This is a big story in Israel. On Saturday, Channel 13 anchorwoman Oshrat Kotler commented on a case of sadistic Israeli soldier beatings of a Palestinian father and son in occupied territory, saying:
They send children to the army, to the territories, and get them back human animals. That’s the result of the occupation.
The response was immediate. Thousands of expressions of rage streamed in from audiences, and many leaders on the right were condemnatory. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted:
Proud of IDF soldiers and love them very much. Oshrat Kotler’s words should be roundly condemned.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett Bennett wrote:
Oshrat, you’re confused. IDF soldiers give their lives so you can sleep peacefully. Human animals are the terrorists who murder children in their beds, a young girl on a walk or a whole family driving on the road. IDF soldiers are our strength. Our children. Apologize.
“After they finished, they started dancing”
The story goes back to January 8th, when Israeli combat soldiers arrested a Palestinian father and his 15-year-old son in the village of Abu Shukheidim in the West Bank. The two, unnamed in news reports, were suspected of aiding As’am Barghouti, a Palestinian accused of killing two soldiers from the same Israeli battalion in December, but the two were said not to be directly involved in the attack.
The two were handcuffed and blindfolded, and the soldiers punched and kicked them, and hit them with their weapons, causing severe wounds. One soldier filmed the event. The soldiers were in fact indicted, and last week, Ynet published some of the testimonies.
The son testified that he was beaten by four soldiers in the face, chest, stomach and legs.
They hit my knee with the gun barrel and my chest, knees, thighs and groin with the butt end… I couldn’t open my left eye. My mouth was full of blood and my shirt was soiled as well. I also bled from my nose.
He added that some of the abuse was verbal as well.
One of the soldiers asked me to say ‘In spirit, in blood, we will redeem Palestine’ while I watched him beat up my father. The soldier told me ‘Look at your dad. He deserves to be beaten. You think you’re patriotic.’
He added that no one had intervened to stop the abuse, and that “after they finished, they started dancing.”
The father testified that he was cursed at and hit with a belt. “When I asked them why they were beating me up, they hit me with the butt end of their weapons and one of the soldiers stepped on my face and broke my nose. I bled profusely and wasn’t allowed to speak. I shouted at them but they told me to shut up. I was then hit in the face and lost consciousness.”
The commander of the battalion clarified that he does not regret sending his soldiers on the mission. In his investigation, he said that he has no doubt that it was necessary in order to “settle scores” with the assailant who had killed two fighters from his battalion and that this was necessary in order to “create a feeling of success amongst the fighters.”
He also said that their behavior was unacceptable and that he suspended them from duty. Although the arrest of the other soldiers has been extended until today, the IDF Spokesperson said that the commander of the battalion is no longer under arrest.
Death threats to Kotler and condemnation from top executives
Channel 13 has assigned bodyguards to Kotler due to death threats. She now risks trial for Defamation, and has also been called in for disciplinary hearings by the news station’s executives.
Oshrat Kotler is an anchor, not an interpreter. She definitely overstepped her authority.
Berkovitch did not refer directly at all to the “human animals” expression, but rather to “occupation”:
It’s not alright what she said. If she speaks about ‘occupation’, let her go to politics. Soon they are closing the lists for the parties [for elections], let her find her place there.
Haaretz interviewer Itai Stern wondered:
Is it not permitted to say the word “occupation” in broadcast anymore? Is that an illegitimate expression of opinion?
What do you mean? There’s a wide public in Israel that doesn’t agree with this definition, so of course there’s a political statement here.
See, this is really the point of it all. It’s not that these soldiers behaved like “human animals”, that is, with unfathomable sadistic barbarism. That’s not the issue at all. The issue is that Kotler said “occupation”.
H/t Ofer Neiman