Video captures Israeli soldiers attacking two journalists and destroying their cameras in the West Bank
One officer is suspended while investigation is underway
The IDF has suspended one officer and launched an investigation after a video emerged showing IDF soldiers attacking two journalists and destroying their cameras in the West Bank village of Beit Furik on Friday afternoon.
The video, from Palestinian video production company Palmedia, shows the journalists from Agence France-Presse working near a group of IDF soldiers when one of the soldiers smashes a video camera to the ground. The journalists, wearing protective helmets and vests that appears to be labeled “PRESS,” walk away from the soldiers, at which point one soldier throws the smashed camera into the grass on the side of the road.
“He punched my camera and he breaks the microphone, and I didn’t have time to hide the camera behind me,” says Andrea Bernardi, one of two journalists in the video. “The soldier took the camera from my hand and smashed it on the ground.”
Moments later, as Bernardi and Palestinian still photographer Abbas Momani are walking away, the soldiers chase after them in an armored car. One soldier hops out, smashes one of Momani’s still cameras and confiscates the other one. Bernardi decided it was time to leave, he says, and he immediately called the AFP office to let the agency know what happened and the IDF to report the incident.
Bernardi, an Italian journalist working for the French news agency, then returned to the scene to gather evidence of the attack. He found his broken camera lying on the side of the street and went to photograph it as proof. But as he started taking pictures, another armored vehicle is seen in the video speeding toward him. Soldiers hopped out of the car and pinned Bernardi to the ground, he says, before one soldier punched him in the face.
“The guy who was driving, he got out of the car and he took the pistol from his bag and he pointed the pistol in my face,” Bernardi says.
The IDF says the incident is under investigation, acknowledging that “the officer in charge did not conduct himself in accordance to professional expectations.” The IDF suspended the commander.
“The IDF considers the incident grave, and in contravention of its code of ethics and professional standards. The review is ongoing and lessons from the incident will be learned and disseminated within the IDF,” reads a statement from the IDF.
Bernardi has reported from war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but he says he has never seen anything like this. “It’s few people, few soldiers, two to three soldiers maximum,” says Bernardi, “that they completely lost their mind and they completely lost their sense of anything. I mean, it was ridiculous.”
The Foreign Press Association condemned the “deplorable behaviour of the IDF soldiers.” The FPA released a statement saying, “While it is welcome that the IDF has said it is investigating the incident ‘at the highest levels’ our concern is that had this not been caught on camera, nothing would be done. Units of the IDF too frequently act with impunity and apparently outside of their orders in direct contradiction with the ideal of high morals Israel’s military says it adheres to.”
IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner says more disciplinary actions are possible as the investigation continues, including potential disciplinary steps against other soldiers.
This has not been the only incident in recent weeks between Israeli authorities and journalists. During the Jewish new year in mid-September, the FPA says Border Police units attacked journalists covering clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protestors at the al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem.
“Members of the police repeatedly beat, hit, violently shoved and used pepper spray against photographers and cameramen, despite the journalists having clearly identified themselves and not posing any threat to the police’s security operations,” reads a statement from the FPA.