Netanyahu: This behavior is not characteristic of IDF soldiers and commanders • MK Ben Ari praises lieutenant colonel “for doing what Netanyahu and Aharonovitch lack the nerve to do” • MK Orlev: It was only the determined action of the deputy commander that prevented the continuing rampage by a gang of anarchists.
Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner’s filmed assault on an unarmed left-wing activist from Denmark, which gained large-scale exposure on Sunday, has won praise from the Right and harsh condemnation from the Left.
The incident occurred near the Palestinian village of Ouja in the Jordan Valley, as pro-Palestinian activists staged a protest bicycle ride in the area. A confrontation between protesters and IDF soldiers was filmed, catching Eisner smashing the activist in the face with his M-16 rifle.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the officer’s actions on Sunday. “This behavior is not characteristic of IDF soldiers and commanders and it has no place in the IDF or in the state of Israel,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.
MK Zevulun Orlev (New National Religious Party), however, praised Eisner’s actions, saying that “It was only the determined action of the deputy commander that prevented the continuing rampage by a gang of anarchists. It is a shame that the Left is quick to attack a senior IDF officer, instead of attacking a band of outlaws, mostly comprised of professional anarchists. It is sad to see the belligerent responses against this senior army officer, who was only carrying out a national mission to protect us from provocateurs, whose sole purpose is the putrefaction of the IDF and the state of Israel.”
MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union) offered praise: “Way to go lieutenant colonel, for doing what [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Public Security Minister Yitzhak] Aharonovitch lack the nerve to do. One has to employ an iron fist in dealing with these radical leftists who provoke IDF soldiers. There was a real threat to the safety of the soldiers, and the deputy commander of the Jordan Valley didn’t have any other choice.”
Danny Dayan, the head of the Yesha settler council [the umbrella body of the Jewish communities of Judea, Samaria], echoed Orlev’s and Ben Ari’s sentiments, defending Eisner’s actions. “I call on the belligerent politicians on the Left, who have already passed judgment on the deputy commander, to calm down and stop sticking their noses into the business of the defense establishment. I don’t understand their eagerness to crucify a senior IDF commander who came face to face with a group of Israel haters.”
On the opposing side of the political spectrum, Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak to remove Lt. Col. Eisner from his post, saying “This was a brutal attack that runs contrary to IDF orders and to the army’s ethical code. The military advocate-general must order an internal investigation.”
Peace Now General Director Yariv Oppenheimer insisted that Eisner be removed from the IDF. “The state of Israel cannot ignore violent and inappropriate behavior from senior officers. All of our public diplomacy efforts are wiped out in a second with one glimpse of the occupation’s worst ugliness.”
The International Solidarity Movement, which staged the protest bicycle ride and subsequently posted the video in question to the internet, is a radical left-wing movement established in 2001.
According to the organization’s website, the ISM is a “Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli apartheid in Palestine by using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles.” The group’s actions aim to raise awareness in the world to the suffering of the Palestinians.
The website also says that, “Israelis and Palestinians are portrayed as two equal sides which can’t live together, fighting over a piece of land. In reality, Israel’s apartheid regime challenges Palestine’s right to exist, and is met with a Palestinian struggle for freedom, self-determination and human rights.”
In the past, several ISM members have been linked to terror organizations. The IDF emphasizes that ISM activists have been used in the past as “human shields” by Palestinian terrorists. During the IDF’s 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, ISM members barricaded themselves with late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the Mukataa presidential compound in Ramallah.
In addition, according to a 2006 Front Page magazine research piece, “In March 2003, fugitive Islamic Jihad terrorist Shadi Sukiya was arrested in a house the ISM rented in Jenin. Two suicide bombers from the U.K. met with the ISM in Gaza before blowing up Mike’s Place, a bar in Tel Aviv, killing three people and wounding more than 50 in the process.”
In 2008, ISM movement leaders joined the Free Gaza Movement coalition, which was involved in the flotilla attempt to breach the naval blockade Israel imposed on the Gaza Strip.
The ISM movement has also been active in protests against the security barrier between Israel and the West Bank, especially in the village of Bil’in. ISM activists were sent “to help protect the Palestinian population,” in their words, from further suffering due to irritations from settlers and IDF soldiers. They have also joined forces with radical leftist organizations, such as Ta’ayush: the Arab Jewish Partnership” and “Anarchists Against The Wall.”