Home World This is the controversial Israeli battalion Netzah Yehuda, a unit with a...

This is the controversial Israeli battalion Netzah Yehuda, a unit with a long history of abuses and impunity

This is the controversial Israeli battalion Netzah Yehuda, a unit with a long history of abuses and impunity

The Israeli battalion of ultra-Orthodox Jews Netzah Yehuda, which the United States is seeking to impose sanctions over allegations of abuse against Palestinians, has a long history of abuse and impunity, according to Israeli media and analysts.

The battalion was formed in 1999 to encourage young Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) to join the army.who guarantee respect for their faith: strict dietary regime, absence of women in their bases, time for prayers and Torah study.

Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 Haredis (“those who fear God”) are exempt from military service, mandatory for all Israelis. This exception is increasingly viewed negatively in the country where the ultra-Orthodox population is growing.

The unit had little appeal and most of the battalion is made up of ultra-Orthodox young people who have broken with their circle and “see the army as a way to integrate Israeli society and earn a living.” David Khalfa, co-director of the Observatory for North Africa and the Middle East at France’s Jean Jeaurès Foundation, told AFP.

The battalion also included “somewhat radical religious nationalists” and “very hostile to the Arabs,” he added.

Bad reputation

The battalion, which was characterized by a “strong ideological and sociological homogeneity,” acquired “a bad reputation,” he noted.

“The battalion attracts religious Zionists whose religious beliefs mix with nationalist militarism.” and includes “wild settlers” from the West Bank, said Marwa Maziad, a professor of Israel studies at the University of Maryland.

Integrated into about a thousand soldiersThe unit was stationed in the West Bank until 2022. In this territory, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967, three million Palestinians and almost 50,000 Israelis live in settlements that are considered illegal under international law.

“A large proportion of their soldiers were born and raised in the West Bank. They are second and third generation settlers.” who are responsible for “police and counterinsurgency operations in the West Bank,” emphasized David Khalfa.

“A significant number of them, not all, committed abuses and the army imposed few sanctions.” due to pressure from powerful ultra-Orthodox parties, he added.

The battalion was in the spotlight in January 2022 following the death of Omar Assada Palestinian, who also had American citizenship, by his soldiers.

For more than an hour, Assad lay on his stomach, handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded in the middle of the winter night.

After the information came to light, The Israeli press recalled the battalion’s often unpunished aggression against the Palestinians. and episodes of insubordination.

The newspaper “Jerusalem Post” reminded us of this. Their soldiers let settlers attack Palestinians while the Haaretz newspaper denounced the “clear ideological connection between the residents of colonies and wild settlements” in the West Bank and “the soldiers of Netzah Yehuda.”

Debates over the battalion stir passions even “within the Israeli army,” where Some consider it “dangerous” that the armed forces “bring together so many young people who share the same nationalist ideology.”Khalfa points out.

After Assad’s death and calls for an investigation from Washington, the battalion was relocated to the Golan Heights, near the Syrian border.

But since October 7 and Israel’s offensive in Gaza in response to the Hamas attack on its territory, “the army had to remobilize this unit in the West Bank, which led to problematic behavior,” Khalfa explained.

But “What prompts the United States to consider sanctions against Netzah Yehuda is the sense of impunity” that this entity enjoystaken into account.

The Israeli army explained this for its part “The battalion operates with professionalism and courage, in accordance with the Israel Defense Forces Code of Conduct and in full respect of international law.”

In fact, they have received significant support. This is the case of the Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant, who met this Tuesday with the troops of the battalion. The minister later met with the commander of the IDF 162nd Division, Brigadier General Itzik Cohen, and discussed with him the division’s preparations for continuing the fight to dismantle the Hamas brigades in the Gaza Strip.

The minister spoke to the Netzach Yehuda soldiers who are currently fighting in the Beit Hanoun neighborhood in the north of the Gaza Strip and told them: “They support the entire defense apparatus, the IDF and also the State of Israel.” I thank them and wish them much Strength for their commitment to protecting the State of Israel. At their location, Beit Hanoun, they protect the city of Sderot from an attack, a raid and of course from rocket fire. I want to tell you that mistakes and malfunctions happen wherever military activities take place and that they should not happen, especially in things related to political issues that should not be practiced, but just because one or two soldiers do something If you’ve done something wrong, it doesn’t cast a shadow over the entire battalion. The battalion is a combat arm that performs its task at a very high level. If something happens to someone, we fix it. “Nobody in the world is going to teach us what ethics and standards are,” Gallant said.

“The commanders and troops of the Netzach Yehuda battalion are operating at the front. “Since the outbreak of war, they have been working to expel Hezbollah forces from the northern border, thwarting terrorism in Judea and Samaria (in the occupied West Bank), and more recently, they have been working to dismantle the Hamas brigades in Gaza,” he explained Minister.

“Any attempt to criticize an entire unit casts a heavy shadow,” continued Gallant, who told the U.S. that damaging a battalion affects “the entire defense system” and that this is “not the right path for partners and friends.” . Gallant, in turn, assured that “any event that deviates from the rules” will have consequences, without giving details of disciplinary measures or measures that would be taken.

The public dispute between Israel and the United States follows An investigation by the US media ProPublica revealed on Wednesday that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been ignoring the recommendations of a special State Department committee for months The aim is to disqualify several Israeli military and police units due to human rights violations.

These sanctions would prohibit this unit and its members from receiving any type of military support or training from the United Statesand relied on a 1997 law that requires US foreign aid to be cut off to military units allegedly accused of human rights abuses.

According to the statement Gallant also “recently” had a phone conversation with Blinkenand earlier yesterday with US Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew.

On Sunday, Israel’s prime minister said, Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the US intentions, calling them “the height of absurdity.” by referring to someone who assured that “they are fighting against terrorist monsters,” Netanyahu said on the social network X.

According to minority and liberal Israeli media +972, in 2015, the Netzach Yehuda Battalion shot dead an apparently unarmed Palestinian during a protest in Silwad near Ramallah, and several soldiers tortured Palestinian detainees with electric shocks.

At the end of 2018, this battalion clashed with border police who were arresting Israeli settlers in order to free the suspects. Shortly afterwards, they attacked and tortured a father in front of his son, both Palestinians were imprisoned, while in 2019 they were captured on video attacking Bedouins in the south of the country – one of many questionable actions.

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