- Tape of Saturday's incident shows soldiers attempting to block activists
- One young man is shown being hit in face with a rifle
- "There was no justification for the violence," victim says
The Israeli military said Wednesday that it had dismissed an officer who was caught on video striking a pro-Palestinian activist in the face.
"Lt. Col. Eisner was dismissed from his position and will not serve as the Deputy Commander of the IDF Officer School, and will not be eligible to serve in commanding positions in the next two years," an Israeli Defense Forces statement said of Shalom Eisner, who served as commander for soldiers in the West Bank.
Eisner's dismissal also follows the Tuesday night broadcast of comments he made to friends defending his actions. In an audiotape quoted widely in the Israeli media, Eisner is heard saying that he used his rifle as a stick in order to prevent his soldiers from being harmed. He also admitted that the pictures of the incident looked bad but that it did not represent a failure of values.
"I didn't kill anyone and didn't endanger anyone's life," Eisner said.
Video of the incident, which took place Saturday near the West Bank city of Jericho, shows a group of Israeli soldiers attempting to prevent a group of dozens of bicycle-riding activists from passing. One of the activists is next to an Israeli soldier, who suddenly hits the young man in the face with an M-16 rifle. The man falls to the ground and is quickly dragged away by his peers.
The video was posted to You Tube on Sunday by a pro-Palestinian advocacy group.
The victim was treated in a Palestinian hospital for light injuries.
For reasons of security, when contacted by phone, the injured activist would provide only his first name, which he said was Andaers. He said he was participating in a bicycle tour through the Jordan River Valley organized to bring attention to the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank.
When his group encountered a military roadblock, Andaers said, he and a few other bikers decided to move peacefully toward the soldiers.
"We walked slowly towards them; the immediate response as you see from the video was violence," Andaers said. "One senior officer took off his rifle and beat three people, including myself."
Andaers said that "there was no justification for the violence" and that he was considering legal action.
The video prompted a quick and emphatic response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said in a statement Sunday, "This behaviour does not characterize the soldiers and commanders of the IDF and has no place in the IDF and the State of Israel."
Israeli military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said the officer's actions were not in line with military training and did "not bide with the ethical code and the moral values that we teach our soldiers and commanders" but suggested that the video did not tell the whole story.
"It was an illegal riot trying to block a road," Leibovich said of the activists. The video, she maintained, represented an edited 30 seconds of a 120-minute-long event in which the officer in question had his hand broken by stick-wielding protesters.
"I'm not sure the violence of the event was conveyed in those 30 seconds," she said.
Bader Zama'reh, the director of Sharek Youth Forum, which organized the bicycle event, rejected the Israeli military's characterization.
"This was not a protest; this was a peaceful march," Zama'reh said. "They have overreacted to everything they did. This was a peaceful activity. The youth had bicycles and wanted to ride."