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Army Private Subjected to Anti-Semitic Attacks Brutally Beaten By Soldiers

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Also posted at my website, The Public Record

A U.S. Army soldier was brutally beaten by other soldiers in his platoon earlier this month following two incidents in which a drill sergeants allegedly used anti-Semitic slurs to address the soldier.

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Pvt. Michael Handman, 20, who has just completed his fifth week of basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, was recently released from a hospital where he was treated for a concussion, facial wounds, and severe oral injuries following the attack, according to the boy’s father, Jonathan Handman.

The soldier’s father said he received a disturbing telephone call last week from his son’s commanding officer “to tell me that my son is OK and out of the hospital.”

“Apparently he got his clocked cleaned and beat to the point that he was sent to the hospital by ambulance with a concussion,” Jonathan Handman said in an interview. “He was in bad enough shape that they did a head and neck [CAT] scan.”

Jonathan Handman said his son was lured into a laundry room at the Fort Benning Army base by other soldiers, knocked unconscious and beaten while he lay on the ground.

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Michael Handman enlisted in the Army earlier this year. He wears a yarmulke with his uniform, which apparently led his drill sergeants to refer to him as a “f*cking Jew” and a “kike” and a demand that he remove the yarmulke during dinner, according to his father. The soldier recently wrote a letter to his mother Randi recounting the anti-Semitism he has endured by his drill sergeants and members of his platoon since arriving for basic training at Fort Benning.

“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 sh*t 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.”

A Fort Benning public affairs representative would not comment on the incidents saying the attack and the anti-Semitism are under investigation. Michael Handman’s father said in an interview he fears for his son’s safety and is worried that his son may continue to endure additional beat downs and taunts about his faith by drill sergeants.

“I’m scared he will become a victim of friendly fire.” Jonathan Handman said. “The Army is not doing enough to protect him. They have mentally broken him to the point that he is willing to ruin his life by getting a dishonorable discharge.”

After he was released from the hospital, Pvt. Handman was sent back to the same platoon to face the soldiers who attacked him. He was then moved to a different company within the same platoon. But Jonathan Handman said his son told him the anti-Semitism has continued, according to a conversation he had with his son.

A week ago Jonathan Handman took action and began a fierce letter writing campaign in an effort to get his son some help. He reached out to his state's U.S. senator, Saxby Chambliss, the Republican of Georgia. Chambliss immediately contacted the Pentagon to investigate and, surprisingly, the Department of Defense sent Chambliss a detailed letter last week confirming that Pvt. Handman was the victim of anti-Semitism.

“Based on [Private] Handman’s statement and the seriousness of the allegations, the command immediately initiated a commander’s inquiry,” stated a Sept. 26 letter sent to Chambliss by Samuel Selby Rollinson, the Department of the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff. “Based on the inquiry, the Army found that two [non-commissioned officers] inadvertently violated the Army Regulation concerning the free exercise of religion by requiring the Soldier to remove his yarmulke and by using inappropriate terms when referencing the Jewish faith.

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“While the actions of the NCO’s were not meant to be malicious, and were done out of ignorance for regulations and cultural awareness, this does not excuse their conduct. The command intends to reprimand both NCO’s for their conduct; require them to present formal blocks of instruction on what religious are authorized for wear; and finally, the battalion chaplain will instruct all cadre members on the Army policy concerning religious accommodation.”

The investigation by the Pentagon was limited to the anti-Semitism and did not include an inquiry into the beating.

Prior to receiving a copy of the letter from Chambliss, the elder Handman contacted Mikey Weinstein, the president and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a nonprofit government watchdog group that aims to keep a close eye on the military to ensure its adherence to the law mandating the separation between church and state. Weinstein spent a decade working as a U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate (JAG), was formerly legal counsel in the Reagan White House and was General Counsel to Texas billionaire and two-time Presidential candidate H. Ross Perot.

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of Truthout.org and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, http://www.pubrecord.org. He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
 

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