Sexual harassment victim [Illustrative].
(photo credit: INIMAGE)
A rape victims group has condemned an IDF battalion commander under investigation for alleged sexual harassment and indecent acts against two female soldiers.
The officer’s family has denied the suspicions against him.
Lt.-Col. Liran Hajbi, commander of the Givati Brigade’s Tzabar Battalion, was named by the army on Wednesday as the officer under investigation.
“A commander who fought as he should on the battlefield but failed to protect his soldiers is not worthy of maintaining his post,” Orit Sulitzeanu, director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, said on Thursday.
“The numerous incidents of sexual assault in the Givati Brigade that came to light yesterday and during the past two weeks are extremely serious and illustrate a failure along the entire chain of command in the brigade.”
According to the director, sexual abuse reflects a desire to “dominate and humiliate,” and the IDF’s hierarchical system serves as “fertile ground” for abuse, especially when the issue is not addressed properly when first revealed.
“It is in fathomable that our sons and daughters who are sent to the army to defend our security will be at the mercy of harmful officers,” she said.
The “security and safety of IDF soldiers in their units is no less important than on the battlefield facing a threat.”
Sulitzeanu called on the IDF chief of staff to personally intervene and bring to justice all those along the chain of command who were involved.
Hajbi’s family and friends have vehemently maintained his innocence. “He would never do such things in his life. There is no way,” Shmuel Hajbi, the officer’s father, told Channel 2.
“I raised kids who are the salt of the earth and this is someone who sacrificed 18 years of his life. He should be thanked.”
On Wednesday, Media quoted Hajbi as telling those close to him that he had never sexually harassed a soldier. “Everyone will discover the truth,” he said.
Hajbi took a leave of absence on Wednesday. The battalion commander is also suspected of disrupting the course of the investigation, which has also involved other officers in the Givati infantry brigade. The IDF Spokesman’s Office said the investigation is ongoing.