IDF recruits protest settlement evacuation
Military oath taking ceremony turns into a political demonstration when several soldiers, their family members raise signs reading, 'We won't evacuate Homesh.' Following incident, army reconsidering troops' service in Kfir Brigade. Extreme rightist group says will reward troops with thousands of shekels
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said in response, "This is a significant, unusual and shameful incident, which will be dealt with. Kfir Brigade Commander Colonel Oren Abman will even reconsider their service in the brigade."
The embarrassing incident took place at the height of the swearing-in ceremony, which was attended by commanders, family members and other guests. Several cadets from the Shimshon Battalion raised signs reading, "We won't evacuate Homesh." Some of their relatives joined them by raising similar signs.
The mother of one of the soldiers said, "We are not settlers, but we are proud of our children and of the fact that they are not robots. They were drafted to the army for military service in order to fight the enemy, not Jews."
A brother of one of the recruits who raised the signs told Ynet, "They took the risk, and they knew which risk they were taking. My brother fought to be a combat soldier. Ideology is what brought him to the army to fight the enemy, not our Jewish brothers."
According to the brother, "There has been unrest in the Shimshon Battalion for a long time. The recruits also know that they are going to fall into a 'crappy' situation. There are no blocks, almost no arrests, and they are going to 'fight' against settlers."
The brother said the soldiers "have been preparing for this for quiet a while. They knew this could ruin their service. When the brigade commander spoke, they raised signs and so did we, and the officers were pretty shocked. We are very proud of them. We are not political people. I served in combat service, and was luckily released before the disengagement. It was what they believe in."
Signs raised in middle of ceremony (Photo: Miri Tzach, courtesy of Homesh First)
The SOS Israel extreme right-wing organization, led by Rabbi Dov Wolpe, announced Friday morning that it would reward the protesting soldiers with thousands of shekels.
"They gave a lesson in democracy and their conduct was exemplary in their legitimate protest," Rabbi Wolpe told Ynet. "The soldiers who acted this way are working to remove the IDF from disagreements which are tearing the army and causing a rift among the people. The IDF's role is to unite the people, not tear it apart."
This is not the first time that SOS Israel grants financial rewards to soldiers who have refused to evacuate settlers, both during the pullout from Gaza and during the evacuation of illegal outposts.
The Yesha Council leader, however, condemned the soldiers' actions. "Because I think the IDF should not be involved in the evacuation of outposts," Pinchas Wallerstein said, "I think that no element of factionalism must be brought into the army, as this may crush the life fabric in the Israeli society. Therefore, this must be eradicated."
'A miserable and inappropriate act'
The IDF also views Thursday's incident as severe. "Raising the sign will being sworn in was a miserable and inappropriate act," a military source told Ynet. "It's a shame that radical elements took advantage of this event to drag the soldiers into the political discourse."
According to the source, "The Kfir Brigade is a professional brigade operating in Judea and Samaria, fighting terror and enforcing the law, allowing the settler citizens of the State of Israel to live in security."
Another IDF source told Ynet, "There were 700 soldiers, family members and guests at the ceremony. A small number of soldiers raised the signs, and this is what will be remembered."
The Homesh First organization said in a statement, "We congratulate the Shimshon Battalion soldiers and their healthy Zionist spirit. The Shimshon Battalion soldiers are restoring the IDF's pride, and showing that unlike people such as (Central Command chief) Gadi Shamni and (Judea and Samaria Division Commander) Noam Tibon, there are those who have learned the lesson from the IDF's participation in the expulsion and evacuation of Jews."
The Samaria resident's committee added, "We salute the Shimshon fighters. The IDF must fight the enemy rather than Jewish brothers."