Religion

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

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.

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.

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 “fucking 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 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.”

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.

“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.

Handman’s allegations that his son was the victim of anti-Semitism and that his son was allegedly beaten because of his Jewish faith resonated immediately with Weinstein.

While attending the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in the 1970s, Weinstein was subjected to a virulent series of anti-Semitic attacks which he describes in gripping detail in his book, With God On Our Side: One Man’s War Against An Evangelical Coup in America’s Military (St. Martins Press, 2006).

Recently, In fact, Weinstein launched MRFF more than three years ago after his sons, Casey and Curtis, also U.S. Air Force Academy graduates, told him they were harassed about their Jewish faith and urged by other cadets and Air Force officials to convert to Christianity. Weinstein’s daughter-in-law, Amanda, likewise an Air Force Academy graduate and a Christian, also experienced wrongful religious pressure from Christian fundamentalist officers at the Academy. Weinstein said his son Curtis, like Michael Handman, was also called “A fucking Jew.”  

Recently, Weinstein’s family was the subject of a much-publicized hate crime attack where, among other things, his house was marked with a swastika and a crucifix.

The Army’s cavalier attitude toward the anti-Semitic attacks on Pvt. Handman, as described in the letter to Chambliss, rubs Weinstein the wrong way.

“The Army’s wretched response to this hate crime is, sadly and typically, to trivialize the entire sordid matter,” Weinstein said in an interview. “Those found to be responsible need to face a criminal trial by general courts martial. The United States Army needs to learn, and learn fast, that persecuting anyone and marginalizing them by asserting that they lack character, integrity, veracity and courage because of their chosen religious faith, or lack thereof, is exactly the same thing as attacking someone and telling them that they’re stupid for the color of their skin. Shame, shame on the United States Army.”

After speaking with Jonathan Handman, Mikey Weinstein contacted Lt. Dan Kim, the company commander at Fort Benning, and demanded to be fully briefed “about a hate crime” involving Pvt. Handman.

Weinstein said Kim told him he had “100 sworn affidavits” denying that Pvt. Handman was the victim of anti-Semitism and even went so far as to insinuate that it was possible that Pvt. Handman may have instigated the attack.

Kim would not return messages left on his cell phone or at his office.

“The moment we were contacted by the father, Jonathan Handman, MRFF did what it always does in these ever more frequent, tragic matters of unbridled, military-sponsored Christian religious oppression; we moved at light speed to ensure the victim’s immediate safety. Next, we demanded that the victim’s chain of command comprehensively and fairly investigate and punish those responsible. As that will only happen “when hell freezes over”, I want the Army to understand that MRFF will now use this entire incident in our just-filed Federal litigation against the Department of Defense.

“Indeed, it will serve as yet another heinous example of the pernicious and pervasive pattern and practice of unconstitutional rape of the religious liberties of our honorable and noble U.S. service members by their military superiors unlawfully using the armed forces chain of command to force one and only one biblical worldview on their otherwise helpless subordinates.”

Weinstein’s MRFF is a co-plaintiff in a Federal civil suit filed last week in the United States District Court of Kansas against Secretary of Defense Robert Gates alleging the U.S. Army has been subjecting soldiers to fundamentalist Christian prayer ceremonies against their will during mandatory military events. He reiterated that he intends to defend Handman’s case vigorously.

This is not the first incident of anti-Semitism that Weinstein’s organization has exposed that has resulted in the Army running for cover.

Weinstein and MRFF exposed a pattern of anti-Semitic Biblical teachings by chaplains at Fort Leavenworth. He also signed on to help defend former Army Chaplain, Rabbi Jeffrey Goldman, a Toronto native, who was taunted by senior military officers at a prayer breakfast one morning in May 2001 as his chaplain colleagues had placed Nazi uniforms and swastikas on the wall of the officers’ club at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Handman and his wife, Randi, continue to worry about their son’s well being.

“I feel like this was written from the movie “A Few Good Men” and we all know the outcome there,” Handman said, referring to the 1992 Tom Cruise blockbuster about Marines accused of murdering a colleague. “That is what terrifies me. I do not want to bury my only son.”

