By Ben Sales
A video of a prominent Palestinian activist getting thrown to the ground and kicked in Hebron went viral on Twitter on Monday, prompting the Israel Defense Forces to acknowledge the error and jail the soldier.
The video was posted by Lawrence Wright, a New Yorker staff writer on a tour of the West Bank city with activist Issa Amro. The 38-second video shows a soldier grabbing Amro by the neck, throwing him to the ground and kicking him repeatedly.
“I never had a source assaulted in front of me until today when an Israeli soldier who stopped my interview did this with Palestinian peace activist Issa Amro in Hebron,” Wright tweeted. “I can’t stop thinking how dehumanizing the occupation is on the young soldiers charged with enforcing it.”
Amro is an opinion writer for publications including the Forward and the Guardian. He gives tours of Hebron, the southern West Bank city that is a flashpoint for conflict owing to its large Palestinian population and small population of Israeli settlers, in addition to the Cave of the Patriarchs, the burial place of Abraham, Sarah and other Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs, which both Jews and Muslims regard as holy.
“I was detained and beaten violently by an Israeli soldier in Hebron,” Amro tweeted. “I was showing the famous American writer Lawrence Wright … the Israeli occupation and apartheid in my home town #Hebron.”
The video was shared well over 10,000 times on Twitter, and the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. sent out a statement from the IDF acknowledging the error and saying that after an inquiry, the IDF had decided to jail the soldier for 10 days and reconsider his military assignment.
In the statement, the IDF claims that Amro cursed the soldier, which Amro and Wright both dispute.
“As the video shows, the soldier did not act as expected and did not follow the IDF code of conduct,” said the statement by IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht. “The IDF will not hesitate, despite provocations, to preserve its ethics and morals.”
After the IDF’s statement, Wright posted multiple longer videos showing extended arguments between Amro and the soldier over a video that Amro, who frequently documents what he says is misconduct by Israeli soldiers, had taken. “The soldier initiated the encounter. Amro did not curse or interfere only asked that he call the commander. Nothing to justify the attack that followed,” Wright wrote. The extended videos do not show the soldier physically attacking Amro.
In November, Amro was arrested and subsequently ordered by a military court to leave his home for a week after he filmed a soldier threatening protesters in Hebron. The soldier said, “Ben-Gvir is going to bring order to this place,” referring to Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right politician then in negotiations to join the government in a leadership position. That soldier was also jailed for 10 days.
Now Israel’s minister of national security with authority over the country’s police and unprecedented oversight in the West Bank, Ben-Gvir, who lives near Hebron, announced his support Monday for the soldier who is being punished over his treatment of Amro.
“I support the soldier who didn’t stay quiet with all my strength,” Ben-Gvir tweeted. “Soldiers need to receive support, not jail time.”