On Friday, July 22, 2013, B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli was injured by a rubber bullet while filming a violent protest in Nabi Saleh. These confrontations with Israeli security forces seek to block construction of the security barrier protecting Jerusalem and are staged to create a media spectacle.
This is the version of the incident that Michaeli recounted to Ha’aretz:
“I was on the village’s main road. A few youths were throwing stones. Some nine policemen and soldiers stormed the group, causing them to run away. I was standing to the side. At a certain point, one of the policemen fired a rubber bullet at me, at a range of about 15 or 20 meters….Also, I was not in the route of the soldiers’ advance, so they had to have intentionally aimed at me or the two women standing beside me.” (emphasis added)
According to B’Tselem, “The shooting contravenes military directives. The bullet was fired from a distance of fewer than 20 meters, considerably nearer than the stipulated 50-meter minimum.” New Israel Fund claimed, “The circumstances surrounding the shooting are deeply concerning.”
However, the Border Police Spokesperson presented a different narrative, one that is ostensibly confirmed by a video of the incident taken by Michaeli:
“An initial investigation shows that during a violent demonstration, which included masked youth throwing stones at security forces, riot dispersal weapons were deployed. The wounded individual stood behind the protesters and was injured by a rubber bullet. The video, which does not include the violence that preceded the injury, plainly shows that – in contrast to the information published in the media regarding an intentionally shooting from a range of 15 meters – the shooting was from at least 50 meters away, and apparently from an errant bullet.” (emphasis added)
Interestingly, B’Tselem originally did not place this video on its website, instead posting another edited video where the distances and Michaeli’s relative position to the protest are more ambiguous.
This episode yet again highlights the need for the media and funders to independently evaluate NGO claims and source material that is proffered in a highly politicized context.