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October 1, 2015 1:42 pm

Suspended Israeli Officer Defends Smashing of Journalists’ Cameras

avatar by David Daoud

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The deputy commander of a Givati unit who was filmed smashing journalists' cameras defended his actions. PHOTO: Screenshot.

The deputy commander of a Givati unit who was filmed smashing journalists’ cameras defended his actions. Photo: Screenshot.

“Aleph,” the deputy commander of a Givati Brigade unit that confronted journalists and broke their cameras, defended his actions to Israel’s Channel 2 on Thursday.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office said that the commander was suspended from operational duty, adding, “The IDF considers the incident grave, and in contravention of its code of ethics and professional standards.”

“Aleph”‘s suspension came after an inquiry into the incident by Givati Brigade Commander Col. Yaron Finkelman, who found that “Aleph” had, “acted in a manner unbefitting of an IDF commander,” a finding that was upheld by Chief of Southern Command Staff Brigadier General Udi Ben Moha.

“Aleph” claimed that he did not attack the journalists, asserting that the video was edited. He also expressed his dismay at his suspension, saying, “They’re bleeding me dry. I’m very disappointed with my commanders, who gave me no support.”

He continued, “My commanders never taught me how to behave around journalists — especially not ones like these who were disrupting our operations.”

During his interrogation yesterday by the Military Police, “Aleph,” had said that “the photographers, actively and maliciously, were there for 15 minutes,” during which time they, “climbed into the [military] jeep and tried to photograph weapons and secret warfare systems that were there.”

“I broke the camera to protect the soldiers and rescue a soldier who was hit in the head with a stone. The photographers disrupted me and documented things that could have caused operational harm,” he said, adding, “If the price,” of protecting his soldiers was “damage to some plastic and metal, so be it.”

He also told his interrogators that he did not immediately use violent means with the photographers, and had tried to verbally deter them beforehand.

“What you don’t see [in the video] is that I spoke with them for 10 minutes, in order to convince them to leave before I did something. I did not attack them and you also don’t see that in this video,” he said.

The incident in question occurred in the West Bank village of Beit Furik last Friday afternoon, as the IDF was confronting a nearby group of Palestinian rioters. A video, issued by Palestinian video production company Palmedia, shows journalists from Agence France-Presse (AFP) working near the group of IDF soldiers under “Aleph’s” command, one of whom is seen smashing a camera, another of whom is seen throwing the destroyed camera into the grass on the side of the road.

Andrea Bernardi, an Italian journalist with AFP  — and one of the journalists in the video — said,”The soldier took the camera from my hand and smashed it on the ground.”

 

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