Investigation finds Breaking the Silence spokesman didn’t beat Palestinian
Justice minister: NGO spokesman 'is a liar defaming Israel'

Investigation finds Breaking the Silence spokesman didn’t beat Palestinian

Hebron man denies Dean Issacharoff assaulted him; Netanyahu says decision ‘proof’ the group’s testimonies on West Bank abuses are ‘lies’

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video in which Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff described how he beat a passive Palestinian protester in Hebron, filmed at a rally in April, 2017. (YouTube/hakolhayehudi)
Screen capture from video in which Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff described how he beat a passive Palestinian protester in Hebron, filmed at a rally in April, 2017. (YouTube/hakolhayehudi)

The State Attorney’s Office closed its investigation against the spokesman of the left-wing Breaking the Silence group Thursday after concluding that his confessed assault of a Palestinian man had never taken place.

Police had opened a probe against Dean Issacharoff after he claimed at a rally in April that he brutally beat the man during his service as an IDF officer in Hebron.

In September, authorities managed to track down Hassan Julani, the Palestinian Issacharoff said he had assaulted. 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.

Accordingly, the State Attorney’s Office announced Thursday that it had decided to close the assault investigation against the NGO spokesman “after the investigation revealed that the events he described did not occur.”

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 testimonies.

Responding to the State Attorney’s decision, Prime Minister Benjamin 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.

“It turns out that the Breaking the Silence spokesman is a liar defaming the State of Israel in front of the world,” she said in a statement Thursday. “Kudos to his comrades in his company who refused to remain indifferent and were unwilling to remain silent while he lies. It is good that the truth has come to light about this organization, which is making money at the expense of IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens.”

For its part, Breaking the Silence told The Times of Israel that it had investigated the claims of its spokesman — as it says it does with every testimony it receives from former soldiers — and found witnesses who corroborated Issacharoff’s story.

In a separate statement, the NGO said it “wasn’t surprised” by Thursday’s decision, claiming that the investigation had been politically motivated from the outset. The group accused State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan of being Shaked’s “political servant.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked attends a swearing in ceremony for newly appointed judges at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, October 30, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The statement went on to argue that the testimony by Julani had been coerced. “When Israeli policemen from Hebron remove a Palestinian from his house and interrogate him about an incident that happened three years ago, he will likely say anything he can to satisfy them and provide them with what they want,” the group argued.

Issacharoff’s attorney, Gaby Lasky, called into question the motivation of the investigators. “Throughout the entire history of Israeli occupation, a file has never been opened so quickly, the Palestinian victim has not been located so quickly and a decision to close the probe has not been made so quickly. This raises the suspicion that this a was political maneuver and not based off of relevant considerations,” she said in a statement.

Also coming to Issacharoff’s defense was one of his former comrades, Ruben Silverstone, who said he was persuaded to speak out after a few members of their company had “attempted to tarnish [Dean’s] reputation.”

In a video message posted Thursday evening, Silverstone said he recalled witnessing the incident as Issacharoff had described. “On that day we were part of a security force dealing with the riots. We did arrest an individual, and Dean did knee that individual in order to arrest him. Those are facts. This is not a lie, and I just wanted to set that straight,” he said.

עדות קשר המ"פ שמפריכה את חקירת הראווה

צפו בעדות שמפריכה את חקירת הראווה של שקד.כפי שפורסם בחדשות 2: מה שהתחיל בהוראה פוליטית הפך לחקירה פוליטית ונגמר במסקנה פוליטית. אם המשטרה והפרקליטות היו רוצות להגיע לאמת, הן היו חוקרות גם את רובן סילברסטון, חייל בודד ומצטיין פלוגתי שהיה קשר המ"פ ועמד ליד דין בזמן שנתן לפלסטיני ברכיות. הם ימשיכו לנסות להסתיר את האלימות שנדרשת בשביל לשלוט במיליוני פלסטינים, ואנחנו נמשיך לחשוף את מציאות הכיבוש. צפו בעדותו של רובן >>

Posted by ‎שוברים שתיקה‎ on Thursday, 16 November 2017

During the April rally, Issacharoff recounted that his Nahal Brigade infantry unit was deployed in Hebron and would regularly confront stone-throwing Palestinian protesters. On one occasion, he related, his company commander ordered him to handcuff a Palestinian, later identified as Julani, who was passively resisting arrest.

Issacharoff described how, with his soldiers and commanding officer watching, he grabbed the Palestinian by the back of the neck and “began to knee him in the face and chest until he was bleeding and dazed” before dragging him off to be detained.

“As a soldier I never knew how to deal with someone who resists nonviolently,” Issacharoff told the rally.

A month after Issacharoff’s rally appearance, Reservists on Duty, an organization that works to “expose the real intentions” of Breaking the Silence, published a video in which former members of his platoon, including his commander, called him a liar.

Students protest during a talk by the Breaking The Silence NGO at the Hebrew University, December 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In June, Shaked told Army Radio of her request for the attorney general to open a war crimes probe against Issacharoff, in what critics decried as an attempt to discredit Breaking the Silence while demonstrating that Israel investigates claims of abuse against Palestinians.

“The spokesperson of Breaking the Silence stands up and says that he himself committed a crime against a Palestinian and pounded him with blows,” Shaked said. “If that is really what happened, he should be investigated and punished. If it didn’t happen, the state needs to officially declare that it didn’t happen.”

Breaking the Silence told The Times of Israel at the time that it would not be deterred from its objectives by pressure from Shaked.

“If the justice minister believes that by hypocritically jumping on one testimony of a Breaking the Silence activist she will succeed in discouraging soldiers from testifying and opposing the occupation, she is making a big mistake,” the group said in a statement. “Because there is only one way to stop us and that is to end the occupation.”

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