The political campaign to break Breaking the Silence
Op-ed: Assuming its investigation was completely unbiased, why did the State Attorney’s Office announce that Dean Issacharoff had lied about beating a Palestinian during his military service instead of announcing that the evidence against him was insufficient? How can the State Attorney’s Office determine who lied under these circumstances?
The organization members, who love Israel with all their hearts, seek to convey a message to future soldiers who will serve in the West Bank, that their mission will be to oppress a foreign people and protect the settlements (rather than the state), and that the price they will pay is moral corruption.
The Right sees this small organization as dangerous because it appeals to our youth and its parents and warns them of the price of serving the settlements. Education Minister Naftali Bennett has therefore banned Breaking the Silence representatives from entering schools, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is waging an unprecedented delegitimization campaign against the organization, in a bid to prepare the ground for outlawing it.
Dean Issacharoff, a former officer, admitted in a lecture he gave young Israelis that during his military service he had used violence against a Palestinian who was throwing stones. The purpose of the admission was to stress that the occupation corrupts even the finest and most ethical soldier, that Issacharoff is no different from others. But unlike others, he shared his story, expressed remorse and explained the background for his decision to join Breaking the Silence.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked immediately ordered the State Attorney’s Office to launch an investigation against him. This is where it must be stressed that the minister has no authority to launch an investigation. That authority is given exclusively to the State Attorney’s Office and to the attorney general.
And if they already decided to investigate, why was it a selective investigation? Why didn’t they order the examination of all the information collected by the organization on soldiers who have testified about what they saw in other cases? Why investigate the incident in which Issacharoff kneed a Palestinian who had thrown stones, but ignore dozens of much more serious cases?
Is there anyone who believes that the investigation had nothing to do with the fact that Issacharoff is Breaking the Silence’s spokesman? That the justice minister, who is one of the leaders of the Bayit Yehudi party, didn’t take advantage of her administrative supervision over the Justice Ministry and the state attorney to influence his professional discretion?
The conduct of the State Attorney’s Office is puzzling too. This was a public admission of an offense for the purpose of expressing remorse. Was it appropriate to investigate under these circumstances? Does the investigation serve or contradict the public interest, which calls for the revelation of such acts? Will the investigation prompt more soldiers to express remorse, or rather scare them and make them keep silent forever?
As for the investigation, it is a known fact that a person cannot incriminate himself. It’s the justification for a defendant’s admission, and a conviction requires “something in addition.” Once the investigation was launched, all that was needed in light of Issacharoff’s admission was further evidence, which was found in the testimony of another soldier who had been present during the incident. But for some reason, that soldier wasn’t even questioned.
The person who was questioned was his commander, who reportedly denied the incident. Without taking a stand on his actual statement, if he had verified the story he could have gotten into trouble himself. The beaten Palestinian denied the allegations too, but it should be noted that Palestinians are usually afraid to testify against soldiers, and it is known that few Palestinians complain and that these cases are often closed. Moreover, the organization claims that the Palestinian who was questioned by the police isn’t the same Palestinian who was beaten.
And after all, determining credibility is mainly the court’s job, and the case didn’t reach the court. Assuming its investigation was completely unbiased, why did the State Attorney’s Office announce that Issacharoff lied instead of announcing that the evidence against him was insufficient? How can the State Attorney’s Office determine who lied under these circumstances?
So before an IDF officer is publicly condemned as a known liar, we should raise a warning sign, lest we harm a person who will be brought to an unnecessary criminal investigation out of a political desire to break the organization.
And by the way, should we assume that it’s just a coincidence that the results of the police investigation so far are the exact rotten fruit serving the justice minister’s political agenda?
Attorney Talia Sasson is president of the New Israel Fund and a former head of the Special Tasks Division at the State Attorney’s Office.