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Courage to Refuse > Press > What makes the IDF unique-By Ze'ev Schiff
What makes the IDF unique-By Ze'ev Schiff 08/03/2004
 
 

Things used to be otherwise. The IDF used to have the uniqueness of an army that helped in the building of a nation, in the absorption of mass immigration, in the creation of a national melting pot and in the advancement of many young people. In this respect this was a glorious army that was probably unparalleled in the 20th century or ever. And so it was until the national consensus was broken because of our control of another people.

 

If we compare the Israel Defense Forces today to the armies of other Western democracies, we will find that it is perhaps the only army that is holding occupied territories and has for decades been controlling another people that is living in them. It is not doing this out of choice. It has found itself in a bear hug without the ability to release itself on its own. The IDF is a disciplined army that is under democratic civilian authority and at this time, this democracy, even if it wanted to, cannot free itself of the control over another people.

 

 

 

 

This, more than anything else, is what makes the IDF unique today. This is a negative distinction that the world is witnessing. It is inconceivable that this is not affecting the IDF and that it will not ultimately erode its morality. The Americans, and the other forces that are aiding them in Iraq, have also defined themselves as an army of occupation, but they repeatedly stress that this is to last for only a relatively short time. The IDF has had this reality forced upon it for decades and there are no real signs of a substantial change in the foreseeable future.

 

Everything that has been said here is not even hinted at in the slightest in the detailed government platform, entitled "The Mission and Uniqueness of the IDF, Israeli-Jewish Identity." This is an issue of utmost importance that came up for a special discussion of a General Staff forum headed by the chief of staff. The importance of this meeting can also be seen in the fact that it was convened in the National Institutions building of the Jewish Agency and the chairman of the Jewish Agency, Sallai Meridor, was invited. The meeting was preceded by a lengthy process that went on for about a year. The first draft of the platform for discussion was prepared by the National Security Council at the Prime Minister's Office and was distributed back in December, 2002. After that, a great deal of time was devoted to preparatory discussions and the baton was passed to the headquarters of the Chief Education and Youth Officer in the IDF. That is, it passed from the hands of the National Security Council into the hands of the IDF.

 

It turns out that only few changes have been introduced into the first platform, even though during this period events have happened that cannot be ignored. Even Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has spoken about "Israeli occupation." Since then we have witnessed two waves of refusal to serve in the IDF. The IDF command overcame these waves of refusal mainly because some of the objectors engaged in group political demonstrations. However, it was clear that beneath the surface, a difficult problem has been developing.

 

It is not surprising that those who are ignoring the problems of controlling another people in the platform of "Mission and Uniqueness" find themselves avoiding the question of refusal to serve in the territories. This is not a question of forgetting or of intellectual inability. The evidence for this is that the writers of the platform were indeed prepared to discuss issues like the service of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the IDF and the sensitive subject of IDF soldiers from minority groups and other religions who have linked themselves to the Jewish people. However, it is not possible to argue that the control of another people, refusal to serve and the occupation are political issues from which the IDF wants to keep its distance. It must speak out loud and clear, certainly when it comes to the moral fortitude that has always been so important to the IDF. What has happened here is an evasion - ostrich-like behavior. And precisely because this is about an army that has a Jewish, democratic identity, it must not be ignored.

 

Things used to be otherwise. The IDF used to have the uniqueness of an army that helped in the building of a nation, in the absorption of mass immigration, in the creation of a national melting pot and in the advancement of many young people. In this respect this was a glorious army that was probably unparalleled in the 20th century or ever. And so it was until the national consensus was broken because of our control of another people. 

 

Link to the article: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/401416.html


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