State reopens investigation of Breaking the Silence spokesman

Implying earlier probe was botched, police summon Palestinian who corroborated Dean Issacharoff’s version of alleged assault

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff speaks in a November 17, 2017 video statement. (Screen capture/Facebook)
Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff speaks in a November 17, 2017 video statement. (Screen capture/Facebook)

The State Attorney’s Office reopened an assault probe against the spokesman for the Breaking the Silence group on Monday, in what appeared to be an acknowledgement it had botched an investigation that had concluded Dean Issacharoff had lied about beating a Palestinian while serving in the West Bank city of Hebron.

In the newest twist in a bizarre saga, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office on Monday confirmed a Hadashot news report that police had summoned for questioning a Palestinian who corroborated Issacharoff’s version of the March 2014 incident.

Last month, prosecutors concluded that Issacharoff had lied while recounting the alleged episode at a Breaking the Silence rally last April. But days after the initial decision to close its investigation into the matter, Breaking the Silence released footage that appeared to show that police had probed the wrong Palestinian.

Hadashot news tracked down the Hebron resident apparently shown in the footage, Faisal al-Natche, who confirmed to having been beaten by soldiers during the incident in question.

Footage of Dean Issacharoff (right) leading away a Palestinian in Hebron in March 2014. (Screen Capture/ B’Tselem)

Investigators had originally interrogated another Palestinian, Hassan Julani, who denied ever having been assaulted by Issacharoff, citing the testimony in concluding that the spokesman had lied.

Since the release of the new footage, Breaking the Silence has been calling for the investigation to be reopened and for al-Natche to be probed. The group welcomed Monday’s Hadashot news report showing that the State Attorney’s Office had in fact chosen to do so.

“This time, as opposed to the previous investigation, which was conducted with negligence and dishonesty, we expect the prosecution to comport itself with legal professionalism and integrity and to advance justice rather than extraneous political interests,” Breaking the Silence said in a statement. “Any investigation that seeks the truth will reveal to the prosecution what every soldier who serves in the territories knows — there can be no occupation without violence.”

Faisal el-Natche, the alleged assault victim of Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff speaks to Hadashot News on November 21, 2017 (screen capture: Hadashot News)

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 challenge 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, with other soldiers observing, he “began to knee him in the face and chest until he was bleeding and dazed,” and then dragged the Palestinian to detention.

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

Subsequently, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked approached Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit with a request to probe Issacharoff.

However, the head of Reservists on Duty admitted last month to Hadashot news that the comrades who appeared in the video calling Issacharoff a “liar” were not present during the incident in question and had only been speaking generally.

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