Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday that she had asked the attorney general to investigate, on suspicion of war crimes, the spokesman of a left-wing group who was filmed admitting that during his army service he beat a passive, unarmed Palestinian protester he was trying to detain.
Shaked told Army Radio that she sought to clarify if Breaking the Silence’s Dean Issacharoff was telling the truth when he described an alleged incident in the West Bank city of Hebron, or if he was lying to discredit the IDF.
Breaking the Silence — an Israeli NGO that publishes the testimonies of former Israeli soldiers who report on human rights abuses in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — has raised the ire Israeli officials and drawn criticism from those who question the authenticity of its mostly anonymous testimonies.
The organization recently became the focus of a diplomatic spat between Israel and Germany after the visiting German foreign minister met with its activists against the wishes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who responded by canceling a meeting with the minister.
Issacharoff was filmed two months ago at a Breaking the Silence rally giving a public confession in which he described beating the Palestinian.
“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.”
At the rally, Issacharoff, an officer who served in the IDF between 2011 and 2015, told how 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 who was passively resisting arrest.
He 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 non-violently,” Issacharoff told the rally.
He then 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.
Issacharoff’s version of the events was disputed by members of his own platoon, who last month published a video response via Reservists on Duty, an organization that campaigns against Breaking the Silence and to defend the reputation of IDF soldiers.
In the video the soldiers, including Issacharoff’s former commander, repeatedly call him a “liar” over the story.
Issacharoff’s former company commanding officer, reserve captain Omri Sayner, also wrote in a post to his own Facebook page at the time: “I will not allow you to lie and discredit my name and that of my soldiers.
Breaking the Silence told the Times of Israel that it will 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.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.