to Issacharoff’s criticism that authorities did not interrogate Silverstone, Litman wrote that this was because the NGO spokesman refused to supply the names of his comrades who may have witnessed the incident.
In September, authorities tracked down Hassan Julani, the Palestinian they said Issacharoff had arrested. While Julani confirmed that he was indeed arrested in February 2014, as Issacharoff had told police, the Palestinian insisted that no violence was employed in order to apprehend him.
Responding to the State Attorney’s decision on Thursday, Netanyahu tweeted, “Breaking the Silence lies and slanders our soldiers internationally. Today, in case anyone had any doubt, this fact has received further proof. The truth wins.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who had approached Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit with a request to probe Issacharoff in June, also welcomed the decision to drop the case.
In a bitter debate on Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2) on Saturday with another Breaking the Silence leader, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely on Saturday called members of Breaking the Silence “liars” and “traitors,” and demanded that the group apologize to the Israeli people for having willfully misled them for years.
Following the release of the new footage, Hotovely released a statement in which she refused to walk back her attacks on Issacharoff. “In any case, an investigation must be conducted to uncover the truth,” she tweeted.
“The problem is that Breaking the Silence has made a method of distributing testimonies that have never been reported to the Military Police or examined by the Israeli legal system,” she added.
JTA contributed to this report.