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(en) Israel, Media, Refusal to serve could be contagious

From Tom Wheeler <twbounds@pop.mail.rcn.net>
Date Thu, 26 Dec 2002 16:11:52 -0500 (EST)


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For many months, it looked as though 
the upper echelons of the Israel
Defense Forces were letting the direct 
commanders of the refusenik soldiers
deal on their own with the problem of 
refusal to serve. And in fact, the
fate of the various refuseniks differed 
from one unit to the next.
Everything depended on the conscience, 
the world view, and mainly the
intelligence of the direct officer on 
the spot. In certain cases, the
refusal was accepted, if not with 
understanding then at least with wisdom,
by the unit commander. Unnecessary 
conflict, which is wasteful and useless
to the army, was prevented by channeling 
the military service of the
refusenik reservist to tasks that he 
was able to carry out.

In other cases, under different commanders, 
the reflex of refusal=detention
was at work. Refuseniks were sent to 
military prison for periods of time
usually meted out for ordinary refusals 
to follow orders, such as the
refusal to peel potatoes in the kitchen, 
or the refusal to get up for guard
duty in the wee hours of the night. So 
that dozens of refuseniks found
themselves wasting their time - usually 
the time of people who are among the
most creative and productive in the 
Israeli economy and society - sitting in
prison for periods ranging from seven 
to 30 days, depending on how annoyed
their direct commanding officer felt.

In recent months, there has apparently 
been a change in the IDF's attitude
toward the phenomenon of refusal and 
toward the refuseniks. Chief of Staff
Moshe Ya'alon has recently expressed 
himself publicly and sharply against
reservists who refuse to serve in the 
territories, and the army's attitude
towards the refuseniks is becoming 
increasingly inflexible, merciless and
harsh.

At present there are several refuseniks 
who have been sitting in jail for
weeks and even months on end, and as 
soon as one period of punishment ends,
they are thrown back into jail for 
another period of punishment, without
limit and without a break. To the 
outside observer, it looks like a
deliberate campaign of revenge, a 
systematic vendetta being conducted by the
army against these people.

Alongside the significant increase in 
the severity of the IDF's attitude
toward the refuseniks, the army 
continues to declare, increasingly loudly,
that the phenomenon of refusal to 
serve in the territories is marginal, is
typical of antisocial types found on 
the narrow political fringes, and has
no operational significance. The 
professional word to describe such a
contradiction in the physical world 
between a statement, a thought or a
belief, and an activity and a reaction 
is "dissonance"; and as any
professional will testify, in many cases 
it stems from fear.

If the noticeable change in the army's 
attitude toward refusal, which
testifies to increasing dissonance in 
the behavior of this system, does in
fact come from above, it is hard to 
avoid the question: What is the chief of
staff afraid of? Why, for example, was 
the head of the "fighting spirit"
department in the IDF sent to make a 
speech against the refuseniks, to an
audience of young citizens of the 
country? Why does the army consider
selective refusal, which is limited 
only to a very specific type of
activity, on the part of about 500 
young men, a great danger to the fighting
spirit of the army - more so than 
total failure of tens of thousands of
other young people, who are physically 
and mentally fit, to serve in the
reserves, and even in the regular army?

The truth is that the fear in the top 
command is not without foundation.
It's true that the non-service of 500 
people in an army that numbers
hundreds of thousands, is of no 
strategic significance. The army can operate
effectively, and in fact does so, 
even without the service of tens of
thousands, and perhaps even hundreds 
of thousands of fit young people. But
the chief of staff and the army 
understand that the problem of "political"
refusal, as some people call it, is 
not those same 500 soldiers that the IDF
is missing in its activities beyond the 
Green Line. The danger in this
refusal is that it is contagious, since 
there is no effective vaccination
against it. It differs from any other 
refusal or avoidance of army service
in the past or the present, whether 
individual or organized, sectoral or
religious.

The great danger in today's refusal to 
serve in the territories is its great
potential for spreading. The chief of 
staff understands that it is quite
possible that one of these days it is 
liable to spread among a much wider
population. That's a justified fear, 
since the carriers of the disease are
morality and common sense.



http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=245185&contrassID=2&subContrassID=4&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y

Refusal to serve could be contagious

By Elia Leibowitz
[The grandson of the late orthodox Jew professor of
Jerusalem Hebrew university who coined the 
"Judeo-Nazi" label]


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