New details emerge in the case of Arabs accused of aiding and abetting a terror suspect and their mistreatment at the hands of IDF troops
As was previously reported on these pages, four soldiers and one officer from the ultra-orthodox Netzah Yehuda combat battalion are facing indictments for seriously roughing up Arabs that they had picked up for their alleged participation in the murder of two soldiers from the same battalion earlier this year. Today, Israeli media released transcripts from the statements given by the Arabs to the IDF military police. These transcripts are highly disturbing, detailing such mistreatment as beatings with hands, feet, and rifle stocks, as well as forcing a son to witness the beating of his father, a beating that included all parts of his body including his testicles and which resulted in a broken nose and two broken ribs.
From the investigation, it appears that the troops who were involved in this incident had not been allowed to sleep for nearly 24 hours as they hunted and captured the Arabs who hid the terrorist responsible for the murder of their friends. Furthermore, the battalion commander told Israeli media that he stood behind his decision to use the same platoon that recently lost two of its members to execute the arrests, because “it would give them a sense of victory, of accomplishment, which is good for morale”. Finally, the transportation of the prisoners, usually performed by troops not involved in the capture, was in this instance delegated to the same platoon. As a result, soldiers who were tired in the extreme, who were still grieving the loss of their buddies, and who were not trained in the transport of prisoners were put in a position where they could exact revenge against them. The situation was exacerbated when the team leader, a corporal, and the platoon commander, a lieutenant, failed to provide the leadership necessary to prevent the breakdown of military discipline.
The results of this unfortunate incident seem to indicate that Arabs, who, regardless of their aiding and abetting a terrorist, were entitled to humane treatment, did not get it. Rather they were brutally beaten and humiliated by a team of IDF soldiers who clearly needed to know better and who should have adhered to their training and followed their humanity. Furthermore, several combat soldiers and an officer will now be barred from combat duty and may serve prison terms, an outcome that is certainly harmful to the IDF and its combat readiness in the volatile Judea and Samaria region. The top leadership of the battalion, the commander who chose the force that was assigned the task of arresting the Arabs and the deputy commander who led it, while not directly responsible for the breach of discipline, bear responsibility for failing to envision what could happen when tired and emotionally charged troops were left with those who were directly responsible for the deaths of their comrades.
The only silver cloud here appears to be the IDF’s and the Israeli society’s at large willingness to confront these types of incidents, publicly discuss what may have led to them, bring those directly responsible to justice, and extract the necessary lessons so that this type of failure would not repeat itself.