Video depicts deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade, Shalom
Eisner, smashing Danish protester´s face with M-16 rifle • Eisner,
who has been suspended, says protester first broke his fingers with a
The Israel Defense Forces on Monday suspended a senior officer after
a video depicting him assaulting an anti-Israel activist flooded the
Israeli and world media.
The video showed Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, the deputy commander of the
Jordan Valley brigade, holding his M-16 rifle in both hands and
shouting at a group of demonstrators taking part in a bicycle rally
in the Palestinian village of Ouja. Several minutes into the video,
the officer strikes a Danish protester in the face with his weapon.
Eisner said he “acted instinctively” after his fingers were broken
earlier in the day by the stick-wielding Danish activist belonging to
the International Solidarity Movement.
IDF Spokesman Yoav Mordechai told Army Radio on Monday that the
filmed incident took place on Saturday.
The protester, Andreas Ias, 20, from Denmark, was treated at a
Palestinian hospital for light injuries. He told Channel 10 on Monday
that "we were just walking slowly toward the soldiers, we were
chanting Palestinian songs calling for the liberation of Palestine. I
don´t believe that is a provocation."
Mordechai denounced Eisner´s behavior, telling Army Radio that it was
unacceptable and “does not reflect the IDF’s values.” Mordechai
added, however, that the video released by the ISM was edited and did
not reflect the whole story.
"These are harsh pictures, but I still can´t divorce the filmed
episodes from the incident that lasted over an hour and which
included violence by the anarchists and Palestinians -- [though] this
does not justify what we see," Mordechai said. “We only saw a part of
the footage, there were 20 foreign activists shown on the tape, not
the 250 Palestinians behind them who tried to block the road. We saw
only the blow on the tape, not the two hours of provocations before,”
Mordechai said, adding that OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Allon
had decided to suspend Eisner until the army completes its
investigation into the incident.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz condemned the
incident, saying that he saw it with "grave severity."
"The incident does not reflect IDF values," Gantz said. "We will
thoroughly investigate this event, and we will handle it with the
The release of the video coincided with large-scale Israeli efforts
on Sunday to suppress a pro-Palestinian fly-in demonstration, in
which activists were planning to fly en mass to Israel´s airport and
protest Israel´s policies in the Palestinian territories. Most of the
activists were prevented from boarding flights to Israel, and the
ones who arrived were effectively contained and removed to holding
facilities or deported back to their home countries.
Meanwhile, the Danish activist assaulted by Eisner told Army Radio
that he had been assaulted for no reason. "I was just standing
there," he said, insisting that he had not attacked the officer or
even said a word to him. He said further that the blow had taken him
by surprise, causing him to nearly faint.
Eisner, for his part, told his close associates that the activist had
assaulted him with a stick, breaking two of his fingers. According to
sources, he said further that the video was heavily edited and does
not accurately reflect the actual events – which went on for two
Eisner voiced remorse on Sunday, telling his associates that he
regretted that "the events happened the way they did." He said that
having had time to think it over, he wouldn´t have acted the way he
did, but "I would have carried out my mission and prevented the
protesters from getting through."
He explained that the demonstrators were trying to block the main
road, and that his soldiers were the last line of defense preventing
them from reaching their destination. "They tried to pass us again
and again, though we insisted and explained to them that they are not
permitted to enter a military zone."
The senior officer also regretted the fact that his own soldiers had
not been equipped with cameras, because if they had been, he said,
they would be able to prove that moments before he struck the
demonstrator, that same man broke his pinky.
The activist, however, said that he planned to press charges against
Eisner, and that he had met with an attorney.
Another activist who participated in the demonstration said Sunday
that "we were cycling on the side of the road, near Jericho, and IDF
forces came and stopped us, and began assaulting us. We tried, non-
violently, to push forward toward Ouja, but the officer who hit the
Danish protester with the butt of his gun acted aggressively and
violently, and even ordered other soldiers to do the same, telling
them ´as far as I´m concerned you can break their bicycles and their
faces. They won´t get any further.´ We were in shock, it was really
But Eisner´s acquaintances rushed to defend the deputy commander.
They were surprised by the images in the video and insisted that no
one should jump to conclusions. Arik Ben Shimon, a soldier Eisner
once commanded, told Israel Hayom that "he always enforced restraint,
and instructed us to exercise restraint. He is a principled, moral
man, a cut above the rest. In this incident he was drawn into a
provocation instigated by the demonstrators."
Other associates said that Eisner, the son of the late rabbi Benjamin
Eisner who was considered a moderate, had helped a Palestinian woman
in the Jordan Valley give birth about a year ago. He had provided a
military ambulance to a Palestinian woman, in labor, who didn´t have
time to travel to a hospital. The baby, who was in distress,
underwent life-saving measures in the field by IDF soldiers under
Eisner´s command. In the Saluki battle in Second Lebanon War in 2006,
Eisner extracted troops under fire.