The US State Department has been urged to withhold American taxpayers’ money from the notorious Israeli Netzah Yehuda Battalion, and to subject the group to Leahy Laws. Leahy Amendments, as it is also known, are human rights laws that prohibit the US Department of State and Department of Defence from providing military assistance to foreign security force units that violate human rights with impunity.
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) has presented a report of its investigation into “gross human rights abuses and war crimes” committed by the Yehuda Battalion to the US government. The report urges Washington to formally subject the group to the Leahy Law vetting process and add it to the list of military units ineligible to receive US military assistance. With the US paying $3.3 billion in aid annually to the Apartheid State, critics argue that Washington subsidises Israeli Occupation and violence against non-Jews in historic Palestine.
DAWN insists that the violations and human rights abuses committed by the Yehuda Battalion meet the threshold for Leahy Law sanctions. The group “has a track record of gross human rights abuses and war crimes, including extrajudicial killing, torture and physical abuse including, most recently, the killing of Palestinian-American citizen, Omar Assad,” said the US-based human rights group.
The 80-year-old Assad died following brutal arrest and assault by members of the Yehuda Battalion. The autopsy on his body conducted by three Palestinian doctors found that he had suffered injuries to his head and hands as a result of the blindfold being tied too tightly. Last month Israel offered to pay Omar Assad’s family $140,000 compensation for killing him, but Assad’s family confirmed to Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) that they had not accepted the Israeli move which was made “unilaterally”, adding that “the family wants to see justice” done.
DAWN has documented these violations committed by unit soldiers between 2015 and 2022, and also documented how perpetrators were given minimal punishment or reprimand, while commanders escaped any command responsibility. In the cases of Assad and two other extrajudicial killings, the Israeli military did not impose any punitive consequences on any soldiers or commanders and, instead, says DAWN, promoted the commander at the time of the killing, Lt Col. Mati Shevach, to the position of Deputy Commander of the Kfir Brigade.
“The very least the US can do is to impose Leahy Law sanctions for the murder of an American against a repeat offender Israeli unit that has been killing and abusing Palestinians with impunity for years,” said Adam Shapiro, Advocacy Director, Israel-Palestine at DAWN. “While Netzah Yehuda might not be the worst abuser in the Israeli Army, its actions have been well-documented by Israeli and international media, offering a unique insight into the absolute unwillingness by Israeli governments to hold its soldiers accountable for violating international law and the Israeli army’s own rules of engagement.”
DAWN also submitted a file on Netzah Yehuda to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and two of its commanders, Lt Col. Mati Shevach and Lt Colonel Shlomo Sheeran, regarding war crimes committed by the battalion. The ICC is conducting an investigation into Israeli war crimes and DAWN, along with several other human right groups, has been submitting evidence to the Hague.
Updated on 1 December 2022 at 17.24GMT to include details of the family’s response to Israel’s claim of compensation.