U.S. poised to impose sanctions on IDF unit accused of violations in West Bank

U.S. poised to impose sanctions on IDF unit accused of violations in West Bank

The Guardian reports:

A unit of the Israel Defense Forces is facing US sanctions over its treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, even as Congress voted for $26bn in new emergency aid to Israel.

According to reports in the Israeli media, US state department officials have confirmed they are preparing to impose sanctions on the IDF’s Netzah Yehuda battalion, which has been accused of serious human rights violations against Palestinians.

The highly significant move, which would be the first time the US government has targeted an IDF unit, prompted immediate anger among Israeli political leaders who vowed to oppose it.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday that the US was also considering similar moves against other police and military units.

The sanctions, which would be imposed under the 1997 Leahy law, would prohibit the transfer of US military aid to the unit and prevent soldiers and officers participating in training either with the US military or in programmes that receive US funding.

The reported plans were disclosed as Israeli strikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Saturday night killed 18 people, including 14 children, according to health officials in Gaza.

The news of possible sanctions against the Netzah Yehuda battalion follows a statement by the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on Friday that he had made “determinations” over the claim that Israel had violated the Leahy law, which prohibits the provision of military assistance to police or security units that commit gross violations of human rights.

Since the law was enacted, US aid has been blocked to hundreds of units around the world accused of rights violations. [Continue reading…]

In 2022, Natasha Roth-Rowland wrote:

The “bad apples” argument that has attached itself to Netzah Yehuda is well-trodden territory: it is summarily deployed by Israel and its supporters whenever Jewish terrorism and settler violence hit the headlines, as they have with increasing regularity over the past few years.

With Netzah Yehuda, however, it is a slightly trickier claim to make. Far-right Israelis who conduct acts of terrorism while out of uniform have habitually provided an avatar onto which the state can offload responsibility — and feign accountability — for the violence produced by its governing principle of ethnic supremacism, while utterly ignoring the supremacist modus operandi itself. This mechanism has also served to obscure how West Bank settlers effectively act as an arm of the state, and to further blur the lines between their authority and that of the army.

It’s a system that works fairly well for the state and its representatives, but that stumbles somewhat when the call is coming, so to speak, from inside the house — as it is in cases such as the killing of Omar Asad [in January, 2022].

That is why, when the Israeli army does occasionally investigate itself, the investigation will be at best perfunctory, and at worst so inadequate and slapdash as to actually display contempt: tug too hard at any single threads of excessive force, and the system will start to unravel. Far better, instead, to make excuses that decenter the act of violence itself (the soldiers were particularly stressed that day; there was a misjudgment; orders were disobeyed; ethical standards were not met), and emphasize personal rather than systemic responsibility — especially when the individuals in the spotlight are part of the “othered” classes.

In the vanishingly rare instances in which an army self-investigation results in some kind of conviction and punishment, the accused will almost invariably be a low-ranking infantry member who has carried out an act of spontaneous, face-to-face violence. That, in Israel’s moral and social calculus, is a “lapse” that merits punishment or a reprimand. The dropping of a one-ton bomb in a residential Gaza neighborhood that wipes out a Palestinian family, however? Not so much.

For Israeli policymakers and the wider network of apologists for the army’s role as a military occupier, who prefer to shield their eyes from the environment that has produced Netzah Yehuda’s “aberrant” violence, the proposal to “tackle” the battalion by shuffling it around or disbanding it altogether may very well make them feel as if a problem has been solved. And they will likely consider any remedial action against Netzah Yehuda as proof that the Israeli military’s ethical code of “purity of arms” remains a defensible, workable concept for an army tasked with maintaining a segregationist regime. [Continue reading…]

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