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In the wake of revelations that hazing induction rituals were still alive and kicking - literally - in IDF combat units, Kadima MK and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nahman Shai said over the weekend that he would demand an external investigation and a Knesset hearing on the phenomenon.
Shai, a former IDF spokesman, said he would call for a discussion on the plenum floor that would focus on abuse of new inductees. He noted that his initiative had met with a wide base of support in the Knesset, and there was a strong likelihood that the discussion would be slipped into the schedule this week.
Shai also said he believed that the IDF had proven through its actions that it did not take the phenomenon seriously enough, and that internal investigations had not created enough of a deterrent.
"Two things horrify me - first, the actions themselves, and second that this still exists in the IDF in 2009," Shai told The Jerusalem Post Sunday.
"The IDF should have passed along the [doctrine] that there is no more abuse of soldiers. I see it as a failure that they could not uproot this phenomenon and stop it. It cannot be that in 2009, commanders abuse soldiers and hurt them physically and mentally."
He added that he opposed a solution in which "the IDF will simply investigate itself. It may probe, but ultimately, all of the allegations and findings still stay 'within the family' - as proven by the fact that the IDF didn't go public with any of this. It was brave soldiers and their brave families who finally chose to speak out."
Shai said he had no doubt that the phenomenon of violent and degrading initiation rites was still common in the IDF, although it was supposed to have been disallowed decades ago. Shai added that the IDF had learned over the years that "although it is put forward as 'being manly,' it is in fact damaging to the soldiers."
"I want there to be a transparent and public investigation, with the findings revealed to the public," he continued. "Because the IDF isn't a private army, but the public's army - the soldiers' army, the parents' army and the nation's army."
According to the report that first appeared on the Ynet Web site over the weekend, some 20 new recruits in the Armored Corps Brigade 188 were severely beaten as part of a unit tradition to welcome new soldiers. The report, which is under IDF investigation, said the beatings had been carried out with the knowledge of unit commanders.
The company commander was expelled from the IDF, and the commanders who beat the soldiers were sentenced to jail terms. The soldiers were beaten on their backs.
The IDF said that it was taking steps to forbid such "traditions" and would hold commanders responsible if soldiers were beaten.
The army added that the deputy brigade commander had set up a team to investigate the incident and set new norms for the future.
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