A report published Wednesday by the IDF Soldiers’ Complaints Commissioner found that some 60 percent of complaints from soldiers about a variety of failures in the military throughout 2013 were justified.
The 7,158 complaints related to the treatment of subordinates by their commanders, maintenance of IDF bases, medical services for soldiers, the treatment of soldiers imprisoned for disciplinary offenses and problems in the reserves.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, who compiled the report, said the phenomenon of commanders acting improperly towards subordinates continued in 2013, and cited a “worrying” trend regarding a failure to safeguard the soldiers’ dignity.
Although most commanders are skilled professionals, who are responsible officers dealing with many challenges, Brick said, he also encountered a number who “abandoned the trust of command, and who have not attempted to understand that the right to command does not belong to everyone.”
While examining some complaints, Brick said he was shocked by the nature of coarse language used by a number of commanders, including insults and inappropriate expressions.
“Unfortunately, there are commanders who choose, through their command, to trample the accepted method of command in the IDF, and their over-creativity crosses every boundary, to the point that it endangers the health of their soldiers,” he said.
One example, he said, was a commander who punished subordinates by forcing them to drink the contents of three water canteens in a row, until some vomited.
Other examples included a commander who did not allow a soldier to visit his father who suffered a heart attack, commanders who canceled exemptions without good cause, a delay in providing medical treatment to a soldier who was in psychological distress, and “many incidents” of verbal violence and harassment of commanders and veteran soldiers towards new recruits.
Brick said there had also been a rise in the number of complaints pertaining to medical treatment, including a delay in treatment to a wounded soldier and a systematic lack of respect by an army doctor towards his patients.
Soldiers in military prisons experienced a delay in surgery, received faulty medical treatment and were made to stand in formation under a blazing sun for many hours without drinking water.
Reserve soldiers complained about the way they were asked to sign forms pertaining to their service, and Brick said he found failures in the way communications were handled with reserve soldiers.
Most of the complaints however (4,172) came from conscripted soldiers.
The IDF said in response that it would study the report thoroughly, and draw the required conclusions.
Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz met with Brick in recent days, and said that commanders are obligated to lead and care for their soldiers.
“Currently, as the IDF carries out many streamlining processes, the need to ensure care and fostering of soldiers has grown many times over,” Gantz said.
“Despite all of the difficulties, it is right to dedicate attention, time and a budget to the most important issue for us in the IDF – the people.”
Gantz said the report underlined the positive response by IDF command levels to deal with the issues raised in it, citing a section in which Brick wrote he found commanders “who know how to accept criticism, and are ready to learn and draw the lessons.”
The chief of staff praised Brick for his “dedicated work, and stressed the role of the Soldiers’ Complaints Commissioner as an agency that allows the IDF to continually improve.”