Channel 13 Reporter in Hot Water Over ‘Soldier Animal’ Remarks

Military court room. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An officer in the Netzach Yehuda unit accused of abusing Arab prisoners was indicted on Sunday in a military court. The officer, who is a commander in the unit, did not participate in the alleged abuse by soldiers, but is accused of failing to prevent it. He has been suspended from his duties for a so-far undermined amount of time.

Meanwhile, thousands of complaints were filed with the Second Broadcasting Authority, responsible for the content broadcast on Hadashot News. In the broadcast of the news on Channel 13 Motzoei Shabbos, newsreader Oshrat Kotler, who did a feature on the Netzach Yehuda case, said at the end of the broadcast, that such incidents should be expected. “We send our children to the army where they serve in the territories, and we get back human animals,” she said at the close of the report. A petition is circulating calling for the immediate dismissal of Kotler, Channel 20 said, with organizers aiming to collect 200,000 signatures.

The issue was the subject of discussion on numerous radio interviews shows Sunday, and was a hot topic on social media, with the majority of commentators condemning Kotler for the negative comments. Kotler said that she had not intended to include all soldiers who serve in Yehudah and Shomron as part of her criticism, only those “whose control over Palestinians brought them to harm innocent people. I will always give my opinion, you will not shut me up.” Channel 13 said that “Kotler is known to be opinionated and occasionally will give her opinions on various issues, as other journalists do who have other views. She was expressing her personal views,” not those of Channel 13, the station said in a statement.

The case involves five soldiers who were accused of torturing Arab prisoners. According to the indictment, they slapped the bound prisoners across the face, punched them, and beat them with blunt objects. The soldiers allegedly caused the prisoners to sustain serious injuries.

Two of the soldiers are also accused of evidence tampering in the case. The officer indicted Sunday is accused of having knowledge of the intention of the soldiers to carry out the actions but failing to prevent them. He is accused of witnessing the incidents as well and of failing to stop them.

The soldiers themselves have been indicted, but reports last week said that IDF prosecutors are anxious to arrive at a plea deal with them, rather than risk a long, drawn-out and quite public trial, as happened in the case of Elor Azaria.

Azaria’s lengthy trial – for shooting a terrorist who was on the ground, after he was shot for trying to attack IDF soldiers – was by all accounts a black eye for the army, with politicians and protesters railing against the army for putting Azaria on trial at all. Fearing a repeat of the negative publicity surrounding the Azaria case – in which the army was accused of trying an Israeli soldier whom protesters considered a hero – prosecutors are in intense negotiations with attorneys for a plea deal, the reports said.