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.