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Former soldiers to Israeli gov't: Investigate us for occupation abuses

Israel’s justice minister demanded an investigation of an anti-occupation activist after he admitted to beating a Palestinian during his army service. Now other former soldiers are stepping up to show solidarity. 

By Yael Marom

Dozens of former soldiers protest outside Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked's home, demanding she investigate them over abuses they committed in the occupied territories, Tel Aviv, June 25, 2017. (Rami Ben Ari/Combatants for Peace)

Dozens of former soldiers protest outside Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s home, demanding she investigate them over abuses they committed in the occupied territories, Tel Aviv, June 25, 2017. (Rami Ben Ari/Combatants for Peace)

Dozens of Israelis demonstrated outside Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s home in north Tel Aviv Sunday night, after she called to investigate the spokesperson of anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence.

Breaking the Silence Spokesperson Dean Issacharof was summoned for interrogation last week by Israeli police at the behest of Shaked, over a testimony he gave to the organization in which he admitted to beating a Palestinian man during his service.

In response, over 30 members of the anti-occupation group Combatants for Peace — made up of mostly former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian combatants — protested outside Shaked’s home wearing handcuffs and signs that read “investigate me.” The police prevented them from demonstrating right outside the justice minister’s home, moving them instead to an adjacent street. A few passersby reportedly cursed the demonstrators, while one of Shaked’s neighbors dumped water on them.

Tuli Flint, a member of Combatants for Peace’s leadership, said during the protest: “We are calling on the justice minister not to isolate one case but rather investigate all of us. Violence is a permanent practice of the occupation in the territories, and it is destroying us from the inside as a society. The lone investigation against a left-wing activist is political persecution and has no intention of reaching the truth.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks during a vote on the so-called Regulation Bill, a controversial bill that seeks to legitimize illegal West Bank outposts, in the Knesset, December 5, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks during a vote on the so-called Regulation Bill, a controversial bill that seeks to legitimize illegal West Bank outposts, in the Knesset, December 5, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Issacharof, who served as an officer in the Nahal Brigade, was summoned for interrogation by Hebron police on Thursday, after a video of him giving a testimony during a Breaking the Silence tour of Hebron of how he beat a Palestinian stone thrower in front of his commanders and soldiers began circulating. Two weeks ago, Shaked asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to investigate Issacharof.

During his interrogation, Issacharof confirmed that what was said in the video was true, providing a full testimony to the police. It remains unclear whether he will be interrogated again.

But Issacharof is just one of hundreds of soldiers who previously provided testimony over the daily violence and routine abuse against Palestinians. Breaking the Silence has called on the police to investigate the hundreds of former soldiers who have spoken to Breaking the Silence.

A hidden opportunity?

Dozens of other former soldiers and officers have joined members of Breaking the Silence in calling on the justice minister to investigate them as well, since there is no way to participate in the occupation without using violence. David Zonszein, a former IDF officer who now chairs the board of B’Tselem, wrote: “Ayelet Shaked, I too am asking to be investigated under caution. In my investigation, I will provide details of the things I took part in the West Bank and Gaza. The testimony provided by Breaking the Silence’s spokesperson pales in comparison.”

Former member of Knesset, Mossi Raz, also wrote: “Instead of investigating Breaking the Silence’s spokesperson, I suggest you investigate me and all other people of my rank (major) and higher. As someone who knows the situation on the ground, it will be embarrassing for Shaked.” Avi Buskila, the executive director of Peace Now and a former major, announced that “Ayelet Shaked is invited to clear out four months and come investigate me.”

Shaked’s decision to investigate Issacharof could turn into an opportunity for anti-occupation groups, and we must take advantage of it. Come on, let’s really start investigating those who take part in the occupation. Let’s go to court where we can listen to all the testimonies, one after the other: about night raids, abuse at checkpoints, daily violence, exploitation, whitewashing Palestinian deaths — about everything it takes to maintain an invisible occupation. Let’s open this up for a public discussion and talk about what our children are doing in the occupied territories, so that we can continue to live in Tel Aviv, Gadera, Ariel, Modi’in, Kedumim, and Kfar Saba as if there aren’t people living under a military regime beyond the walls and fences.

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article is also published in Hebrew. 

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    1. Ben

      Excellent. Capitalize on this. It’s a great opportunity. Seize the day. If you do, no matter what Shaked does now, the truth will be exposed. She has trapped herself, whether she moves ahead with singling out Issacharoff, or widens the prosecutions, or simply retreats on Issacharoff.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Paranam Kid

      The rot that started from within is now getting exposed to full daylight. And the irony is that 1 of the most right-wing extremists of this fascist government is responsible for it. In other words, she has shot herself & her fellow monsters in the foot. Either way they are snookered: if they investigate/prosecute the others too they open a can of worms, if they don’t then the rot will continue, spreading like a metastasised cancer that eventually kills its host.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        What’s interesting about that video is none of those soldiers offer any logical or compelling reason why they “know” what they say they know. Nor can they. So who really are the liars? Let us see the specific commanding officer Issacharoff implicates testify, under penalty of perjury, at Issacharoff’s trial. Let the defense bring forth witnesses. Let’s have it all out. By all means. And let’s have it aaaall out–let’s put on trial the hundreds of other soldiers who are now coming forward and saying “I did the same or worse, prosecute me too, Shaked.” Because that will accelerate if Issacharoff is put on (show) trial. My guess is that Shaked will retreat by maneuvering to say some version of “we investigated and just as we suspected we found nothing substantive, Issacharoff exaggerates, Breaking the Silence fabricated, nothing to see here folks, carry on. Occupation as usual.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Bernie X

          I think you are way too emotionally involved in this thing. Strong attachment is not a good thing.

          Reply to Comment
      • Paranam Kid

        Reservists on Duty: “These soldiers do not just use propaganda, they use intimidation tactics like taking video footage.”
        “The group describes itself as taking “an extremely proactive approach towards confronting BDS and the movements that defame” Israel and its army.”

        These are quotes from here https://electronicintifada.net/content/israeli-soldiers-harass-students-us-campus/20781

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Bernie why don’t you look at the Breaking the Silence video, “Kneecaps” — “I want you to bring me Arabs’ kneecaps,” said the battalion commander. And tell me if you think the battalion commander suffers from “strong attachment” or cold, criminal, inhuman detachment? Or whether you think this kneecapping resembles mafia behavior rather than “the most moral army in the world”?

          Reply to Comment