"Known for Abuse": Unveiling the Netzah Jehuda Battalion Threatened by US Sanctions

The Joseph Biden administration is set to announce sanctions against the Netzah Yehuda battalion of the Israeli army, the IDF, for allegedly violating the human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank, the Times of Israel reports

by Sededin Dedovic
"Known for Abuse": Unveiling the Netzah Jehuda Battalion Threatened by US Sanctions
© Friends of Nahal Haredi / YOutube channel

The Biden administration is reportedly on the verge of announcing sanctions against the Netzah Yehuda battalion of the Israel Defense Forces over alleged human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank, according to a report from Axios on Saturday.

The move would be the first time the United States has taken such action, as reported by the Times of Israel. Israel moved the unit from the West Bank in December 2022 — though it denied it was due to the soldiers' behavior — and since then it has served primarily in the north of the country.

He is also deployed to the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict with Hamas. The unit is allegedly linked to a large number of executions of civilians in the Gaza Strip, torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The proposed US plan drew a strong response from Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"The IDF must not be sanctioned. In recent weeks, I have worked against the sanctioning of Israeli citizens, including in my discussions with the US administration," Netanyahu said. "At a time when our soldiers are fighting terrorist monsters, the intention to impose sanctions on the IS unit is the height of absurdity and moral low," he added, vowing to fight the move

The Netzah Organization - Nahal Haredi members posing for picture right before Gaza war erupted© Friends of Nahal Haredi / Youtube channel

Besides Netanyahu, there is almost no politically active person who has not commented on this "incident".

Centrist War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz joined the criticism, saying the infantry unit was "an integral part of the IDF" and bound by military and international law. He added that Israel has "strong and independent" courts capable of dealing with alleged violations.

He emphasized that Israel has an effective and clear law when it comes to human rights violations and that courts and judges do their work independently. "We have great respect for our American friends, but imposing sanctions on the unit sets a dangerous precedent and sends the wrong message to our common enemies in a time of war," Gantz said, vowing to "take action to ensure this decision does not pass." The battalion, according to Al Jazeera, has been at the center of several controversies related to right-wing extremism and violence against Palestinians, including the death of Omar As'ad, a 78-year-old Palestinian American who died after being detained, handcuffed, blindfolded and later abandoned.

by battalion soldiers in near-freezing conditions.

Netzah Yehuda special forces or criminals

The State Department was reportedly investigating Netzah Yehuda for alleged abuses prior to October 2023, including the January 2022 death of then-80-year-old Palestinian American Omar Assad.

The news comes after a Pro Publica investigation revealed that a State Department panel recommended the US restrict arms sales to Israeli military units due to credible allegations of human rights abuses. A lot of pressure is currently on Biden and his administration due to their inability to stop the war in Gaza and prevent a total humanitarian disaster.

Nahal Haredi March to Western Wall© Friends of Nahal Haredi / Youtube channel

The Netzah Yehuda group was formed in 1999 as a special unit for ultra-orthodox Jewish soldiers. According to the battalion's website, about 1,000 soldiers currently serve in the unit.

In 1999, the first unit of 30 Haredi soldiers, designated "Nahal Haredi", was launched. This nationalist project was launched by the Netzah Yehuda Association in full cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the IDF, according to the website of Israeli military veterans nahalharedi.org.

Within a few years, the IDF formed the first Haredi combat battalion, Netzah Yehuda. Today, the battalion is part of the Kfir brigade and operates in the Benjamin (Ramallah) and Menashe (Jenin) sectors. The Kfir Brigade, becoming veteran and experienced, is undergoing a revolutionary process of transformation into infantry brigades.

Part of the 99th Division known as the "Fire Infantry Division", characterized by multi-arena combat capabilities in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. The battalion's numerous successes earned it the Award for Excellence in Operational Work in 2012 and the Award of the Chief of the General Staff in 2014.

The battalion currently serves as the core of Haredi service in the IDF, with around 1,000 soldiers serving at any given time. Netzah Jehuda represents a fusion of religious identity and military service, embodying the delicate balance between Israel's secular governance and its deeply rooted religious traditions.

The unit's formation was a milestone in Israel's ongoing efforts to bridge the gap between its secular and religious communities, offering a pathway for ultra-Orthodox Jews to contribute to the country's defense while maintaining their religious observance.

However, the allegations of misconduct and abuse associated with Netzah Jehuda paint a troubling picture of the unit's conduct in the field. Reports of violence against Palestinians and other human rights violations undermine the unit's stated mission of serving as defenders of the state of Israel.