On July 2, at the weekly demonstration in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, Israeli army troops violently arrested Israeli activists Yonatan Shapira and Matan Cohen. I witnessed the incident that led to the arrests and filmed them as they took place. As a group of soldiers pursued children up a small hill, then began firing teargas shells and percussion grenades at them, presumably in response to a few stones the children had thrown, Cohen and Shapira mocked the soldiers. “Shooting at children! You are so brave!” Cohen exclaimed.
Who are you gonna believe? The IDF or your two lying eyes?
Within a few seconds the commander of the IDF division (an oleh named Danny) charged Cohen and Shapira, then headlocked Cohen and dragged him into a jeep. When Shapira protested, he was thrown to the ground, violently subdued and dragged into a jeep. At no point did Cohen or Shapira attack any soldier.
The IDF Spokesman’s Unit issued a statement on Twitter claiming Cohen and Shapira — “two arrested rioters” — had “attacked an IDF soldier.” However, my footage of the incident completely discredits the IDF’s claim. As I said in the wake of the flotilla massacre, nothing the IDF Spokesman’s Office says can be trusted. Ever. The IDF’s intention is to smear human rights activists as violent terrorists while portraying itself as the blameless victim. Anyone who spends a day in Nabi Saleh or any Palestinian village engaged in popular protest against the occupation will see that the complete reverse is true.
It is worth noting that Shapira and Cohen are two of the most prominent figures among Israel’s small left-wing activist community. Shapira is a former IDF Blackhawk helicopter division leader who earned international renown in 2002 when he refused to carry out patently illegal orders to bombard densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip, then organized a letter signed by numerous active duty pilots protesting the occupation.
For his part, Cohen was shot in the left eye with a rubber bullet by an Israeli border policeman while protesting the separation wall near Ramallah. He was 17 years old at the time. While he was a student at Hampshire College, he led the first successful campus divestment in the US of companies involved in the Israeli occupation. Is it any surprise that the IDF has attempted without any evidence of its own to smear Shapira and Cohen as violent “rioters?”
I will post more footage from Nabi Saleh later this weekend, hopefully some footage from a remarkable demonstration in Ni’ilin, and a brief history of the struggle in both villages.