Israel Defense Forces Military Police on Wednesday interrogated three reserve soldiers who had organized a Tel Aviv photo exhibit documenting their compulsory military service in Hebron, on suspicion they had abused Palestinians, looted and destroyed property.
Another IDF soldier who helped organize the "Breaking the Silence" exhibition depicting photographs and videotaped accounts of troops serving in Hebron was also called in for questioning at a later date.
The three former Nahal Brigade infantry soldiers, Jonathan Boimfeld, Micha Kurtz and Yehuda Shaul were questioned for more than six hours. Boimfeld told Haaretz that the three thought they were being called in to submit evidence but were instead informed that they themselves were suspects.
According to Boimfeld, the IDF didn't launch the probe in order to reform the practice of troops in Hebron, but rather to prevent other soldiers from revealing the realities of their service. The military police also wanted to show that the affair is being handled, the three reported.
Boimfeld said interrogators asked whether they had ever opened fire illegally or whether they had ever thrown hand grenades. They were also asked to name soldiers who spoke anonymously in the videotaped accounts.
"We refused to give their names and explained that our sources are kept anonymous, as they are in journalism. Other than that were cooperative and recounted the incidents we have been talking about for the past three weeks," they said.
Military Police on Tuesday raided the Breaking the Silence exhibit of photographs and confiscated a folder containing the clips of articles about the exhibit and a videotape with statements made by some 70 soldiers about their experiences in the West Bank city.
The army said the raid was meant to uncover evidence of violence and vandalism done to Palestinians and their property. The reservists who organized the show said the army was trying to intimidate and silence those soldiers who gave evidence about brutality in Hebron and to silence any other soldiers who planned to give evidence about what they have seen take place in that city.
Kurtz said Tuesday: "We anticipated that the army would send the chief education officer or maybe even the Judge Advocate General to learn from the soldiers' evidence, because our main message was that every soldier age 18 is going to encounter such situations.
"But instead, they sent the MPs," said Kurtz. "They are trying to frighten us and other soldiers who have expressed readiness to take part in the project," he said, accusing the army of preferring to repress criticism rather than learn from the evidence and testimony that was part of the exhibit.
"The MPs, for example, didn't take the 60 sets of car keys that were illegally confiscated from Palestinians by soldiers in Hebron," he said, adding, "in fact, the IDF continues to deny the fact those keys were taken in the first place."
The IDF Spokeswoman's office explained Tuesday that "The IDF educates its soldiers to behave according to moral standards in complex situations that include very difficult moral dilemmas. In the wake of reports quoting the participants in the exhibit about alleged crimes of violence and damage to property against Palestinians, the Judge Advocate General ordered a Military Police probe of the complaints. The MPs gave the exhibit's organizers a court order requiring them to hand over all the material that could help the inquiry and a summons to provide evidence and testimony to the investigators."
The exhibit opened this month at the Tel Aviv Geographic Film School. It includes photographs taken by soldiers who served in Hebron whether as reservists or as conscripts. Many of the photographs were hung anonymously, without naming the photographer. The soldiers gave their images to photographer Miki Kratzman, who curated the show. Sixty of the 90 photos record aspects of the conflict with the Palestinians and settlers, and 30 depict the soldiers in their daily routines.
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