Monday, October 27, 2008

An Army Antisemitic Coverup?

For some reason, I didn't see mention of the story of Michael Handman on any of the popular Jewish blogs, including the very politically-aware DovBear. In case you haven't heard about it, in September Army trainee Handman was severely beaten by one or more soldiers and subsequently hospitalized. Handman - who wears a yarmulke with his uniform - claims that the attack was anti-Semitic in nature. He says that his drill sergeants referred to him as a "fucking Jew" and a "kike" and demanded that he remove the yarmulke during dinner.

"I have just never been so discriminated against/humiliated about my religion," Michael Handman wrote his mother. "I just feel like I'm always looking over my shoulder. Like my battle buddy heard some of the guys in my platoon talking about how they wanted to beat the shit out of me tonight when I'm sleeping. It just sucks. And the only justification they have is [because] I'm Jewish. Maybe your dad was right...The Army is not the place for a Jew."

Has justice finally been served or is there a coverup to hide anti-Semitism at Fort Benning? Earlier this month, punishment was meted out to an Army trainee who attacked Handman. But the punishment in nonjudicial punishment rather than criminal and has the result of keeping many details of the attack secret. This article continues:

"Four days before the attack, Handman was interviewed by commanders of his basic training unit about complaints he'd made in letters to his parents that he had been harassed by two drill sergeants because he's Jewish.

The Army later acknowledged one drill sergeant had ordered Handman to remove his yarmulke, which he wore with his uniform, as he ate in a dining hall. Another drill sergeant had called him "Juden" — the German word for Jews.

[Fort Benning spokeswoman Monica] Manganaro said military police concluded the attack on Handman wasn't motivated by religious bigotry, but she would give no other details."

Note that the maximum allowable punishment is a 45 day restriction where the offender is unable to leave his unit buildings, plus 45 days of extra duty, plus a reduction in grade and forfeiture of pay. Lest people think that this is a mere slap on the wrist, it should be noted in fairness that a first time battery conviction in Georgia is only a misdemeanor which carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail and a fine up to $1000. However, Fort Benning officials would not say what punishment Handman's attacker received.

So is there a coverup of endemic Antisemitism at Fort Benning, or is this just an example of a few lowlifes? mentioned the original story in brief (although I haven't found a followup article there) and it elicited numerous reader comments, left almost exclusively by military personnel. There was zero evidence of Antisemitism in the posts with a large number of people objecting to such sentiments and quoting regulations that allow one to wear a head-covering in the military, however many people did feel it best to keep one's religion to oneself. I found it appalling that some people actually made an excuse for the beating, claiming that Handman must have been a "F.U." or just missed "mommy and daddy". Are these assholes really suggesting that a severe beating is deserved in some cases?? Do they really believe that such sentiments reflect well on the military?

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