In the wake of mounting pressure prompted by the posts of a pseudonymous Israeli blogger, the IDF on Wednesday released official numbers regarding suicides in the army in the past decade, revealing that 237 servicemen and -women took their own lives over the last 10 years, an average of one death every 15 days.
The new information constituted a rare admission by the army, which is generally secretive about such statistics.
The blogger, Ishton, who refuses to provide information about himself other than his nationality and sex, responded on his Facebook page, saying that “following pressure, the IDF released the information about suicides without fanfare and without explaining why it was released now.”
Ishton also claimed that the numbers didn’t tell the whole story and that the actual figures could be higher.
In a blog he posted before last year’s Remembrance Day (Hebrew), Ishton noted a discrepancy between the official number of new casualties for that year (126 at the time) and the smaller number of names, dates and stories on the Yizkor memorial website managed by the Defense Ministry. Among other conclusions, Ishton deduced that the military was hiding information from the public.
The post caused a public stir, and was apparently frowned upon by the army. Ishton was summoned for a police interrogation at which military investigators — who have no authority over him — were present, and was purportedly threatened with dire consequences if he continued to post in his blog and failed to reveal his sources. After he was apparently intimidated out of maintaining his blog, the Haaretz daily began to champion his cause.
Army sources said that the investigation against Ishton was launched because families of soldiers had said the blogger was staining the memory of their loved ones with false claims of suicide.
The official report released by the IDF notes that there has been a steady decline in suicide cases over the past few years. Between 1991 and 1993 almost 39 soldiers committed suicide annually, the report said. The annual number dropped to 33 between 2000 and 2002, and stood at an average of “only” 23 deaths per year between 2009 and 2011.
A number of causes contributed to the decline in soldier suicides, the army said, noting the increase in army psychiatrists and the removal of guns from the hands of soldiers who didn’t need them in their line of duty.