Religious soldiers claim ‘unfair scrutiny,’ say IDF head rushes to take Palestinian side

“They showed only what happened in the end, the last part of the video where the soldiers use force against the Palestinians….twisting the narrative at our expense.” 

By Adina Katz, World Israel News

Several activists and politicians challenged Israeli officials’ swift condemnation of an IDF unit which allegedly used unnecessary force against Palestinians, urging military leaders to reserve judgment until a full investigation of the incident is completed.

A 14-second video depicting members of the Netzach Yehuda Battalion hitting and kicking two detained Palestinians went viral on social media last week.

Within hours of the video being published, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said in a public statement that the “severe incident is repugnant and directly contradicts the values of the IDF.”

Kochavi added that “the soldiers involved in the incident are not worthy of their positions. The incident will be thoroughly examined by IDF commanders and will be investigated by the Military Police.”

Diaspora Minister and former IDF spokesman Nachman Shai tweeted that the unit must be immediately disbanded.

About 1,000 haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men serve as soldiers in Netzach Yehuda, and some have expressed concern that the religious nature of the unit makes it a target of unfair scrutiny.

“The Palestinians resisted strongly, using physical force. The fighters responded with physical force,” a soldier in the battalion told Channel 14 News regarding the incident.

“One of the Palestinians even tried to steal the weapon of one of the fighters. They showed only what happened in the end, the last part of the video where the soldiers use force against the Palestinians. Someone…is interested in twisting the narrative at our expense.”

“There are attacks against soldiers all the time. But if this hadn’t taken place [within the] Netzach Yehuda [unit], the IDF spokesperson would not have issued a condemnation within minutes,” the soldier added.

He said this is not the first time that the unit, which is “known to be a proud Jewish and Zionist battalion,” has received a disproportionate amount of criticism.

MK Betzalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionism party wrote on Twitter that the IDF’s immediate condemnation of the soldiers, even before the incident was properly investigated, was a sign of “dangerous weakness.. that originates from a desire to look good, even at the cost of abandoning fighters and turning our backs on those who protect us and fight for us.

“The automatic embracing of the Arab version [of events] and the rush to apologize and disown the fighters, instead of backing them up reflects a lack of self-confidence in the righteousness of our [army]. And that’s bad and dangerous.”

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Dr. Michael Ben Ari, a former member of the Knesset, tweeted footage of the incident and charged that it was equivalent to a “blood libel [against] the Netzach Battalion.”