Several IDF officers censured, dismissed after brawl at West Bank base
Military chief decries ‘serious and extreme incident,’ says officers could have shown responsibility and stopped fight that led to lieutenant colonel being beaten by troops
Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.
The chief of the military’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, has meted out disciplinary actions against several officers over a “serious violent incident” in which a senior officer was beaten up during a brawl with a group of soldiers at a West Bank base earlier this week, the Israel Defense Forces said Friday.
Two officers — a major and a lieutenant colonel — were to be dismissed from their positions; one officer was jailed, two more officers, including a colonel, were formally censured; and another officer had a planned promotion canceled.
Additionally, a commander and several soldiers involved in the brawl were to be jailed after facing disciplinary hearings before their superiors, and a warrant officer was dismissed from his role.
IDF chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi denounced the “serious and extreme incident” involving violence by both soldiers and commanders.
“The IDF exercises great power in order to protect the State of Israel, there is no place for violent actions within us,” the military quoted Halevi as saying.
Halevi said there were several instances in which officers could have acted responsibly and stepped in to prevent the violence. “By not taking this type of intervention, the commanders involved committed a serious moral failure,” he said.
According to an initial IDF probe of the event and eyewitness accounts, the incident began on Sunday after the chief signal operator of the Yehuda Territorial Brigade called the deputy commander of the 51st Golani Battalion a “Golanchik ars” during a video conference call.
Ars is a derogatory Hebrew slang term for those who associate with a type of macho culture, and is often used as an ethnic stereotype for working-class Israelis of Mizrahi origins.
In response, the deputy commander, a major, threatened to punish any troops who allowed the chief signal operator into the Harsina military outpost near Hebron — where the battalion is currently stationed, according to the probe.
The chief signal operator arrived at the base on Monday afternoon along with the deputy commander of the Yehuda Territorial Brigade — a lieutenant colonel — and attempted to enter the base. The soldier stationed at the entrance told the two officers that they were not approved to enter, the probe said.
The Yehuda brigade deputy commander then called up the 51st battalion deputy commander, who responded that the lieutenant colonel could enter, but not the chief signal operator.
קצין הקשר של חטיבת יהודה כינה את סמג"ד גדוד 51 "גולנצ'יק ערס", בתגובה הסמג"ד הנחה שלא להכניס את הקצין למוצבי הגדוד. כשהקצין הגיע עם הסמח"ט למוצב ליד קריית ארבע, אחד הלוחמים מנע את כניסתם ובמקום החלה קטטה@roysharon11 pic.twitter.com/t8UDTcquuI
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) January 30, 2023
The two argued over the phone before the senior officer again approached the soldier stationed at the entrance and asked to allow him in with the chief signal operator and other soldiers accompanying him.
The soldier refused and told the officer to move back, and in response, the officer pressed his head against the soldier in an apparent threatening manner, and the soldier responded the same way. In response, the senior officer’s entourage pushed the soldier and spat in his face, the probe said.
The soldier stationed at the entrance radioed in to his company to tell them about the incident. Several soldiers, including the company commander and his deputy, arrived at the scene, and a physical and verbal altercation began.
The soldiers and officers of the company told the Yehuda brigade deputy commander he would not be allowed to enter the base because he allegedly hit the soldier guarding the entrance.
Several minutes later, the 51st battalion deputy commander arrived at the base entrance and allowed the senior officer and his chief signal operator in.
But once inside the base, the senior officer was blocked from reaching the 51st barracks by a warrant officer from the unit, who told the Yehuda brigade deputy commander that he was not allowed to enter the company’s area in the base, the probe said.
The probe said the senior officer was enraged and grabbed the warrant officer’s hand, and twisted it around, before pushing him against a wall. After seeing the altercation, soldiers from the company ran over and jumped on the Yehuda brigade deputy commander, knocking him to the ground, punching him and kicking him.
The chief signal operator and other soldiers of the officer’s entourage fled the scene, leaving the Yehuda brigade deputy commander to be beaten by the soldiers.
“I’m not joking, they choked him, kicked him, the warrant officer punched him… everyone was beating the hell out of him,” one soldier said in an audio recording to his friends, recalling the incident.
The brawl was eventually broken up by the 51st battalion deputy commander.
The extent of the officers’ injuries was not detailed by the military. He did not require hospitalization
The commander of the Yehuda Territorial Brigade was formally censured, his deputy was to be dismissed from his position, and the chief signal operator was to be jailed for 10 days as well as being formally censured.
The commander of the 51st Golani Battalion was formally censured and his deputy would be dismissed from his role. The commander of the company involved in the brawl had his planned promotion canceled. The deputy commander of the company was to be jailed for five days, and the warrant officer would be dismissed.
Additionally, three soldiers were to be jailed for five days, and a fourth soldier for eight days, all after facing disciplinary hearings.