"I stand with the Nahal soldier."
"I stand with the Nahal soldier." Courtesy of 0404 news site.

The IDF denied Thursday that it had punished "David the Nahlawi" (David the Nahal soldier) for defending himself against Arab provocateurs cocking and aiming his gun at Arab youths in Hevron. The soldier was punished, the IDF said, for “acting in a violent manner towards his commanders.”

The brouhaha over David's action, which has generated an unprecedented protest against the suspension of the soldier was subjected to, with thousands expressing their protest via the Internet, came after a video was posted showing him cocking and aiming his gun at Arabs in Hevron who threatened and provoked him.

The video shows at least three Arab youths behaving in a threatening manner toward the soldier in the IDF Nachal Unit, who was alone. The soldier warns one of the youths not to continue provoking him, after the youth pushes him, but the youth continues to behave in a threatening manner. The soldier cocks his weapon and points it at the youth and at another youth who springs toward him, with what appears to be a set of brass knuckles on his hand. The soldier kicks the first youth away from him.

The video does not include the provocations that preceded the incident. In a longer version he also warns the cameraman to stop videotaping the incident and calls for backup. The Arab provocateurs themselves posted the video online.

But David's suspension had nothing to do with this incident, the IDF said. In a statement Thursday, the IDF Spokesperson said that “over the past day, a vigorous discussion has ensued on social networks over an incorrect report that the Nachal soldier was punished for being involved in a security incident in Hevron.

“However, this is incorrect,” the statement said. “The soldier's punishment had nothing to do with the videotaped incident that was distributed online. We will investigate the recorded incident, as always, once the soldier returns to his unit. The investigation will be based on the professional norms and values of the IDF, and not on provocative recordings,” it said.

In a discussion Wednesday night with former IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Ronsky, David's commander confirmed the IDF spokesperson's version of the story. He told the rabbi that David had attacked two of his commanders, and had been court-martialled and punished for that offense, not for what the video showed. The commander said that he and his fellow soldiers expressed full support for him.

The commander is a former student of Rabbi Ronsky's. His family formerly lived in Gush Katif until it was booted out of its home during the 2005 disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria. He told the rabbi that David had received full backing from members of his unit.

The suspension set off what observers called the biggest online protest by Israelis against the IDF ever. In over 3,000 photos reportedly sent in to the small News site 0404's outlet, thousands of IDF soldiers from all units expressed their support for David. A Facebook page in support of the soldier has garnered over 26,500 “likes” in a few hours, and as of this morning had received over 88,000 – a very large number in Israeli terms.

Maariv-NRG reported that the soldier will be jailed and may wind up being dismissed from his current position after standing trial. The soldier was involved in another incident earlier in the week, said a security source.

The IDF is considering taking steps against soldiers who expressed support for the Nahal soldier by holding up signs is self-portraits they uploaded to Facebook, some of whom uploaded photos that feature their faces.

Sources in the security establishment told the news site that the Military Prosecution "will know" how to give soldiers its backing and defend them when necessary in similar incidents.

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