TEL AVIV - A military hand-to-hand combat instructor has refused to teach soldiers how to defend themselves against potential violence from Jewish settlers they are slated to evacuate from Gaza this summer.
The incident marks the latest in a growing series of calls to resist Israel's pullout plan, mainly voiced by right-wingers, Ynet learned on Wednesday.
Idan (whose last name cannot be revealed for security reasons,) a corporal in the Givati Brigade who recently won first place in a hand-to-hand combat tournament, told his commanders he would rather be tried in a military court than go through with the exercise.
They then notified him that he would be demoted due to his insubordinance.
“Idan was asked a few days ago to train a large group of soldiers in self-defense, aggressiveness, dominance, dealing with a knife-wielding assailant, things like that,” the soldier’s friends told Ynet. “He was very cautious, and asked to make sure it was not preparation for the withdrawal. The officers calmed him down.”
While he prepared to teach the course, an officer described what he would have to include in his training, giving examples such as dealing with “a settler with a knife” and “evacuating an outpost.”
Idan’s friends said he immediately realized the exercise was for the withdrawal, and said he was “not prepared to train troops against Jews” and that he “was taught to train (to fight) against an enemy only.”
Israel plans to evacuate all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four of 120 in the West Bank. Settlers and right-wingers, who view the land as their biblical birthright, have vowed to resist the pullout, with some threatening to use violence against the soldiers and police expected to evacuate them.
A small number of military and reserve troops have also said they would refuse to take part in the withdrawal.
Idan's father, Yitzhak, said it was conscientiously immoral for a soldier to train troops against other Jews.
“My son has a Jewish soul,” he said. “He is not able to train soldiers (to combat) Jews. I understand him and support him completely. I am against refusing (orders)..but my son is not refusing an order - this is a conscientious problem.”
Idan had said he would be willing to train the soldiers only if they sign documents or notify their commanders that they would not use violence against Jews, and would serve jail time if forced to do so. The army rejected his proposal.
“The officers asked him if he has a lawyer,” a friend of Idan’s said. “Idan told him he has a lawyer and is willing to stand before a military court as he was asked to follow an illegal order.”
A commander told Idan he was to meanwhile return to his regiment and be assigned to mess hall duty.
Sources in Gush Katif, the largest Gaza settlement bloc that has spearheaded a campaign of resistance to the pullout plan, welcomed Idan’s refusal, saying he was one of dozens who were expected to do the same.
“The army doesn’t have the faintest clue what earthquake it faces,” they said.
Army says conscientious objection a cover-up
Souces in the Givati Brigade said Idan had used the excuse of conscientious objection to cover up an attempt to improve the conditions of his army service. They said he used to work as a Kashrut monitor in a military regiment.
“He was a good soldier who asked to express his knowledge of martial arts acquired outside the military,” a senior officer said. “We allowed him to take a self-defense course for weeks, and he completed it successfully and even trained soldiers in an army championship.”
“There is no reason to try him for refusing orders,” he said. “Had that been the case, he would have been tried and would serve his punishment. But he didn’t want his (new) role so he will be returned to his original regiment.”
Givati, he said, had never planned to engage settlers during the pullout and is only expected to reinforce other forces that will evacuate them.