IDF accuses activists of stoning soldiers, Left disputes claim

The IDF in its message did not identify if the activist was from the Left or Right, and referred to them instead as "Israeli suspects."

IDF soldiers securing the entry of worshipers to Joseph's Tomb October 13, 2022. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON UNIT)
IDF soldiers securing the entry of worshipers to Joseph's Tomb October 13, 2022.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON UNIT)

The IDF has charged that activists and Palestinians threw stones at soldiers in the South Hebron Hills region of the West Bank near the Mitzpe Avigail outpost.

In its message, the military did not identify the activists as from the Left or Right, and referred to them instead as “Israeli suspects.” The army, in speaking of civilian violence in the West Bank from the Right, often speaks of “settlers.”

The IDF arrested one of the activists, who is an off-duty soldier. No soldier involved in the incident was injured.

The left-wing NGO Yesh Din has disputed the claim that soldiers were attacked in that incident and has provided video of the event, in which activists were accompanying Palestinian shepherds.

It based its information on testimony provided by a freelance photographer who took videos of the exchange, in which IDF soldiers can be seen explaining to the Palestinians and activists that they were in a "closed military zone" and have to leave.
IDF soldiers detain a left-wing activist amid an argument with a Palestinian shepherd in the West Bank (Credit: Courtesy of Yesh Din).

“It’s his land and you are telling him to leave. Maybe you don’t want to be here – have you decided that you are God?” activists asked the soldiers.

One activist asked to see an order in writing. The soldiers told the activists that they could choose either to be arrested or to leave the area.

The video shows three or four soldiers standing by a stony dirt road in barren terrain, speaking to a Palestinian shepherd whose sheep were behind him.

Off to the side, behind the sheep and away from the soldiers, one can see an activist wearing a red jacket. At no point in the 2-minute and 40-second video do the soldiers seem to act as if they are in danger or to flinch from a stone.

 IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi addresses the crowd at the ''Operation: Break the wave'' conference. (credit: IDF) IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi addresses the crowd at the ''Operation: Break the wave'' conference. (credit: IDF)

A few soldiers are seen dispatched to the activist who was standing at a distance and they walk him back to the road.

Kochavi, Gantz condemn incident

The IDF did not provide any videos or photographs of a violent altercation, but the incident was condemned by both IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

"This is a serious incident that will be dealt with in the most thorough manner. We will not allow anyone to harm IDF soldiers who are carrying out their duties for Israel's security," Gantz said.

"This is a serious incident which will be dealt with in the most thorough manner. We will not allow anyone to harm IDF soldiers who are carrying out their duties for Israel's security."

Defense Minister Benny Gantz

“This is shameful and disgraceful criminal behavior, which requires swift and strict justice,” Kohavi said. “IDF soldiers act resolutely against terrorism to protect the citizens of the State of Israel, and it is not acceptable for those citizens to attack them violently.”

South Hebron Hills Regional Council head Yochai Damri said the incident was a very serious one.

"We are surrounded here by a number of Palestinian villages, where extreme left-wing activists and anarchists live. They receive funding from foreign countries and the Palestinian Authority precisely so they can carry out this kind of provocations," he said.  

The situation is so problematic that today, "an off-duty soldier attacked soldiers," Damri said. 

"Only in this way will we restore calm to the South Hebron Hills," he said.

Samaria Regional Hills Council head Yossi Dagan took issue with the IDF's failure to identify the attacker as a left-wing activist. He noted that when speaking of right-wing activists the IDF uses the phrase "settlers," thereby maligning an entire population of half-a-million people.

Such statements, he said, harm public trust in the IDF.

MK Mossi Raz (Meretz) took issue with the "discrepancy" between the IDF statement and the videos from the scene, which he said seemed to show that the attack the IDF described never took place. 

He asked Gantz and Kohavi to investigate how such a statement was issued.