UPDATE (7 pm Monday): At least 4 Qassam missiles have been fired at the men, women, and children of southern Israel in the last 24 hours by the Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. (5:02 pm): Two pipe bombs were seized by military police from a Palestinian terrorist at the Qalandiya crossing. (1:25 pm): Four Arabs in Jerusalem were arrested for throwing “rocks” at the Mt. of Olives.
All of Israel and much of the Israeli and western media is discussing today the incident that happened yesterday on Road 90 near the Jordan Valley town of Ouja involving the IDF and a large group of European, Israeli, and Palestinian “bicycle activists”.
In that incident, Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, the deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Territorial Brigade, hit Danish “activist” Andreas Las of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the chin with his M-16 knocking him to the ground.
Las described his and the ISM group’s actions this way: “We were just walking slowly towards the soldiers, we were chanting Palestinian songs calling for the liberation of Palestine (actually, even the ISM video doesn’t confirm this version). I don’t believe that is a provocation.” One of Las’s fellow bicycle demonstrators disingenuously described the ISM actions this way: “We did not expect any harassment on the part of the Israeli soldiers, we just came for fun. I tried to talk to them, to say that we only want to enjoy the beautiful road and the Jordan Valley in the springtime.”
Later in the day, Las was treated at a hospital for a “light” injury (a split lower lip) , released, and told Israel media–Channel 10–that he was doing “well”.
The ISM video of the event quickly went viral on youtube under the title “Israeli soldiers brutally attack Palestinian supporters”. (This ISM video will not be linked to in this blog simply because it was heavily edited to omit what the activists did prior to the moment the Danish activist was struck).
What is especially disturbing about the incident, however, is how Eisner, a decorated and highly respected IDF officer, has been completely and hysterically thrown under the bus by Israeli officials without even a semblance of due process.
IDF OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon immediately opened an investigation into the event; the Military Advocate-General’s office opened a criminal investigation into the event; more than this, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said that the incident was “very grave” and that Shalom’s actions were not “representative of the IDF’s ethics and morals” and would be investigated fully; to top it off, PM Benjamin Netanyahu piled on to “condemn the beating” of the Danish activist.
All of this– without even waiting for a moment to receive Eisner’s report on what actually happened.
Which is the purpose of this blog today. Here is the sequence of events as detailed by Lt. Col. Eisner:
1. The IDF was informed that the large group of bicyclists was riding on Route 90 toward Ouja with the intention of stopping and blocking the road. Eisner arrived with his troops shortly thereafter and ordered his forces to prevent the busy thoroughfare from being blocked. Two hours of peaceful dialogue followed.
2. In Eisner’s words: “I explained to the activists that many travelers were using the road because of the holiday and that they are posing a major security risk.”
3. As an alternative, Eisner then gave the activists permission to demonstrate inside Ouja and to ride their bicycles on a smaller road that runs roughly parallel to Route 90.
4. In Eisner’s words: “All was calm and in control and that is why I didn’t bring a water canon and gave them 15 minutes to protest.”
5. Eisner continues: “It was [originally] a group of 60 activists and suddenly two buses arrived and the activists all together called to block the road while closing our barrier. One of the Palestinian organizers told me at this stage that she no longer had control over the event.”
6. At this point, Lt. Col. Eisner said that the “protest” turned violent–with protesters attacking soldiers with “sticks”. Eisner himself was injured in the wrist and suffered two broken fingers–for which he did not immediately seek medical attention. In the following picture taken after the incident, note the cast on Lt. Col. Eisner’s right hand:
7. It was at this point that the incident occurred. In Eisner’s words: “The weapon was the only thing I had in my hands. The whole thing lasted 60 seconds, we prevented them from getting on the road and they boarded the bus. Obviously, they didn’t show the part where they attacked us with sticks in the video.”
8. During these events, Eisner says that he specifically did not use all of the crowd dispersal tools at his disposal: “There was no reason for me to fire a gas grenade as there had been no violence in the course of two hours of dialogue. I thought about using the kit, but I decided it would be better to let them calm down.”
9. Finally, Eisner’s summary of the entire episode:
“What they were trying to do risked my life and the lives of many others. We maintained restraint for two hours. Some of the soldiers told me, ‘Stop it, they’re inciting.’ I should have been better prepared. They caught us off guard. I used whatever I had in my hands.”
In sum, did Eisner use excessive force against the Danish demonstrator? Perhaps–though it will be important to learn if it was Las who broke Eisner’s fingers. Whether he did or not is something that must be determined by careful investigation–not by a trial in the media.
In any case, the behavior of the IDF leadership and PM Netanyahu in regard to taking action against Lt. Col. Eisner without any presentation of evidence other than a heavily edited ISM propaganda youtube video is nothing short of unprecedented, unjustified, and reprehensible.
Addendum: Praise for Lt. Col. Eisner has been pouring in this morning from his fellow officers and soldiers: “he [shows] restraint during riots and always opts for the path of negotiations”; “he helped deliver the baby of a Palestinian woman at a checkpoint”; “he always treats Israelis and Palestinians equally”.