IDF Lt.-Col. Shalom [sic] Eisner bashes demonstrator in the face with his M-16. (Still captured from YouTube video.)
Even Netanyahu has to pretend this is too much: Haaretz reports that the Israeli Prime Minister issued a statement condemning a senior IDF officer caught on video smashing a peaceful protester in the face with his rifle.
Here’s the video of the commander, identified by Haaretz as Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner, and his men taking on the most recent existential threat to Israel. If you’re short on time, just watch the first 15 seconds:
The victim, not yet identified in the published reports but apparently an international (if he’d been a Palestinian, no problem!), part of a protest bike ride, organized by Sharek Youth Forum, in the Jordan Valley on Saturday. Haaretz’s original story said “some 250 activists, mostly Palestinian youths from the West Bank,” participated; a report by two activists from the International Solidarity Movement says there were about 100 bikers. According to the ISM report, the bikers
rode approximately 5 kilometers before being blocked by Israeli occupation soldiers and jeeps at the entrance to Route 90. Soldiers informed the bikers that they would not be allowed to continue “for their own safety.” When activists peacefully attempted to continue on their way, the local commander of the occupation forces swung his rifle at the the head of multiple activists, resulting in the hospitalizations of the three activists and the detention of a man from Sweden.
The ISM report goes on to explain the motivation for the protest:
Palestinian drivers on Route 90, the Jordan Valley’s main north-south route, face regular harassment and attacks from Israeli settlers and soldiers. Palestinian drivers and cyclists are frequently pulled over and searched for no reason, and in some places Palestinians are even prevented from turning across the road at places Israelis have free access to.
The Jordan Valley faces a concerted Israeli campaign of ethnic cleansing towards the Palestinians living there. Demolitions of homes occur with frequency, and the Israelis are currently stealing the vast majority of the valley’s land and water. The majority of the fruit and vegetables produced on this stolen land are exported to Europe and North America. The bike demonstration was part of a day of demonstrations and festivities that included visits to villages, a youth dubke performance, and speeches. The events aim to send the message to the world and the occupying forces that the people of the Jordan Valley and Palestine refuse to cede their land to the illegal occupation and will continue to resist and remain on their land.
Naturally, none of that is included in either of the two Haaretz stories.
The paper does, however, make room for Eisner’s claim that the young man he attacked had hit him and broken two of his fingers earlier in the demonstration. He probably could have gotten away with that story if the video hadn’t surfaced. (Everybody knows that the IDF routinely allows protesters who assault and injure officers to stand around and continue their demonstrations, right?)
But once the ISM posted the video this morning, even the IDF had to distance itself from Eisner: A spokesperson issued a statement saying, according to Haaretz, “This is a grave incident. GOC Central Command Nitzan Alon ordered a thorough investigation in which the circumstances of the incident will be examined. Lessons will be derived and the appropriate steps will be taken.” Next IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz got in the act, claiming that “The incident does not reflect IDF principles and will be thoroughly investigated.” Finally, Bibi too piled on, declaring that “Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel.”
Under the circumstances, it sounds as though Eisner’s future in the IDF could be limited. Not to worry, though: for the long run, smashing a protester in the face on camera is probably a great career booster in today’s Israel. He has already made himself a hero to many Israelis. According to Haaretz, Knesset member Michael Ben Ari, for example, issued this tribute:
“Well done to the IDF officer who did what Bibi and [Israeli Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak] Aharonovich have no brain or courage to do. Radical leftists must be handled with a heavy hand. There was a tangible threat to the lives of the soldiers and the officer had no other choice. If it was a settler who was beaten we would not have heard the cries of the hypocrites on the left. Turns out they are not interested in human rights but the rights of terrorists and pro-Arabs.”