Monday, October 26, 2009

The People's Army

Haveil Havalim is here 

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the Israel Defense Force
 צבא הגנה לישראל צה"ל 
was known as the great equalizer. Everyone, or almost everyone, was conscripted and the experience of living together, fighting together and possibly dying together made comrades out of an unlikely collection of immigrants and natives alike. Everyone knew who the enemy was and the purpose of the army was to fight the enemy and protect the country. Tzahal (IDF) was called 'the people's army' because aside for almost universal conscription, soldiers were also called up for reserve duty yearly (many times even more frequently) until they were well into middle age. 
The summer of 2005 brought a major change in the concept of the IDF. Instead of fighting a common enemy, Arik Sharon and his government used the IDF turn Jewish citizens out of their Gush Katif and the Shomron. A democratic country has the right to enforce laws but the body which is charged with enforcing those laws are the police. Members of the police force choose their career and can resign for personal or professional reasons. Not so, the conscripted soldier. Many soldiers serving during the disengagement were put in an intolerable position. There was talk of refusing to carry out orders and a few incidents where this happened. 
Apart from strongly opposing the disengagement itself I believe that this cynical and sinister use of the army is anti-democratic and harmful to our society. There has been a lot of talk lately of regrets and apologies and attempts to 'make it up' to the people displaced by the disengagement. Along with that we should do ourselves a favor and make sure that our soldiers never have to face the decision of whether to follow an order to turn a Jew out of his home. This should be a major issue brought before the Knesset and legally prohibited. 

Last Thursday night two soldiers registered their opposition to the IDF's continued use of soldiers in carrying out government policy against Jewish revenants (settlers who return to their homes) in Chomesh in the Shomron. I agree with their sentiments wholeheartedly but I believe that the army can not be used as a forum for political ideology. I do not want the security of our country to depend upon the willingness of individual soldiers to carry out orders. It just can't work that way. Those soldiers will have to face the consequences of their actions. 
The rest of us will have to sort this out and fast. Now is the time to demand of our democratic system to take this debate out of the military once and for all before it leads to further deterioration of the consensus. 


Frugal Dougal said...

Previously I only knew what I'd seen in the news about this. That's a very powerful post - thank you.

Anonymous said...

well said

Anonymous said...

While I know it was a hard thing for you to watch, the removal of the settlers from Gaza, I have to tell you that from the point of view here in the US, it showed us just what we thought the IDF was-honor,and duty. Moreover, my oldest son, watched revited to see the events taking place. He was confused however,about Jew fighting Jew. Yet, I think for a child of the diaspora it was a defining moment beyond any hebrew textbook or rabbi's sermon. It showed him Jewish strength (both the settlers and the army), plus the force and march of democracy in Israel. But most of all, I think the scene that stood out to me was after the soldiers removed the rabbi and the torah from the synagogue was the fact that together they all, settler, rabbi and soldiers prayed. Next time however,(for we know there will eventually be a next time) it had really better be worth it. If not how do you explain to a child the value of Jew fighting Jew?

Risa Tzohar said...

The bottom line is that Jew didn't fight Jew. This happened because the idealistic Jewish settlers refused to fight their brothers. The IDF had 30 days of psychological training camp where they prepared the soldiers participating in the 'removal' for both violent and non-violent resistance.

While in some places soldiers and settlers prayed together in many other places they dragged crying children from their homes.

Just about everyone agreed that this was not one of the great moments in the Zionist narrative and I don't think there will be a next time. If anything we can conclude that this exercise in futility brought more bloodshed than it prevented and alienated some of the most loyal of Israel's citizens.

Anonymous said...

I was actually trying to say something complimentary about the army and how the event played out to the Jews of the Diaspora. I did not mean for you to feel attacked and I should tell you I do feel slightly attacked by your response. The reality is what I saw ,I saw on television. I do not watch any news show that is anti-Israel but we watch loyally Fox News. The crying children you speak of were in a place with their parents that their parents knew they had to evacuate. The parents, not the army, put those children into the situation. I would also like to add that even in America the government has a right to confiscate your home if its for the greater good of the community it is called eminent domain. And yes there were settlers (I believe they later turned out to be bused in yeshiva students-one of them was the son of a friend of mine)who the television showed had barracaded themselves into the same synagogue that I had referenced earlier and were throwing items, albiet not life threatening items, at the riot police who came to take them out. So yes it did appear to be Jew fighting Jew. You need to remember also that the extent of fighting in our world is police squaring off against protesters, it is not the word of battle that you live with. So from the point of an American child it was Jew fighting Jew. I would also say that any soldier who would have to go through what those young soldiers did in Gaza of course would need psychological couseling. Not just in how to deal with the situation if violence erupted but for the psychological stress that the entire situation caused them. I cannot see how this could have been good for the boys and girls in the IDF. one thing that wa also shown on tv were crying soldiers as well.

I do have to agree with you that the withdrawal from Gaza was an abysmal failure full of horrible bloodshed and unfortunately I do not think it is over. It's what was warned when Sharon decided to withdraw. I cannot stop to think however, if he had not become incapacitated how the entire situation may have evolved differently. I do not know what will happen with your home in the future. All I can say is I hope that Israel thinks long and hard about the consequences and finds a solution that does not cost it so dearly next time. For there will be a next time that Israel will have to choose and its not because of outside pressure but because its who Israel is, always looking for the right way.

Batya said...

That ceremony wasn't the best way of protesting, but we can't be a country and army which blindly obeys orders. There's a dangerously fine line.

Lady-Light said...

How do you find a solution to this? What happens if there is another order for hitnatkut of other 'settlers,' what then?
(Also, what is your email address, Risa? You may email me.)

Risa Tzohar said...

I think it should be defined by law that the army can not be used to enforce a law against civilians (who are not security risks). That's what police are for.

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