The media were quick to draw conclusions about an incident that took place in the West Bank on Friday during which Israel Defense Forces (IDF) apparently tried to stop a truck carrying tents meant to rebuild Bedouin shacks in Khirbet Al-Meiteh that had been demolished after an Israeli court determined they had been illegally constructed.
In addition to the Palestinian activists traveling with the materials, at least one European diplomat was present when the IDF’s effort to stop the truck turned into a scuffle, including the reported use of stun grenades. Multiple news agencies wrote that diplomats were “manhandled,” but the video of the event does not appear to show that. In fact, at least one diplomat threw a punch at Israeli soldiers.
Reuters reported that European Union diplomats had been “manhandled” by IDF soldiers.
Russia Today also said that diplomats were “manhandled” while “trying to deliver emergency aid.”
Business Insider’s headline blared “Wild Photos Show Israeli Defense Forces Manhandling Diplomats In The West Bank,” but its attached photo essay shows no diplomats being touched, let alone “manhandled.” Rather, it shows two images of the French diplomat on the ground with soldiers holding their guns and standing over her and two photos of another unidentified man in a scuffle with the troops.
“The photos say it all,” wrote Business Insider. But is that true?
According to the IDF’s version of events, “Palestinian and foreign activists violently objected, throwing stones and striking Israeli security forces. The security personnel contained the violence with riot dispersal means, seized the tents and detained three Palestinians who were the main instigators, forcefully objecting to the activity.”
“They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity,” French diplomat Marion Castaing told Reuters. “This is how international law is being respected here.”
But the IDF says it’s investigating if diplomats “abused their diplomatic privileges” and “if required, complaints will be filed with the relevant authorities.”
Israeli media including the Times of Israel point out that video from the scene shows that after she was helped to stand, the “manhandled” diplomat Castaing hit a soldier, while two friends appear to try to restrain her. Here’s a French news report showing that:
Paul Hirschson, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, says Israel might file a formal complaint with France over her behavior. “If she did participate then a formal complaint will be filed because that is not the way diplomats behave,” he said.
Another widely-published image shows Castaing on the ground with guns apparently pointed at her.
But, according to the IDF, the photo “was taken as a screenshot from a video with footage clearly showing that Marion Castaing was neither physically dragged to the floor nor had guns pointed at her. Also, the photo clearly shows that the officer is holding his gun by the magazine, nowhere near the rifle’s grip.” The IDF posted a photo on its blog that sketched the angle at which the rifle was held to try to demonstrate it was not pointed at Castaing’s head. TheBlaze is unable to verify that claim.
Senior European Union representatives have now contacted Israel “to demand an explanation and expressed their concern at the incident,” according to a statement issued by an EU foreign policy spokesmen on Saturday.
“The EU underlines the importance of unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance and the applicability of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory,” the statement added.
The French embassy declined to comment to The Associated Press.