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Monday, August 06, 2007

Update and comment on mutiny in the IDF

There are reactions from the political sphere to what I have termed a 'mutiny' in the IDF. I'd also like to give you my own reaction to what is happening.

Some thirty soldiers from the elite Duchifat unit of the IDF have refused to board the buses that are to take them to Hebron to put them in position for tomorrow's activity. No indication is given how many soldiers are to be involved in total (the total security forces personnel to be involved is 3000, but not all of them are IDF soldiers). To clarify, the actual expulsion is to be carried out by the police's Yassam (special operations) unit and by the border police, a quasi-military unit which is largely Bedouin. These are the same units that were principally involved in the pogrom at Amona. The IDF elite units are meant to provide backup by manning military checkpoints and roadblocks that would normally be manned by the border police units. But their rabbis have told them that they cannot do anything that will even indirectly assist the expulsion.
The Duchifat unit is a special counter-terrorism battalion in the Kfir Brigade of the IDF Central Command infantry division. The Kfir Brigade is the largest such unit in the IDF, and includes Netach Yehuda and Nachal Hareidi forces. Duchifat soldiers specialize in urban combat and usually operate in the Ramallah area, with the responsibility for the protection of Jewish communities which include Beit El, Ofra and others.

A number of the soldiers who refused to get on the bus are students of Rabbi Chaim Druckman, who is guiding them through the process.
The soldiers are receiving strong support in their action from their parents. If I heard the radio correctly, these are 18-year old kids. The radio report referred to them as 'tironim,' which would mean that they are in their first three months of army service. They have not even earned their first uniform stripes.
One unidentified father of one of the elite Duchifat unit soldiers who balked at carrying out the order stated “the soldiers are standing with determination in their refusal to participate in any part of the expulsion of Jewish families from Hevron.” Another father, Moshe Rosenfeld, said in an interview on Army Radio “My son didn’t join the army to expel Jews, but to defend them. Furthermore, this is not an operation for the army, but for the police.”
Here are some political reactions:
NRP / NU Knesset member Tzvi Hendel [who was expelled from his Gaza home two years ago. CiJ] stated flatly in another broadcast interview, “There is no limit to the stupidity of the government…. Just as a soldier must think before shooting at an Arab, so too should one should think here as well. I understand a soldier who says that he is unable to carry out this order,” he added.

“I am not talking about refusal. It’s not enough to simply say that you’re following orders. We are not a dictatorship….We are not talking about soldiers refusing to fight in a war, but in soldiers refusing to carry out a political operation, which is not the mission of the IDF.”

Peace Now Secretary Yariv Oppenheimer asserted, "The extreme right is trying to turn the army into a political game. The IDF should not lend a hand to these attempts." The extreme left-wing activist insisted that soldiers who refuse to follow orders to expel the two families from their homes should be arrested and face a court trial. [If anything, it is the left that has politicized the army by using it to expel Jews from their homes. The IDF's job is to protect Jews, not to fight against them. CiJ]

A spokesman for the Rabbinical Council of Judea and Samaria commented, “The army shouldn’t be drafting children of Judea and Samaria to throw their families out of their homes.” There were a number of such instances during the 2005 Disengagement operation, when more than 8,000 Jews were expelled from 25 vibrant communities in the Gush Katif region of Gaza, and northern Samaria. [And after that, it was supposedly decided that the IDF would not be involved in any more efforts to expel Jews from their homes. CiJ]

Meretz Knesset member Avshalom Vilan said that refusing IDF orders not the purview of the soldiers and officers. “They are meant to carry them out,” he stated.


Four coalition Knesset members, three opposition Knesset members and two ministers signed a letter sent to Defense Minister Ehud Barak last week urging him to reconsider the order. "The residents in Hevron prevented a clash such as that in Amona when they removed themselves from their homes based on promises that they would be able to return," read the letter in part. "This approach must be encouraged, not put down."
I'm going to tell you all that (probably not surprisingly to many of you), I agree with the soldiers involved. I should preface this by saying that I have no military experience. I was never drafted in the US; my year was the last of its era in which we even had to register for the draft. When I made aliya (immigrated to Israel), I was in my 30's and it was the height of the Russian aliya, so I was never drafted.

But having said that, some of the basics of how the IDF works are clear to all of us. One concept the IDF drills into its charges is that orders can be 'prima facie illegal' (bilti chuki ba'alil in Hebrew). The idea is that in the army of the Jewish people, who were murdered by Nazis YMS"H (may God obliterate their memory) who were 'just following orders,' there is no concept of 'just following orders.' If you believe an order is prima facie illegal, you have a duty to disobey it. As MK Tzvi Hendel points out, if a soldier is ordered to shoot an Arab, he has a duty to decide whether that order is legal. The same is true here.

There is no apparent reason for expelling these two families (who include fourteen children between them) from their homes, especially after the government reneged on an agreement that avoided hostilities with them a year and a half ago. The order to expel them came from an egomaniacal, cowardly leftist politician who is seeking a confrontation with 'the settlers' (a term that is enough in and of itself to bring many Israelis' blood to boil) to show them that he is the 'boss'. The soldiers are not on a battlefield. They are refusing to enter one on which they will be forced to battle with their brothers. I believe the soldiers are right to refuse the order. If they are expelled from the army as a result, so be it.

There has been a lot in the news lately (which I have ignored because it's largely a domestic issue) about the percentage of Israeli Jewish males who are avoiding the draft into the army. It is somewhere on the order of 25%. If this is how the army treats its elite soldiers in religious units, look for that percentage to increase even more. If the left is so convinced this is what needs to be done, let it come out and fight in the IDF instead of hiding in the 'intelligence' unit and leaving the real fighting to children of revenants.

Update 4:54 PM

The IDF now says that it is going to put twelve soldiers, including two squad commanders, on 'trial' for this incident. The trial's result is a foregone conclusion. The army says that it will kick them out of combat units. Big deal.

I know someone (who had been named an outstanding soldier - chayal mitztayein in Hebrew) who was expelled from his combat unit for refusing to participate in the expulsion from Gaza. He was given a 'desk job' sitting in front of a computer doing nothing. So he sat and studied Talmud all day long. Doesn't sound like much of a punishment. And makes you wonder whether the IDF truly needs all the people it drafts in the first place.


At 4:27 PM, Blogger Michael said...

If the left is so convinced this is what needs to be done, let it come out and fight in the IDF

You mean have lefties pick up guns? What a shocking idea!

I hear you about missing out on IDF service. I also was in my 30's (and with kids, and a chronic health issue) when I arrived, and the Army wouldn't touch me. It was a bit of a bummer.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Weren't the Jewish police of the ghettos largely secular?
As more and more seculars lose their already enuous Jewish identity , become yordim or refuse to serve, the only Israelis willing to die for the state are the National religious. Yet its these policies that will disenfranchise them also.


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