Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Military Unit Accused of Human Rights Abuses, Faces U.S. Scrutiny

The U.S. is considering sanctioning an ultra-Orthodox Israeli military unit, the Netzach Yehuda Battalion, over alleged human rights abuses, sparking tensions with Israel. The controversy highlights challenges in integrating ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military.

Dil Bar Irshad
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Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Military Unit Accused of Human Rights Abuses, Faces U.S. Scrutiny

Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Military Unit Accused of Human Rights Abuses, Faces U.S. Scrutiny

The Netzach Yehuda Battalion, an ultra-Orthodox military unit in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), is facing allegations of human rights violations and operating in a manner similar to the Russian mercenary group Wagner.

The unit, established in 1999 to accommodate ultra-Orthodox Jews and religious nationalists in the army, has primarily operated in the West Bank. "The unit has faced allegations of human rights violations, including the death of an elderly Palestinian man, Omar Assad, who was arrested by the unit in 2022," according to reports.

The accusations have drawn scrutiny from Washington, with U.S. officials discussing the issue with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The U.S. is considering blacklisting the Netzach Yehuda Battalion under the 'Leahy Laws,' which prohibit providing funds to assist military individuals or foreign security forces implicated in gross violations of human rights.

"The U.S. State Department has identified the unit as having allegedly committed abuses, and the U.S. is considering sanctioning the unit under the Leahy Law, which restricts U.S. military aid to foreign security forces accused of human rights violations," sources indicate.

Israel has attempted to appease the U.S. by withdrawing the unit from the West Bank and moving it to the Golan Heights, but the U.S. is still considering sanctions. The possible sanctioning of the unit is seen as mostly symbolic, as the unit is relatively small, but it highlights growing tensions between the U.S. and Israel over human rights issues. Israeli leaders have strongly criticized the anticipated decision, calling it unjust and pledging to resist it.

Why this matters: The potential U.S. sanctions against the Netzach Yehuda Battalion underscore the increasing strain on U.S.-Israel relations over human rights concerns. The controversy surrounding the unit also sheds light on the challenges of integrating ultra-Orthodox Jews into the Israeli military and the broader implications for Israel's policies in the occupied territories.

Defense Minister Gallant has defended the battalion, stating that "no one in the world can teach us about values and morals" and that the battalion is "professionally and bravely conducting operations in accordance with the IDF Code of Ethics and with full commitment to international law."

Gallant and the IDF are working to reverse the U.S. decision, emphasizing that any criticism of the unit would cast a "heavy shadow" on the entire defense establishment. The Israeli government maintains that the battalion's activities are carried out in accordance with the IDF's values and international law.

Key Takeaways

  • Ultra-Orthodox IDF unit Netzach Yehuda accused of human rights violations
  • U.S. considering sanctioning unit under Leahy Law for alleged abuses
  • Israel defends unit, claims it operates per IDF ethics and law
  • Sanctions seen as symbolic, but highlight U.S.-Israel tensions on rights
  • Controversy sheds light on challenges of integrating ultra-Orthodox in IDF