In his last period of reserve duty, G., a 27-year-old Israel Defense Forces officer, guarded the settlement of Sa-Nur. In response to the claim that the roadblocks are vital, G. replies that they are meant to ensure that Sa-Nur's settlers can travel about in safety, not to protect Israel's populace from terrorists.
"Suddenly," he recalls, "I saw that the Chabadniks (members of the Lubavitch Hasidic movement) of Sa-Nur had painted the mosque opposite the settlement yellow and had hung a sign reading "Long live the Messiah-King!" on it. The company commander was not around and the brigade commander, who is thinking of his own promotion, doesn't want to tangle with them. In the end, although I was deathly afraid of the commotion that would soon erupt, I was the one who single-handedly took a pointless risk and removed the sign."
G. (who prefers to remain anonymous) this week signed the petition of IDF reserve officers calling on reservists to refuse to serve in the territories. Asked who, if not people like himself and his friends, would operate the roadblocks, would do precisely what he describes in his story about the sign, would prevent the abuse of innocent civilians, and would maintain the IDF's humane character, he answers, "Granted, as long as I'm at the roadblock and obliged to follow orders, I can behave a little differently. However, the moment the roadblock is there, you cannot stop the erosion."
There is something very touching about the distress and confusion of these citizens, who speak with pain about morality and justice. However, they are making a big mistake. Like the "memorial candle" youths who preceded them (some of these citizens were also there, in Rabin Square, six years ago), who became the Dor Shalom (Peace Generation) movement, and who, through concerts and emotion, tried to replace political action with media-focused action, these citizens are following a mistaken course as they try to determine the nature of the public's discourse and agenda.
Instead of telling the story of the roadblocks in the press and instead of participating in the peace camp's demonstrations or joining a political movement - even as a separate protest group demanding that the government (as their petition says) "choose either us or the settlers" - between their periods of reserve duty, they have chosen to be refuseniks. That choice could have destructive consequences for both the IDF and society and could even sabotage their efforts and undermine the message they are seeking to convey.
There are sufficient grounds for the oft-repeated argument that it is preferable to have such sensitive and moral people around in order to prevent - with their spirit and their bodies - folly, evil and callousness. Moreover, if they do not operate the roadblocks today, they will not be the ones who, when the time comes, will have to carry out the important and difficult task of evacuating the settlements. Who would take their place?
If the description offered by G. and his colleagues concerning the company and brigade commanders is correct (and they have many such anecdotes), it clearly points to the IDF's "phalangization." Those who support the settlers, or who are being servile just to get ahead or who are just indifferent, show no interest for the fate of the soldiers and junior officers at the roadblock. Left alone at the roadblock (that isolation is also a product of technical constraints), young adults in their 20s are supposed to make decisions at any time of the day or night that could have grave consequences.
However, the call to "refuse to serve" could actually end up perpetuating this situation of indifference and could intensify the disintegration. Unlike the IDF officers of 1978, who did not threaten to "refuse to serve" but instead addressed their petition to the politicians, the fine individuals who have signed the latest officers' petition are saying that they are no longer prepared to serve in the territories.
In other words, they are denying responsibility for their compatriots. When they abandon the roadblock, they are confirming the dangerous norm that the responsibility must be borne by the individual soldier at the roadblock - and not by the top brass, the government's leaders or political party heads. The result would be that the right would be given exclusive responsibility for both Israel's society and its army.
Aren't the occupation and the settlements, which gave rise to the roadblocks, the main issue? Isn't the issue the long hours that Palestinian families must wait at the roadblock, so that three youngsters from a single settlement can reach their after-school activity groups? Isn't the issue the settlements' massive expansion as the argument "There is no one to talk to" is voiced? Aren't these the real issues, rather than the solitary soldier at the roadblock?
Now all the government and the army spokesmen will make historical comparisons, will prove that Israeli soldiers are saints, and will label the refuseniks "pampered denizens of society's margins." The debate this week has already shifted to stupid gossip over the place of residence of the children of both the cabinet ministers who make the decisions and the supporters of the refusenik movement.
The officers are not the only ones at fault. The left today prefers to warm the seats in the government or to draft "apolitical" understandings and covenants with the right, while refraining from clarifying its position on Israel's borders and character. Some leftists tacitly welcome the refuseniks' petition, hoping that it will generate the necessary change. Thus, showing irresponsibility and myopia and tragically abandoning the political debate, Israel's leftists are also to blame for the indifference for the fate of the soldiers who are all alone at the roadblock.
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