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Netzah Yehuda, an Israeli battalion with a history of abuses and impunity

Netzah Yehuda, an Israeli battalion with a history of abuses and impunity

The Israeli battalion of ultra-Orthodox Jews Netzah Yehuda, which USA considering sanctions for complaints of abuses against Palestinians, He has a long history of mistreatment and impunity, according to Israeli media and analysts.

The battalion was created in 1999 to encourage Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) young people to join the army, guaranteeing respect for their beliefs: strict diet, absence of women in their bases, time reserved for prayer and Torah study.

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

The unit attracted little and most of the battalion is made up of ultra-Orthodox young people who broke with their circle and see “to the army as a way to integrate Israeli society and earn a living,” David Khalfa, co-director of the North Africa and Middle East Observatory of the French Jean-Jeaurès Foundation, explained to AFP.

The battalion also integrates “rather radical religious nationalists” andvery hostile to the Arabs”he added.

“Bad reputation”

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

“The battalion attracts religious Zionists, whose religious convictions are mixed with nationalist militarism” and integrate “wild settlement settlers” of the West Bank, said Marwa Maziad, a professor of Israeli studies at the University of Maryland.

Made up of about a thousand troops, the unit was stationed in the West Bank until 2022. In this territory, occupied by Israel since 1967, nearly 50,000 Israelis live in settlements considered illegal under international law, along with three million Palestinians.

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

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

The battalion was in the spotlight in January 2022 after the death of Omar Assad, a Palestinian who also had American nationality, at the hands of its soldiers.

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

After the information came to light, the Israeli press recalled the acts of aggression, often unpunished, committed by the battalion against the Palestinians, as well as the episodes of insubordination.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper recalled that its soldiers let settlers attack Palestinians, while the Haaretz newspaper denounced the “clear ideological connection between the inhabitants of the colonies and the wild settlements” of the West Bank with “the soldiers of Netzah Yehuda.”

Debates about the battalion arouse passions even “within the Israeli army”, where some consider it to be “dangerous” that the armed body “group together as many young people who share the same nationalist ideology,” Khalfa points out.

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

But since October 7 and the offensive launched by Israel in the Gaza Strip in response to the Hamas attack against its territory, “the army had to remobilize this unit in West Bank, which led to some problematic behaviors,” Khalfa explained.

But “which leads to USA to consider sanctions against Netzah Yehuda is the feeling of impunity” that this unit enjoys, he considered.

The Israeli army stated for its part that “The battalion operates with professionalism and courage, in accordance with the code of conduct of the Israeli forces and in absolute respect for international law.”

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Source: Gestion

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