A soldier who was at his home in Mitzpe Yair, one mile south-east Susia in the southern Hebron hills, went out to chase away a flock of sheep belonging to nearby Arabs, when a leftwing activist from the NGO Ta’ayush who was accompanying the shepherds pushed him, and the soldier punched him in the face. Some two weeks ago, The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court acquitted the soldier, stating the punch was in self-defense, Makor Rishon reported Sunday.
At the same time, the court sharply criticized the police for arresting and interrogating the soldier on Shabbat, unnecessarily and contrary to the procedures.
The event took place in September 2012. Arab shepherds accompanied by leftwing activists arrived with their sheep in Mitzpe Yair on Shabbat, and local residents went out to push the herd off the settlement. Among them was Shilo Deutsch, a soldier who was home on a Shabbat pass.
Deutsch began to chase away the herd, and Ta’ayush activist Guy Hirschfeld clung to him with his body and pushed him. At a certain point Hirschfeld lost his balance and fell. As he was falling, he grabbed Deutsch’s shirt and tore it open. Deutsch responded with a blow to the activist’s face.
Hebron police officers arrested Deutsch and hauled him for questioning in the middle of Shabbat. Deutsch argued in the interrogation that he had beaten Hirschfeld as a self-defense measure against the leftwing activist’s violence.
The police claims division filed an assault indictment against Deutch with the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, and the file was brought before Judge Ilan Sela, who acquitted Deutsch, detailed the problems with the version of events given by the leftist activist:
“The complainant (Hirschfeld) confirmed that he had walked alongside the defendant and tried to prevent his progress without touching him,” the judge wrote, noting: “It is difficult to understand how one can prevent a person from advancing in an open area by standing next to him and without any contact with him.”
Also: “From watching the video it emerges that there is no truth to the complainant’s claim that the defendant pushed him several times […] Apart from the testimony of the complainant, no corroboration was found for his version, nor for the testimonies of his colleagues,” meaning the judge believed Hirschfeld was lying.
The judge also raised questions about the integrity of the leftwing activists: “Even though the complainant and his friends equipped themselves with cameras to document precisely such an incident, the event itself was not recorded by any of the cameras, or was photographed and not given to the police. Even in the video that was presented, the photographer chose precisely at the moments close to the event to stop taping the confrontation.”
“We should remember that these are biased witnesses,” the judge noted.
Judge Sela criticized the Hebron police for unnecessarily and in contravention of protocol arresting and interrogating Deutsch on Shabbat.
“We can only regretfully note that the police completely ignored its violation of the defendant’s faith and religion, and completely ignored the Israel Police protocol. The protocol explicitly states that if there is no need for an immediate interrogation or a necessity to transfer the suspect to a police station, the defendant will be summoned to the station after the end of Shabbat,” the Judge wrote, noting that “the defendant was released less than two hours after he had been taken to the police station, and was forced, because of his belief, to remain in the city of Hebron from noon until the end of Shabbat. But in the end, despite the supposed urgency and severity the police attributed to him, an indictment was filed only three years later.”
Attorney Yiftah Landau, who represented the soldier on behalf of the Public Defender’s Office, stated: “We hope that the Israel Police will study the court’s harsh criticism of the arrest and interrogation of the soldier on Shabbat.”