MK Uri Orbach (The Jewish Home) said on Monday that the story of Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, who was documented striking a Danish anarchist who provoked him and broke his fingers, was being blown out of proportions simply because Eisner is a religious Jew.
Speaking in an interview on religious radio station Radio Kol Chai, Orbach said, “Clearly the fact that it was one of our own [a religious Jew, -ed.] with an appearance of a settler, brings about an attempt by the left to tell a story which is bigger than what actually happened.”
He added, “This is a religious fellow from a religious family, and while we sit and eat matzah for an extra day because of the Sabbath, he's out on the road in the Jordan Valley because of a bunch of leftists and anarchists from outside Israel who want to harass and block the road and disrupt traffic. And in the end we're all ganging up on him and trying to reduce him to nothing and dismiss him from the army and impose on him all of Israel’s troubles. It's annoying, because this is a person with dedication and he is a good soldier and a man who returned to the army to serve his nation.”
MK Orbach continued, “[The left] wants to say, ‘Well, look at these religious guys. They advance in the army and look how it ends up, how it corrupts them, how violent they are. And this incident was documented, and who knows how many times it happened without it being documented, this is the way they treat leftists and Arabs and we have to stop the religious takeover of the army.’ If the soldier who struck the anarchist had been a member of the Ethiopian community, my guess is it would have passed much more quietly.”
Orbach said that “Clearly there is a propaganda game here which is designed to hold on to the picture [of Eisner hitting an anarchist] in order to tell a story which is much bigger than a soldier having hit a demonstrator. These are a bunch of wild people who came to harass and disturb and not to demonstrate. Soldiers are not going to demonstrate in Sweden. Swedes do not have to demonstrate here. Demonstrating is a privilege which is reserved for the citizens of that certain country. If they want to demonstrate against Israel, let them demonstrate in Sweden.”
The IDF decided to suspend Eisner on Sunday night, several hours after anarchists uploaded a video to the Internet in which Eisner is seen hitting the face of an ISM anarchist with his gun magazine. As is usual in such cases, the anarchists' video is edited and does not include any documentation of their provocations vis-à-vis the reservist force that had to deal with them on the Jewish Sabbath. There was no evidence in the video that the anarchist was injured.
Eisner told a confidante after the incident that the leftist he was seen hitting in the video struck him first, causing fractures in his hand. In later pictures, his fingers were bandaged.
The incident occurred near Route 90, which runs along Israel's eastern border. The anarchists were ignoring the orders of the IDF force to clear the road.
The anarchists claimed that they were trying to conduct a peaceful protest by riding their bicycles on Route 90. IDF forces "brutally attacked" them, they claimed, and three activists were hospitalized after the event.
On Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu joined the chorus denouncing Eisner and said, “This kind of behavior is not typical of the IDF's soldiers and commanders, and has no place in the IDF and the state of Israel.”
Later, dozens of reserve officers and soldiers who served with Eisner sent a letter to IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the Head of Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. In the letter, the reservists expressed their unequivocal support for Eisner.