Justice Ministry accuses IDF of discriminating against Ethiopian-Israelis

Petitions by the Justice Ministry against the IDF are highly unusual as generally the two legal arms of the state work together on a highly coordinated and cooperative basis.

December 8, 2015 20:09
2 minute read.
IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot

IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot appears at a hearing of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The Legal Assistance Division of the Justice Ministry has filed a petition with the High Court of Justice against the IDF for allegedly using “poor conduct” discharges with Ethiopian soldiers on a discriminatory basis.

Petitions by the Justice Ministry against the IDF are highly unusual since the two legal arms of the state generally work together on a highly coordinated and cooperative basis.

A 2011 State Comptroller report indicated that the reason cited for 66 percent of Ethiopians released early in 2010 was “poor conduct” – a percentage far above the frequency that these grounds are given for discharges among the general population.

A “poor conduct” release can result in loss of National Insurance Institute and other benefits and can negatively impact future job prospects.

The particular case the Justice Ministry is using to fight the IDF on the issue involves “Aleph,” who was released on December 31, 2013, for “poor conduct,” despite the fact that on January 8, 2014, a neurologist and the official Medical Committee said his release should have been based on his “medical condition.”

According to the ministry’s statement, Aleph had been mistreated during several months in the Golani Brigade and developed a medical condition, though it did not specify its nature of the.

Admitting that Aleph had deserted and been court-martialed for deserting, the statement also indicated that at least one court-martial acquitted Aleph and ruled that had his IDF commanders acted differently, the whole issue could have been avoided.

Part of how the High Court rules could turn on how Aleph was treated in the IDF; to what extent he claimed a medical condition while still in the IDF; and how much his post-discharge evaluation should change the overall picture.

The Jerusalem Post has learned that the IDF would likely claim that Aleph was given many privileges and leniencies not given to others to try to help him adjust.

However, in this version of events, even if Aleph was on the emotionally sensitive end of the spectrum, it would have been his repeated desertion attempts and other conduct that led to his release for poor conduct.

Legal Assistance head Gilad Semama said he hoped the petition would cause the IDF to change its ways on the ongoing long-term problem.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office reacted saying: “Every case of release from military duty is carefully examined while paying special attention to the soldier and their personal background, as well as respecting them and the value of their service. The petition has been received in recent days; it will be examined and the answer to it will be filed to the High Court of Justice. To the issue itself, the soldier was indeed released from service due to inappropriate behavior and due to privacy issues this subject will not be discussed. In addition, there has been a process set to check medical issues, but the soldier was released prior to conclusion of the procedure. The IDF provides appropriate treatment to all of its soldiers.”

Udi Shaham contributed to this report.

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