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Non Serviam - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
September 4th, 2002
06:29 pm

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Non Serviam

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From:wildernesscat
Date:September 5th, 2002 12:35 am (UTC)
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Unfortunately, I don't subscribe to this point of view. I think that refusing to serve in one place or another misses the point of your struggle. The military is just a tool in the hands of the government, and does not lay down the rules. The government does.
Refusing an order (which is not "pkuda lo hukit ba'alil" - "a genuinely illegal order") is a dangerous precedent. Smells like the beginning of mutiny.
All this said, I still think that we should leave the territories, or at least large parts of them. I only object to your means.
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From:ijon
Date:September 5th, 2002 08:06 am (UTC)
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I agree about the military being a tool. But the refusal is not an act against the military. By refusing to serve in the military in the OT, I am causing the government a problem (the government is the "client" who wants work in the OT done). The government must be shown that the people will not stand for the use it is choosing to make of this tool, the military.

As for the precedent being generally dangerous, I agree as well, but I feel that it is time to act dangerously in response to the government's acts, which are a lot more dangerous, in my opinion. It is not mutiny, but civil disobedience. It is a dangerous but important act.
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From:ygurvitz
Date:September 6th, 2002 01:58 am (UTC)

One major problem

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I think that taking a long, hard look at the relation between the government and the military in Israel will show you that the premise that the military merely implements government policy is false.

There's a long article in Maariv today (sorry, no link; it's in the mussaf, written by Ben Kaspit) to that effect: it shows how the military has, time and time again, subverted orders to calm the situation and managed to avoid carrying them out.
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From:heine
Date:September 6th, 2002 07:32 am (UTC)

The role of military in a democracy

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Basically I agree with wildernesscat's view for principle reasons. The military is designed to be a tool for government use. It is not a political institution.
For keeping it functional it is necessary that it follows the principle of command and obedience. If you'd allow individual soldiers to follow only those commands they politically agree with, an army could never work.
I am aware of the fact that hardly any revolution in the world would have ever worked if the military hadn't refused to work as a tool of the government any longer. But for me this move seems to be justified only on the background of totalitarian regimes.
A representative democracy justifies the ruling power of a government by the fact that its members have been elected in a democtratic election by the people (whom they represent). That is the government's authorization. If you allow the military to play an active role in politics rather than being just a functional tool of the government, you have two means of political power in your country. And the military is not authorized for that task. It has not been elected by the people. It is not controlled by a parliament, representing people's will. Especially not if you grant it the right to make decisions contradicting the government's policies.
ygurvitz, I have read your comments. This is also my reply to you. I'm definitely not an expert on Israeli politics. So what I ask is whether the role of the army that you stated is justified in the light of the basic principles of a representative democracy. No offence meant here. My comments are strictly based on theoretical considerations.
For me the places for fighting for your political beliefs are still political institutions. On a national level parties and interest groups or on a supranational level international political institutions (like UN) or supranational interest groups (like amnesty international, greenpeace etc).
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From:ygurvitz
Date:September 6th, 2002 08:11 am (UTC)

Re: The role of military in a democracy

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I couldn't agree more. You are correct on all points. Problem is, our Army doesn't think so. Virtually every Chief of Staff has been a politician. Of the four Chiefs of Staff between 1991-2001, one has become a prime minister, another a hot contender for the role, the third one tried - and failed - to create a deadlock-breaking party, and the fourth - General Mophaz, who has been a persistent target of mine - has left office a few months ago, and is widely believed to join a political party as soon as possible. He has already cancelled his paid vacation, lasting a year. Since it looks like we'll have elections in the spring (or at most, summer), it is widely believed he did so so he could join in the political game (which he couldn't do if he was on vacation, since he would be officially an officer). The current prime minister is a former general who lied to the government which he served as Minister of Security, and most likely is a war criminal to boot -
both these factors, amazingly enough, helped him to get to where he is now. Ad because he looks "tough" (read: ruthless), he is popular - even though more citizens were murdered during his short term of office than under any other prime minister.

The military has always played a significant - many would say dominant - role in political life, and this has been increasingly noticed during the last two years. Weak prime ministers - Ehud Barak, a former Chief of Staff - and Ministers of Security (Barak again, and lately Gen. Ben-Eliezer) have virtually let the military do as it wishes. The army, naturally, wants victory, and is willing to ignore the fact that the cost of victory (if, indeed, victory is possible) would be immense.

The current Chief of Staff expressed his political opinions - thinly disguised as "professional opinions - two weeks ago, and made a series of blunders. He dubbed the Palestinians a "cancer", claimed he was using "chimotheraphy", that "amputations" may be in order; admitted that "we went easy on ourselves" and allowed the killing of the wife of a target alongside the target itself (and the air force, dropping a 1-ton bomb, got the target, his wife, their children, and other 14 innocent people); publicly criticised the (former) government's decision to withdraw from Lebannon, and claimed that when the press attacks him, it risks the country (!).

Other officers have allowed themselves to criticise elected officials (always annonymously, of course); others disregarded orders they did not like.

A leading publicist, Doron Rosenbloom, has dubbed the situation "a self-imposed military dictatorship". I think he is correct.
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From:ijon
Date:September 8th, 2002 10:28 am (UTC)

Re: The role of military in a democracy

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Indeed, discipline is crucial for the army. But as I wrote elsewhere in this discussion, the refusal is an act that transcends the intramilitary implications -- it is a very clear signal to the government, as well as to the general public, that citizens willingly serving in the military have not given the government a carte blanche.

The fact is that the general refusal movement taking place in Israel in the past year is delivering that message; public debate on questions of morality and the legitimacy of the occupation have arisen with new force, and the government, while still uniformly condemning the objectors, is in a quandary, and must think its way out of this problem.

There is no actual national danger in the objectors' deeds, because the moment the military lacks personnel to perform its duties, it will clamor to high heaven and demand a solution from the government; this will force the government to come to terms with the people -- it can't send thousands and thousands of people to military prison, and that won't help man the positions anyhow, so it will have to make satisfactory changes in its policy, after which the objectors will dutifully resubmit to the general rule of military discipline.

That is the plan, and I think it has a chance. That is why I support the conscientious objectors, and that is why I intend to refuse myself, if/when I am summoned for military service in the occupied territories.

We differ, then, on the question of when such an act is permissible. You draw the line at totalitarian regimes, and I draw it at totalitarian symptoms of a supposedly-democratic regime, such as the decision to drop a one-ton bomb on Shchada's hosue, which was not properly passed in government, or the fact that the Prime Minister is also in charge of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority, and the obvious implications of that.
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From:wildernesscat
Date:September 8th, 2002 11:13 pm (UTC)

a fix-up

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Let me refine what I said in my previous comment. Following heine's line of thought, I came to the following conclusion. If I'd want to protest against the government's policy in the territories, I'd refuse to join the "so called Israeli Defense Forces" altogether. I don't think there's a moral justification to being part of the military, and following orders selectively, according to your political views. I see it more as a black-and-white thing.
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From:ijon
Date:September 9th, 2002 05:12 am (UTC)

Re: a fix-up

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It certainly ought to be a black-and-white matter, yes. But we (ygurvitz and I) have already submitted to the mandatory draft, and did not refuse at the time. Today we are reservists, and our line is black-and-white (NO to the occupied territories, YES to everything else, whether we like it or not), it's just drawn inside the IDF-service realm, not outside it.
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From:wildernesscat
Date:September 9th, 2002 05:38 am (UTC)

Re: a fix-up

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Today we are reservists, and our line is black-and-white (NO to the occupied territories, YES to everything else, whether we like it or not)), it's just drawn inside the IDF-service realm...

I have a feeling that neither you nor ygurvitz have served any significant amount of time in the territories. (Neither have I, but I am not making any such statements). Am I correct in assuming this?
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From:ijon
Date:September 9th, 2002 05:49 am (UTC)

Re: a fix-up

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No, you're not. I haven't served in the territories, but ygurvitz has spent most of his service in Dir-el-Ballach, near Gaza.
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From:wildernesscat
Date:September 9th, 2002 05:59 am (UTC)

Re: a fix-up

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I see. According to my acquaintance with the IDF, the general rule is "what was, will be". In light of this, it's interesting to compare your entries in this thread to those of ygurvitz.
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