Apr 17, 2012

IDF assaults on Andreas Ias and others during Jordan Valley protest

Andreas Ias getting smashed in the face with an M-16

On Saturday when Palestinian and international cyclists attempted to bike along Route 90, the main North-South highway in the Jordan Valley, they were stopped by Israeli forces. A number of the participants in the ride were assaulted. A 20-year old Danish activist, Andreas Ias, was subjected to a particularly brutal assault at the hands of Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, who used his M-16 to bash Ias in the face.

The cyclists were demonstrating against discriminatory policies in the Jordan Valley and the plight faced by indigenous Bedouin communities.

Prior to the incident Israel had been putting plans in place to block dozens of international activists from entering the country. The overreaction might make you think that unarmed international activists are now the latest suspects posing an existential threat to Israel.

By contrast far-right Islamophobes - some with neo-Nazi connections - have visited Israel without a problem. Geert Wilders has been a visitor. Right-wing crank Glenn Beck received rock star treatment and a standing ovation in the Knesset.

It's a different story for activists who step on Israeli soil at their own risk.

It appeared to come easily to Eisner when he employed his M-16 to smash the face of an unarmed young man. Palestinians routinely claim abuse at the hands of the IDF, but it takes a documented incident involving an international activist to attract world attention. Ofer Shelah writing in Yediot Ahronot makes the point that:

Any reasonable viewer who sees the clip asks himself how many such incidents take place where there is no documentation, and how the army responds when there is no conclusive and public proof of unjustified violence...

A report by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) describes what took place during the protest. According to the report the bikers were...

blocked by Israeli occupation soldiers and jeeps at the entrance to Route 90. Soldiers informed the bikers that they would not be allowed to continue “for their own safety.” When activists peacefully attempted to continue on their way, the local commander of the occupation forces swung his rifle at the the head of multiple activists, resulting in the hospitalizations of the three activists and the detention of a man from Sweden.

Gun being used as a club

A female activist is assaulted

She falls after the assault

The assault on Andreas Ias seen from another angle

The ISM report gives the reasons for the protest ride:

Palestinian drivers on Route 90, the Jordan Valley’s main north-south route, face regular harassment and attacks from Israeli settlers and soldiers. Palestinian drivers and cyclists are frequently pulled over and searched for no reason...

The Jordan Valley faces a concerted Israeli campaign of ethnic cleansing towards the Palestinians living there. Demolitions of homes occur with frequency, and the Israelis are currently stealing the vast majority of the valley’s land and water. The majority of the fruit and vegetables produced on this stolen land are exported to Europe and North America. The bike demonstration was part of a day of demonstrations and festivities that included visits to villages, a youth dubke performance, and speeches. The events aim to send the message to the world and the occupying forces that the people of the Jordan Valley and Palestine refuse to cede their land to the illegal occupation and will continue to resist and remain on their land.

Eisner's self-serving version in which he claims he was attacked with a stick and had two fingers broken was almost certainly concocted. It's highly unlikely that a protestor who assaults and breaks the fingers of an officer would be permitted to walk free and continue protesting. For a guy with alleged broken fingers Eisner was certainly able to wield an M-16 with athletic ease... not exactly a lightweight weapon.

Despite official censure of Eisner, Haaretz reports that he has his admirers. Knesset member Michael Ben Ari was one of those doing the applauding: "Well done to the IDF officer who did what Bibi and Aharonovich have no brain or courage to do. Radical leftists must be handled with a heavy hand."

Video showing the assault on Andreas Ias: