IDF soldiers jailed in latest hazing incident

Six Golani troops and commanders sentenced for multiple cases of abuse; company commander reprimanded

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Golani soldiers during an exercise in the Golan Heights (photo credit: Abir Sultan/ Flash 90)
Golani soldiers during an exercise in the Golan Heights (photo credit: Abir Sultan/ Flash 90)

Six soldiers and commanders from a veteran company in the Golani Brigade were thrown into military jail on Monday for abusing younger soldiers in the company over an extended period.

The soldiers’ sentences spanned from 14 to 21 days, according to a Ynet report Wednesday.

The abusive atmosphere in the unit, both verbal and physical, originated at the top. The company commander regularly cursed at his soldiers, and reportedly threw stones at soldiers who moved too slowly during training exercises.

The company commander, who is expected to leave his position next month, was sternly reprimanded by Golani Brigade commander Colonel Yaniv Asor.

Junior commanders in the company, part of Golani’s Battalion 12, also participated in the abuse. The company sergeant was punished for hazing, and a platoon sergeant was dismissed for using a staple gun on a soldier.

Much of the abuse occurred when the company was training at the Tzanor base in the Golan Heights. While on guard duty, young soldiers were forced to swallow mustard. Only veteran soldiers were permitted to shower during the day, and if others tried to do so, they had cleaning fluid or bleach poured on them.

In one instance, the company was on a military bus heading home for weekend leave. Young soldiers were ordered to remain in the pushup position on the journey. A soldier unable to perform the task was punched in the ribs.

Sometimes punishments were entirely random. In the mess hall one morning, a soldier was forced to eat a tomato covered in chocolate spread for no reason.

Ynet reports that junior officers in the brigade were given new regulations in light of the incidents, in order to prevent similar abuses in the future.

“The incidents in question are a violation of the IDF’s Code of Ethics and its values,” the IDF spokesman’s office told The Times of Israel. “Following the incidents, soldiers in the platoon headquarters were severely punished and sentenced active detention. The current platoon commander will be replaced after completing his service within the next month.”

This is the latest of a series of abuse allegations the IDF has been forced to investigate, many of which are centered around the hazing of younger soldiers. The army has been working to combat the phenomenon over the past decade.

In a much-publicized case in 2004, disgruntled veteran soldiers of the Givati Brigade’s Shaked Battalion falsely accused their commanding officer of intentionally killing a Palestinian girl, in retribution for steps he took to uproot the deep-rooted seniority system among the soldiers.

In March 2012, soldiers from the same battalion were arrested for beating younger soldiers with wooden and rubber clubs and stapling military insignia to their flesh. They said they were simply upholding a military tradition. Two months later, soldiers from another company in Givati were imprisoned for similar hazing offenses.

In August 2012, Corporal Sa’ar Mizrahi was “tried and convicted” by veteran members of the battalion for touching a so-called “seniority stick” — a stick reserved for soldiers with greater seniority. Mizrahi was “sentenced” to a beating by his fellow soldiers, and the following morning he collapsed and was rushed to HaEmek Hospital in Afula with a ruptured spleen and bruises all over his body.

A month later, four soldiers from the Druze Herev battalion were convicted of tying another soldier to a bed for refusing to pay for one of them at the canteen.

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