A senior Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer is in the middle of a brewing controversy after video of him hitting a pro-Palestinian activist across the face with his M-16 rifle is gaining momentum.
The clip, posted Sunday by the International Solidarity Movement, depicts the altercation between roughly 250 activists who biked through the Jordan Valley in "silent protest" and IDF officers:
But Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner, the soldier who hit the activist, maintains that the activist hit him first, and even broke two of his fingers. He says he was doing his job, after trying to peacefully disperse the crowd for two hours.
The man who was hit maintains that he and other protesters were non-violent, and "it came out of nowhere."
One of the volunteers who helped organize the bike ride explained: "We did not expect any harassment on the part of the Israeli soldiers, we just came for fun...I tried to talk to [the soldiers], to say that we only want to enjoy the beautiful road and the Jordan Valley in the springtime, but we were unsuccessful. The activists were beaten badly, and the officers just told us we couldn't be in that area."
Four activists were transported to the hospital after the incident for wounds sustained on their faces and backs, while another three refused medical treatment.
While most in the Israeli government have unequivocally condemned the act, Israeli political opposition expressed otherwise.
MK Michael Ben Ari said: "Well done to the IDF officer who did what Bibi [PM Netanyahu] and Aharonovich have no brain or courage to do...Radical leftists must be handled with a heavy hand. There was a tangible threat to the lives of the soldiers and the officer had no other choice. If it was a settler who was beaten we would not have heard the cries of the hypocrites on the left. Turns out they are not interested in human rights but the rights of terrorists and pro-Arabs."
Lt.-Col Eisner has been suspended indefinitely, and PM Netanyahu remarked that "Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel."
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reiterated that "the incident does not reflect IDF principles and will be thoroughly investigated."