The five remaining soldiers from the Golani Brigade's 13th Battalion who last week politicized a course graduation ceremony by taking off their uniform shirts and sporting T-shirts reading "Golani fights enemies, it doesn't expel Jews," were tried Sunday for conduct unbecoming and sentenced to 10-18 days in detention.
Four of the soldiers were tried
on Friday, each receiving a detention sentence for conduct unbecoming. During their trial a few of the soldiers claimed that they didn't even realize they were involved in a political protest. According to the soldiers, the family of one of the soldiers – residents of the Alon Shvut settlement in Gush Etzion, is behind the provocation.
They told the court that the family along with members of the extremist group "Homesh First" organized the distribution of the T-shirts and even brought a photographer to record the event. The soldiers received the photos when the course graduation ceremony was over.
The T-shirts (Photo: Shomron Settlements Council)
Some of the graduates claimed that they were asked to line up for a picture to send to the person responsible for paying for the shirts. But when they were lined up, the photographer chose to take the picture from the back – without their knowledge.
"There is a cynical and cowardly factor at work, who took advantage of these soldiers and hurt them in order to serve a contemptible cause," a source within the Golani Brigade said.
Brigade Commander Colonel Ofek Buchris, who tried the soldiers, said that he expected Golani combat soldiers to take responsibility for their actions, and when they wear shirts – to know what is written on them.
Sources within the brigade said that this wasn't being seen as an attempt to instigate mutiny or refuse an order; otherwise the soldiers would have been incarcerated for 56 days.
One senior brigade official said that he found it hard to believe that the soldiers weren't aware of what they were doing and that their actions stemmed from stupidity. IDF sources said that they believed that if the soldiers were to submit a request for a pardon it would be examined with favour.
Yair Ben-David, a member of the family that allegedly gave out the shirts, announced his intention to protest against the soldiers' sentences in front of the Golani Brigade commander's home. "They didn't protest at the ceremony, they put the shirts on after it was over," he said.
The IDF Spokesman said in response that "this was a serious incident that goes against IDF directives, which clearly an unequivocally state that soldiers in uniform are not allowed to express political opinions or take part in political protests. The IDF expects its soldiers to demonstrate a modicum of awareness and responsibility for their actions."
The Shomron Settlers' Committee said in response: "This was the soldiers' private initiative. The distribution of the pictures was done at their request and we did so happily.
"The attempt to present the Golani combat soldiers as mindless is insulting to the soldiers and if the IDF believes the soldiers didn't realize the meaning behind their actions then why were they sentenced to incarceration?"
Akiva Novik contributed to the report