An Israeli officer who smacked an activist in the face with a rifle, knocking him off his feet, has reportedly been suspended. The Saturday incident, caught on video, triggered outrage from activists agitating against the occupation of the West Bank as well as from Israeli officials.
In the video above, Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner is seen striking a Danish activist with an M-16. The video was spread on YouTube by pro-Palestinian activists and spurred an Israel Defense Forces investigation.
“Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the state of Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the newspaper Haaretz.
The Associated Press and Haaretz reported that the officer had been suspended.
Eisner told Haaretz that the activists were trying to block the highway, near Jericho, and that the Danish activist had provoked him, breaking two of his fingers. But the activist said he and his companions were peacefully biking through the Jordan Valley.
The Danish man had come to Israel as part of a "fly-in" seeking to draw attention to the Palestinian cause. Dozens of activists were detained at Ben Gurion International Airport on Sunday, stopping them from going to rallies, The Times' Edmund Sanders reported Sunday.
The effort to keep out the activists has been criticized by some Israelis as an overreaction that merely drew more attention to the protests and tarnished the country's image as a democratic state. Israeli officials say the detentions were necessary to prevent violence.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles