While some civil society groups and activists have urged Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to fire at unarmed civilians engaged in border protests, thus far soldiers aren’t rebelling.
Palestinians evacuate mortally wounded Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja during clashes with Israeli troops at the Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip, April 6, 2018.
The unspeakable horror of the massacre in the Syrian town of Douma has overshadowed the violence along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip in recent days. The roughly 30 Palestinian deaths in Gaza are nothing more than a statistical blip compared with the number of Syrians killed in their country’s seven-year civil war, which stands at half a million and counting.
Indeed, compared with the mass murder being perpetrated across from Israel’s northeastern border, the daily killings along its southern border seem like nothing more than a training mishap. True, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) do not spray nerve gas over residential neighborhoods. They “only” fire at unarmed protesters on the border of the world’s largest prison. Nonetheless, it is unclear what made Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman reiterate the cliche that “the IDF is the most moral army in the world” when referring to the latest Gaza border incidents. To which army is he comparing the IDF? And how is the term “moral” even remotely compatible with Israel’s military control over millions of people for over 50 years?
Liberman announced that “anyone trying to approach the fence risks their life.” Even shooting dead a Palestinian journalist operating a camera drone 350 meters (383 yards) from the fence does not begin to scratch the IDF’s “moral” image. Not a single commander questioned the live-fire rules of engagement handed down to the troops ahead of the planned Palestinian demonstrations. Not one Knesset member stood by the call of the human rights organization B’Tselem, urging IDF soldiers to refuse to fire at unarmed civilians engaging in nonviolent resistance. Disobeying orders was never an option. I will try to explain why.
Israel’s history of conscientious objection is as old as the state. In June 1948, several pilots, one artillery officer and eight soldiers refused an order to bomb and intercept the Altalena, a ship carrying weapons for Israel’s Etzel underground. In late October 1956, Israeli border guards killed 43 Israeli Arab citizens, among them nine women and 17 children and youths, in the fields of the village of Kafr Kassem. However, seven of the eight company commanders at the scene avoided carrying out the order given by the battalion commander to shoot in order to kill any Arabs found outside their home after the curfew imposed by the military on Arab villages. Responding to the massacre, Israel’s vaunted poet Natan Altermanwrote, “Such an incident must strike every human society as a terrifying nightmare, shake the seats of the supervisors and commanders, both direct and indirect, challenge entrenched concepts, alarm military instructors, and generate a moral reckoning and search for those responsible.”
In the landmark 1958 verdict handed down against participants in the Kafr Kassem massacre, Judge Benjamin Halevy wrote, “The hallmark of manifest illegality is that it must fly like a black flag over the given order, a warning that says: ‘forbidden!’ Not formal illegality, obscure or partially obscure, not illegality that can be discerned only by legal scholars, is important here, but rather, the clear and obvious violation of law … Illegality that pierces the eye and revolts the heart, if the eye is not blind and the heart is not impenetrable or corrupt — this is the measure of manifest illegality needed to override the soldier’s duty to obey and to impose on him criminal liability for his action.”
The concept of disobeying a manifestly illegal order was upheld years later by the Supreme Court’s verdict against Ehud Yatom, a senior operations officer of the Shin Bet found complicit in the killing of two Palestinian terrorists who hijacked an Israeli passenger bus in 1984. The justices ruled that the order given by the head of the Shin Bet to kill the two appeared manifestly illegal and Yatom should have refused it. Military law recognizes a soldier’s right to refuse an order on the grounds of conscientious objection only when the order is patently illegal and its execution violates the principles of basic human morality. A military tribunal even ruled that a soldier is duty bound to disobey an order of this kind.
After 16 Palestinians were killed March 30 along the Gaza border on the first day of the “Great Return March,” law professor Mordechai Kremnitzer wrote that the use of live fire against protesters for nearing the fence with Israel was illegal. “Even when it marks a border, a fence is not more sacred than human life,” wrote the jurist, who served until recently as deputy president for the study of democracy in the Israel Democracy Institute.
Kremnitzer and organizations such as B’Tselem constitute a negligible minority in Israeli society and have no representation in the government. Right-wing politicians and pundits dub them “a fifth column” and accuse them of consorting with the enemy.
On the other hand, the current coalition includes politicians who pander to the rabbis who urged soldiers to refuse to evict Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip during the 2005 disengagement. The rabbis viewed the orders given at the time as manifestly illegal and in violation of Jewish law. And what was the punishment meted out to those who disobeyed the army’s orders? Three of the 163 soldiers who refused to carry out their orders were indicted, one of them was sentenced to jail; 65 soldiers were brought up on disciplinary charges, with 46 of them sentenced to terms ranging from six to 56 days. Other action, such as a reprimand or removal from a command position, was taken against 49 officers and soldiers. Truly deterrent punishments.
The response at the time to the Gaza withdrawal strengthened the view that the evacuation of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank would face mass disobedience by troops and officers, even verging on civil war.
On the other hand, only a handful abide by the approach advocated by professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, the iconoclastic Israeli thinker. Leibowitz argued that objection by several hundred young people to serve in what he termed “the Israeli occupation army” could shock the public and pave the way for a political moral-spiritual upheaval. Sadly, not a single IDF sniper rose up in recent days to say, “Sorry sir, but directing live fire at unarmed people is immoral, illegal and un-Israeli; I refuse the order.”
Netanyahu’s support for the settlement enterprise, is believed to have been reigned by former democratic US president Barack Obama who was in office from January 2009 to January 2017.
A man photographs a woman as she stands next to a mural depicting U.S. President Donald Trump and Is
Spending on West Bank settlements spiked by 39% in 2017, the first year US President Donald Trump was in office, the left-wing group Peace Now reported on Tuesday.
Weekend work permits for Eurovision complicate Netanyahu’s coalition bargaining with ultra-Orthodox parties
Israeli singer and past Eurovision winner Dana International at the Orange Carpet event in Tel Aviv, May 13, 2019.
Israeli singer and past Eurovision winner Dana International at the Orange Carpet event in Tel Aviv, May 13, 2019.Tomer Appelbaum
Seeking to quell ultra-Orthodox anger over holding the Eurovision Song Contest’s final in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday it was an “individual international event” not sponsored by the state, and that the government doesn’t want to violate the Sabbath.
French Holocaust denier Alain Soral. Photo: Egalite et Réconciliation.
The mayor of one of southern France’s most picturesque towns expressed fury on Tuesday after learning that a group of right-wing activists and conspiracy theorists — including convicted Holocaust denier Alain Soral — were planning to hold a “summer school” there at the end of August.
“I say it clearly, Soral is not welcome here,” Alexandre Reynal — mayor of the town of Amelie-les-Bain in the spectacular Pyrénées-Orientales region — told a local news outlet on Tuesday.
I urge all visitors to join me in a conspiracy to violate the UN Security Council Resolution…Obama, himself, engineered the Resolution. He pushed it through the Security Council despite some reservations by other members, including Egypt, which believed that the Resolution itself could become a barrier to a negotiated two-state solution. After all, if Israel’s control over Judaism’s holiest site is deemed illegal, then Israel would have to negotiate its legality with the Palestinians.
The ruling Law and Justice Party views Poland as a victim of World War II, and that therefore Poland should not be required to pay damages to other victims.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki reacts after receiving his nomination during a government s
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki reacts after receiving his nomination during a government swearing-in ceremony in Warsaw, Poland, December 11, 2017..
Only three-quarters of a century after Der Stürmer incentivized the mass murder of Jews by dehumanizing them, we see a revival of such bigoted caricatures.
I do not believe in free speech for me, but not for thee. But I do believe in condemning those who hide behind the First Amendment to express anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, homophobic, sexist or racist views.
One of the most influential newspapers in the world, the Jewish-owned New York Times decided to present the Jews with a gift in honor of the last day of Passover – a major Jewish holiday – an antisemitic caricature. The controversial cartoon shows US President Donald Trump as a blind man with a skullcap on his head, being led by a dog that looks like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And to make sure the reader knows it is indeed the Israeli premier, the dog has a Star of David dangling from its collar.
Last week, Jared Kushner, one of the administration’s point men on the Middle East, dispensed with the term “two-state solution” in its impending peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. “The two-state solution has failed,” he said.
The “two-state solution” does not appear in the 1993 Oslo Accords, which called only for “interim self-government” for the Palestinians. The goal was a negotiated final status agreement, in which independence was not specified.
Religious fervor always picks up before the Jewish holidays. Not surprisingly, Israeli undercover police arrested Jewish activists from the Hozrim L’Har (Returning to the Mount) organization early Friday afternoon, just before the onset of the Passover holiday, after an apparent attempt to bring a young goat on to the Temple Mount for a self-proclaimed sacrificial rite. Indeed, this drama plays itself out every year, but according to Jerusalem police, this year a record of at least twelve members of the organization were arrested throughout the course of the day on counts of disturbing the peace.
Every year when Passover eve arrives, I do my best not to think about that night; to allow the joy of cherished rituals meant to renew our family’s tribal history and faith envelop us in its warm glow as whoever among the kids and grandkids it’s our turn to host partake of the matzoh, bitter herbs, and wine. Often – actually most often – I succeed.