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10 Responses for “Army Private Subjected to Anti-Semitic Attacks Brutally Beaten By Soldiers”

  1. Boruch Nissim says:

    BS”D
    Looks like the U.S. Army isn’t American.
    ‘One nation, under G-d, with liberty and justice for all.’
    Isn’t this the basic credo of the ‘Good Ole U.S.?’
    Kick out these anti-American soldiers…they don’t belong here. I’m
    sure the good ‘founding fathers and mothers’ will help us.
    Also, the Xristians supposedly believe in ‘Love your
    neighbor, no?’
    NO!
    Liars and wicked low lives. Arrogant and
    selfish.
    Perhaps their just punishment will come in Afghanistan, etc.
    ’10 American Soldiers Gunned Down by Taliban Rebels.’
    The G-d of the World doesn’t slumber or sleep.
    Quick, send these vicious hate mongers and murderers to the mid-east.
    NOW!

  2. brothers says:

    you are a fucking peace of shit, and to shoot yourself in the balls or ovaries. you talk about being american and you say you want them sent to their death, were u there to see how he was treated and what was done… he isnt dead he is breathing shit happens we all take risks, no one should be killed becuase of their actions, but judge by the one who created us…. or kept from causing more harm, we are only human and we have no right to condemn or wish evil upon others lives

  3. Will says:

    I remember when I took the oath during enlistment to support the Constitution and fight all enemies foreign and domestic. those original colonists wanted freedom of religion just so long as it was the narrow minded, ultra conservative and controlling faith of the church that they themselves favored. original thinkers need not apply. the military takes young men and women, most of whom this the first time on their own, and transform them into soldiers and then, by turning a blind eye, allow bigoted christains to teach hate and intolerance. a set of self fulfilling events follow . Islamics call us the devil. set off IUD’s that kill indiscriminately and then are used by christains to justify their reasons for hate.

  4. Will says:

    The NCO’s control the armed service not the officers. a small group of officers working through reactionary hard case NCOs are finding the cracks and exploiting them. the sadly funny thing is that as much as the so called good christains rail against the beliefs of jihadists and their headlong retreat to the 6th century. the beliefs they follow don’t want women working outside the home, no education for girls and their rule has males are law. that sound familiar. (Hint Taliban) this country was made great by diverse peoples and cultural. the tolerate majority will win.

  5. peter pruitt says:

    When, at the age of seventeen, I enlisted in the air force during the mid-fifties I received basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. After two or three days had passed I was called into our TI’s (ie. TI = Tactical Instructor = cadre) room and told that I was now the ‘Flight Commander.’ It was quite an honor I thought. I was very proud as I marched in the first rank of my flight’s formation, carrying the flight’s clip-board upon which was entered the day’s training schedule. It was quite enough to turn the head of a bright and impressionable teen-ager.

    The following Sunday my flight marched to religious orientation where a minister told several hundred of us: “Some of you are Catholic, and some of you are Protestants, but we are all Christians. That is the main thing.” It wasn’t quite the ‘main thing’ for me though because I wasn’t Christian, I was Jewish. I informed the minister of this slight discrepancy and he was visibly shaken; “Are you sure?” he asked. I told him that I was quite sure and he had me accompany him to his car. We drove to the Protestant chapel where he put in a phone call to the base Jewish chaplain. “I’ve got one of yours over here.” he said laughingly into the phone. While we waited for the rabbi to arrive the minister made small talk: “How come you’re an enlisted man?” he wanted to know. “Most of the Jewish personnel I see are aviation cadets, or in OCS. We don’t see many Jewish enlisted personnel.” I didn’t know how to reply.

    The following Friday, when the TI spoke to me about the upcoming Saturday schedule of training events, I dutifully entered what he said onto the clipboard and then informed him that I would be attending religious services on Saturday morning…
    “What kinda religious services is that?” he wanted to know.
    “Jewish services, sir,” I replied.
    He cocked his head to one side and stared hard at me for a couple of moments. “You a Jew Pruitt?” he asked.

    On Saturday, when I returned from Sabbath service, the TI called me over along with a boy named Jordan.
    “Pruitt,” he said, “give that clipboard to Jordan! Jordan you’re the new flight commander! Pruitt, you go sit down on your foot-locker!” I couldn’t believe what was happening. I sat there feeling pretty damned miserable. Jordan peered at me sympathetically, but without any trace of surprise.

