International observer expelled from Israel for slapping Jewish boy in Hebron
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International observer expelled from Israel for slapping Jewish boy in Hebron

Switzerland's ambassador apologizes to West Bank city's settler community over actions by Swiss member of TIPH monitoring group

A screenshot from video of a Swiss member of the TIPH civilian monitoring group slapping a Jewish boy during a tour of the West Bank city of Hebron on June 11, 2018. (Screen capture: Hadashot TV news)
A screenshot from video of a Swiss member of the TIPH civilian monitoring group slapping a Jewish boy during a tour of the West Bank city of Hebron on June 11, 2018. (Screen capture: Hadashot TV news)

A member of a monitor group in Hebron was ordered on Friday by the Foreign Ministry to immediately leave Israel after video showed him slapping a child from the West Bank city’s Jewish settler community on Wednesday.

The Foreign Ministry said the order for the Swiss observer from the Temporary International Presence in Hebron to leave the country was made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It said the TIPH observer left on Friday.

TIPH is an international civilian observer group tasked with “monitoring and reporting efforts to maintain normal life in the city of Hebron, thus creating a sense of security among the Palestinians in Hebron.” It also reports alleged human rights abuses and violations of accords in the city between Israel and Palestinians. Observers for the group come from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy and Turkey.

Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank, is divided between the Palestinian Authority and an Israeli-controlled enclave of some 500 Jewish settlers living among 40,000 Palestinians.

IDF soldiers speak with a young Jewish boy, in the divided West Bank city of Hebron. November 06, 2015. Photo by Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90

The TIPH observer was with a tour of Hebron’s settler community led by Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO that documents alleged rights abuses against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.

In video of Wednesday’s incident, the boy can be seen walking toward the TIPH observer and confronting him, before the man slaps him across the face, sending his skullcap flying.

It was not clear from the video what prompted the incident. The boy said in footage aired by Hadashot TV news on Thursday that he was slapped for approaching the group.

Breaking the Silence told Hadashot news the TIPH observer registered for the tour on the internet and was removed from the group immediately after the incident. “Breaking the Silence condemns all violence against children,” it said.

The organization is often criticized by the Israeli right for largely relying on anonymous testimonies from former Israeli soldiers of alleged abuses by the IDF and for receiving funding from European countries and left-wing groups.

TIPH could not immediately be reached for comment.

Following the airing of the footage, Switzerland’s ambassador to Israel apologized on Friday to leaders of the settlement community in Hebron over the incident and informed them the Swiss observer was leaving the country.

“Though this was no doubt preceded by some provocation on the side of the settlers — the action of this TIPH member is totally unacceptable. It is expected from our TIPH members that they keep their nerves in any circumstances,” wrote Ambassador Jean-Daniel Ruch, according to a copy of the letter shared by Uri Karzen, the director of Hebron’s Jewish community.

Ruch also implored the settler leaders to prevent the “situation from deteriorating.”

“It is imperative that interactions between TIPH personel [sic] and the settlers be respectful and that the provocations stop,” he wrote.

The settler community in Hebron welcomed Ruch’s apology while calling on Switzerland to put the observer on trial and pay compensation to the 10-year-old boy he slapped.

It also told Hadashot news that TIPH must adopt “a neutral and less hostile stance toward the Jewish community in Hebron, its rights to exist and the difficulties it deals with.”

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