JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli ex-soldier who serves as a spokesman for a group that documents alleged abuses of Palestinians has set off a legal tussle with the Israeli authorities by saying he himself beat a detainee.
After Dean Issacharoff, a former army lieutenant, spoke of the incident in a speech uploaded to YouTube in April, the Israeli Justice Ministry took the unusual move of launching an investigation, with him as a suspect.
Issacharoff, the son of a senior diplomat, belongs to Breaking the Silence, a circle of army veterans that has long angered Israeli leaders by publicising abroad what it says are confessions of war crimes in occupied Palestinian territory.
The group portrayed as another example of Israeli military excess Issacharoff’s account of what he said was his own beating of a Palestinian stone-thrower in the West Bank town of Hebron while trying to handcuff him in 2014.
But the Justice Ministry last week declared the case closed, saying questioning of the alleged Palestinian victim showed the event had never happened and that Issacharoff had made a “mendacious claim”.
On Twitter, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated the decision as “further proof Breaking the Silence lies and slanders our soldiers”.
Issacharoff retorted on social media that the ministry had questioned the wrong Palestinian - a man he had detained separately in Hebron around the same time.
Breaking the Silence issued what it said was video of the right incident, showing Issacharoff frog-marching a handcuffed man. The Palestinian appears to have dark patches on his cheeks, which the group said were bruises from Issacharoff having kneed him. Issacharoff said he bloodied the Palestinian, though no blood is seen on the detainee in the footage.
Achiya Schatz, another Breaking the Silence spokesman, accused the Justice Ministry of clearing Issacharoff in order to discredit the group.
“This was a politicised investigation, made-to-order for the elimination of opposition (voices),” Schatz said.
Prosecutor Nurit Littman denied any bias and said Issacharoff’s testimony had been too sketchy to produce corroboration.
“We do not dabble in politics. We deal in evidence,” she told Army Radio, leaving open the possibility of a new investigation taking into consideration the new video.
Interviewed on Israeli television, the Palestinian, Faisal al-Natsheh, said he had been detained though he had not thrown stones, and had been beaten by troops. He could not confirm Issacharoff was among them.
“They didn’t let me look at them, not even once,” he said.
Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Gareth Jones