Report by Military Ombudsman: Rise in soldiers' complaints of humiliation and racism from commanders

The annual report of the Military Ombudsman in the Israeli Defense Ministry, which was published today, presents a harsh reality of abusive and inappropriate treatment by many IDF commanders- from complaints of physical violence to preventing soldiers from seeing military therapists. The commissioner: There are commanders who are drunk on power.
Illustration Photo Credit: Reuters/ Channel 2 News

About three out of every five complaints filed by soldiers against their commanders in 2016 were found to be justified, according to the annual report issued by the Defense Ministry's Ombudsman. The data indicates that 6,758 complaints were filed last year - an increase of 6% from the year before.

The commissioner of the report, Major General (res.) Yitzhak Brick, pointed to an increase in the number of complaints made against senior commanders, primarily characterized by physical and verbal abuse. Among other things, there was an increase in complaints about inappropriate statements made by commanders, with an emphasis on racist comments to Ethiopian immigrants, as well as an increase in the number of complaints filed by female soldiers who monitor live footage in the Field Intelligence unit. "There are commanders who behave improperly in order to get closer to their soldiers and try to speak their language, or those who are drunk on power and feel that they are allowed to act violently because of their position," the commissioner explained.

Reported increase in the number of complaints filed by female soldiers in Field Intelligence Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson/ Channel 2 News

The commissioner's report presented several examples of complaints submitted by soldiers against their senior commanders that were found to be justified. In one such example, in a video produced by commanding officers for their soldiers as a treat for the completion of their course, the commanders showed footage of a kiss between two men to which they added a picture of one of the soldiers in the course, clearly alluding to his sexual orientation. The video was shown without the soldier's permission and hurt him deeply. After the soldier filed a complaint, the commanders claimed that the video was meant to be humorous, that it was always shown at the end of the course and that there was no intention of outing him. The commanders were reprimanded and will no longer be showing the video at the completion of their course.

In another case, a soldier complained about the conduct of his company commander towards himself and two other soldiers. White their commander was reprimanding them, he shouted curses at them and started throwing blunt objects at them, like a hole-puncher and a gun cartridge. In another incident, a soldier asked to see a military therapist because he was afraid he would cause self harm. His commander reportedly replied: "If you're really a man, you'll cut, cut."

Decline in motivation among female soldiers in mixed combat units Photo Credit: Gili Ya'ari, Flash 90/ Channel 2 News

The report also indicated a rise in the number of complaints of blatant racism. One soldier of Ethiopian descent complained that her commanding officer repeatedly made insulting insinuations about her skin color and continued even after the solder requested she desist. In another incident, a soldier requested to be moved to a different position, to which her commander replied: "What did you move from Ethiopia for?"

Finally, following the recent public outcry over the issue of women enlisting in combat units in the IDF, the commissioner's report indicated a decline in the motivation of female soldiers to join mixed combat units as well as a dissatisfaction with their service once placed in the mixed units.

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