    A few days later our flight marched over to an administration building where we waited as our ‘dog tags’ were stamped out and issued to us. When I received mine they had the letter ‘P’ stamped on each of them in the place where one’s religion was to go. If you got killed people from graves registration were supposed to be able to put the right kind of monument over your grave. My dog tags were supposed to have been stamped withe the letter ‘J.’ I told this to the sergeant who was in charge of the procedure. He was an older, grizzled Master Sergeant with what seemed to me a fatherly face.
    “Listen son,” he kindly said to me, “you don’t have to do this… Just leave it the way it is.”
    As I look back now, from a distance of many years, it seems to me that the older sergeant might, secretly, have been Jewish himself, or he might have been one of those who witnessed the insides of some of Hitler’s extermination camps during the war. I wasn’t mature enough, or smart enough, to take his advice. I had been brought up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood, immersed in the center of Irish Catholic friendships whose warmth still exists, even now, and no’one had ever given me to believe that being Jewish was a liability. I was beginning to learn the truth though, with quite a bit of shock and disappointment.

    After about thirty days we were given our first ‘pass’ to go off-base into the city of San Antonio. I went with a couple of friends and we visited the Alamo and a few other ‘touristy’ places. By late afternoon we were ready to return to the base and boarded an air force bus which hauled us back to nearby our barracks.

    [If any would like to hear the rest of my story please contact me and I will complete this account of a four year encounter with beatings, harrassments, final exile to northern Greenland and further persecutions, even there in Greenland.

  6. Josh Murphy says:

    I was there during this whole this. I was one of TWO people in the laundry room. nobody “lured” him he walkin on his own free will and another private walked in behind him and he started beating him up. NOT BECAUSE OF HIS RELIGION OR ETHNIC BACKGROUND! He beat him up because he was a piece of crap in the platoon and got us “smoked” all the time, which caused all of us to do pushups and situps all day long until we puked because of something he did wrong. it had NOTHING to do with his religion or anything. And the nicest drill sarge in the whole company did not say anything negative towards him no slang terms or anything. This soldier was of piece of crap to his peers and disrespected authority in every way. he wore his little yaumulke all the time to try and get extra in the chow line. He was a piece of shit soldier and i hope he isnt in the service today. i had to SWEAR in on my testimony among a military court and i am telling the truth now as i told the truth then.

  7. Eric says:

    Hey Josh,

    I guess you didn’t read this guy’s account too well. HE WAS IN THE AIR FORCE. They don’t have “PLATOONS,” or “DRILL SERGEANTS>: They hae “FLIGHTS” and “TI’s.”

    Carry on with your bullying though.

  8. Josh Murphy says:

    He was in the army. It happened at the 1/50th battalion Fox Co. on sand hill in Fort Benning Georgia. Why would this whole article say “army” all over it? if you claim he was in the air force? Carry on with my bullying? i had to babysit that guy at night to prevent further beatings so if i wanted to bully him i would have done it at night while everyone was asleep. You were not there you have no clue what your talking about. None of you do.

  9. Avi says:

    Josh Murphy: so your buddies became judge, jury and executioner. I have a feeling you are the piece of s–t. My dad was drafted in 1942. He came to the U.S. as a young boy and now at the age of 22 was serving his country. A redneck from down south didn’t like this NY Jew so he harassed him until my dad couldn’t take it anymore. He invited this bigot to take off his stripes and meet him behind the barracks, which he gladly did. When my dad got finished with him, his own mother wouldn’t recognize him. If this soldier was causing all these problems, the other guys could have gone to the authorities to complain about him. When I was in the Army myself, one guy harassed me, one day yelling out the window of the barracks f—-ing Jew at me while I was outside. He never put his hand on me so I just ignored it. I didn’t think any of us guys serving our country should be fighting each other when we had real enemies to contend with.

  10. RabRebik says:

    This brings back memories. I was in Fort Benning myself about 3 months ago. The antisemitism was atrocious. I was subject to Holocaust jokes, I was humiliated for wearing a yarmulke. When I talked to the 1SGT about a DS, the other DS took me to the bathroom and made me brush my teeth until I pulled all the stitches out of my dental surgery. I was then put on suicide watch for no reason at all and told I couldn’t ship to Basic. I spent 3 f—— months in a constant prison-like barracks and I had everything from names, to fights, to people drawing swastikas on my shit… The army is a big lie. And the way they treat Jews and Muslims is complete manure. If I ever get a chance to throw those assholes, I will jump on it.

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