Photo: Ata Awisat
David Zonshein
Photo: Ata Awisat

Occupation dragging down IDF morals

Is our army as ethical as we think?

In January, 1943 hundreds of thousands of people died in the desperate battle for Stalingrad. On both sides there were a significant number of "self-assassinations" – commanders and officers refused to allow soldiers to retreat, and shot those who tried "as befitting traitors and defectors."


Now, for those who have forgotten their history lessons, we've got an IDF commander from the elite Duvdevan unit who says the same thing could have happened to his soldiers who refused to take part in a military operation due to trauma suffered in a previous maneuver.


"In other armies they would already have been shot in the back," says Brig.

Gen. A. And as if that wasn't enough, another company commander added, "You're not a group of 'pussies.' You can't kill Arabs and then cry about it."


Jewish ethics


This story brings to the fore two sacred cows, and we've got Duvdevan officers offering to kill two birds with one stone: The first scared cow is related to the IDF's image, as it is seen in the general community overall and specifically amongst combat soldiers.


As soldiers, we were taught that our army is especially ethical, different that other armies. An army whose soldiers were more important than anything.


True, the Duvdevan officer was speaking about things that happen in other armies, but it might be worth a whisper in the ears of Brig. Gen. A: There is no western army in the world that would shoot soldiers who refused to take part in battle, for any reason.


More than that, Jewish tradition provides special consideration for people who feel they cannot fight: "Who is the man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, and let him not melt the heart of his fellows, like his heart" (Deut. 20:8).


The second sacred cow to go, and whose destruction is particularly important following the Gaza disengagement – also relates to the supposed higher morals of the IDF.


For years the IDF has existed in the light of tales from combat soldiers following the Yom Kippur and Six Day wars. The idea of "shoot and cry" was engraved on many hearts, as expressed in one such tale.


"Our strength lies in the fact that we, like everyone, carry out brutal acts of war. But when we return to camp at night – we cry over the brutality we carried out in the morning," said one combat veteran.


Routine killing?


But here we have an officer rebuking his soldiers: There is no way you can kill Arabs by day and cry about it by night. As if killing – especially the killing of Arabs – is ordinary, routine.


Once upon a time, it was important to us to at least appear to grapple with difficult moral issues. Apparently, today it is somewhat less important.


Especially now, when the public is voting with its feet against our control of the occupied territories, which are considered a tremendous burden by Israeli society, and the public is voting for a social public agenda – it is crucial to consider the difficult moral problem the IDF has been dealing with throughout the long years of occupation, and to fix it immediately.


The fight in the territories today is no longer a struggle between a relatively small power fighting a huge, merciless enemy, as it was in Stalingrad.


And we must tell Brig. Gen. A: You are confused. Your soldiers, fresh from combat action in Kabatia and not wanting to take part in any more assassinations – are not traitors to be shot in the back. Quite the opposite.


And as long as we continue to fight this war, our moral level will continue to degenerate, as will the standards of language used by IDF officers


David Zonshein is a first lieutenant in the IDF reserves and one of the heads of the "Courage to Refuse" movement

פרסום ראשון: 12.08.05, 12:09
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