To paraphrase the Zionist Federation of Australia – this is super awkward.
Late last week, the ZFA decided to publish a Facebook post about the investigation of a colleague of mine, Lieutenant (Res.), Dean Issacharoff, from Breaking the Silence (an Israeli NGO of former Israeli soldiers who served in the occupied territories and speak out against the occupation).
However, no mention was made in the post (to date) about the complete blunder that this investigation has turned out to be – the wrong Palestinian victim was questioned and eyewitnesses were not even investigated. Allow me to explain.
Earlier this year, Issacharoff testified at a demonstration that he kneed a Palestinian in the stomach and head during an arrest he carried out during his service. He was not proud of what he did, but spoke about it as a way to take responsibility for the actions he carried out whilst serving in the Occupied Territories.
Subsequently, a right-wing organisation initiated a bullying campaign and recruited some of Issacharoff’s former comrades who claimed he lied about his actions (despite the small fact that they were not even present at the time of the event), which was followed by an unprecedented request by the Justice Minister Shaked to the Attorney General to open an investigation into Issacharoff’s testimony. Last week the Attorney General released his verdict that the case was closed due to “lack of guilt”.
Just as he had not undertaken a thorough investigation, the ZFA also rushed through the facts before it hurried to celebrate the news. When the ZFA published its Facebook post, it joined the chorus of extremist, pro-settlement, anti-democratic activists and members of Knesset – and the Justice Minister herself – in tormenting anyone who dares to speak out against the occupation, and, in particular, Breaking the Silence, the organisation with which I have worked for the past five years.
It was clear from day one that the investigation against Issacharoff was a political farce. The Israeli Police took six months to come back with their results: “Issacharof made up his testimony.” While here in Australia, we are enjoying the beginning of summer, my colleagues at BTS in Israel have carried out an intense, four-day investigation.
They came up with the following information:
- There were eye-witnesses who were not interrogated, amongst them, the Company Commander Signaller, Ruben Silberstein, whose role demands that he remain by his officers’ side at all times. Silberstein released a video testimony the next day backing Issacharoff’s testimony as an eye-witness.
- The Israel Police interrogated Hassan Joulani, the Palestinian they claimed was the person Issacharoff referred to in his testimony, who claimed he was not beaten. However, Issacharoff was never asked to cross-verify the identity of that Palestinian. Once Issacharoff was given access to a picture of him, he confirmed that he was not the Palestinian in question, as did Silberstein. In addition, Haaretz revealed that Joulani told police that he was beaten by the Border Police and not the IDF, something which should have immediately alerted the police to the fact that they had the wrong victim.
- On November 20, footage of Issacharoff and Silberstein walking with the Palestinian (handcuffed and under arrest) who Issacharoff referred to in his testimony, was found in the B’Tselem archives and released.
WATCH VIDEO Issacharoff walking with the correct victim
From day one, there was no doubt, that the government investigation was a political stunt, carried out at the expense of Issacharoff and the reputation of Breaking the Silence. Given this newly uncovered information, I hope that a formal inquiry into this sloppy investigation will take place. But really, we all know that it won’t.
While working with Breaking the Silence over the past five years, I have experienced, first hand, the relentless political persecution of those who dare to criticise Israeli government policy in the occupied territories. I have come to accept that denial is the new black when the Israeli government is faced with unpleasant truths about what it takes to implement a 50-year occupation.
As an Australian and Israeli Zionist and democrat, I oppose the Israeli government’s attempt to silence and discredit those who disagree with it. I oppose it for the safety of Israel and our Palestinian neighbours..
Even more disturbing is the eagerness with which the Australian Zionist establishment parrots the Israeli government’s scare tactics against Israeli civil society. I implore the ZFA and Australian Jewish community leaders to consider how a thoughtful and nuanced Zionist perspective would do more to bring Australian Jews closer to Israel and not to follow the lead of the current Israeli government in inciting against those who speak out against the occupation.
It’s not going to hold water in the long run.
Photo: Dean Issacharoff describes how he beat a Palestinian (Ynet)