Earlier this summer, Dean Issacharoff, the spokesman of Breaking the Silence—an Israeli left-wing NGO dedicated to collecting testimonies from IDF soldiers who had allegedly abused Palestinians—led a group of tourist on a tour of Hebron. It was the same kind of well-rehearsed sortie that had inspired Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon to partner with the organization and release a controversial collection of essays about Israeli misdeeds great and small. But on that particular day, Issacharoff thickened the soup with a personal anecdote of his own.
Recalling his own military service, Issacharoff shared with his listeners a blood-curdling account. “I wanted to be a professional solider,” he said, remembering a particularly contentious interaction with a Palestinian suspect. “I had to escalate it into violence, so I kneed him until he almost passed out.” The account, unfurling in halting English, leaves little room for the imagination, and ends with Issacharoff saying that such brute force is inevitable when young soldiers, not experienced police officers, are called in to forcefully occupy a civilian population.
A recording of the account went viral, and, almost immediately, Issacharoff’s brothers in arms—the soldiers who had served with him in the same platoon and were presumably there when his act of great violence took place—came out to claim that he was blatantly lying.
The scandal that ensued convinced the State Attorney’s Office to launch an investigation against Issacharoff, designed to determine if he had indeed broken the law by assaulting a handcuffed Palestinian prisoner. Late last week, the investigation against Issacharoff was terminated after prosecutors determined that he had lied in his testimony and that no such violent incident had ever taken place.
As part of the investigation, the State Attorney’s Office located the Palestinian detainee in question, Hassan Julani, who flatly denied Issacharoff’s account. “Julani,” read the prosecution’s official statement, “claims that he wasn’t beaten, wasn’t bruised, didn’t bleed, wasn’t dizzy, and never fainted.”
Responding to the news, Issacharoff claimed that the police had questioned the wrong Hassan Julani—a strange assertion, given that the Julani who was questioned recalled being detained by Issacharoff, even if he strongly contested the former’s account—and released a testimony of another fellow soldier arguing, against all other testimonies from virtually every member of the company in question, that the violent incident did indeed occur just as Issacharoff described it.
Breaking the Silence receives the majority of its funding from various European governments, including Sweden, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Switzerland, as well as from the New Israel Fund and George Soros’ Open Society Institute.