Home > IDF, Jewish Fundamentalism > Maariv analyst: Fundamentalist preaching, so useful in Gaza, now boomeranging against IDF

Maariv analyst: Fundamentalist preaching, so useful in Gaza, now boomeranging against IDF

On its front-page, this morning’s (November 17 2009) Maariv runs an analysis piece by Ofer Shelah, a defense commentator at paper and a well known Israeli television personality.  Disturbed by the current settler-soldier rebellion in the West Bank, Shelah tells his readers that it is a product of “long-running processes,” through which the settler movement has infiltrated and co-opted the IDF. Shelah points out that the “army’s officers have learned that it is worth their while to get along with the…settlers” and asserts that the fundamentalist preaching that accompanied combat units during the Gaza war is now boomeranging.

The army is now eating the rotten fruits of long-running processes—for some of which it is to blame and for some of which it isn’t. With the army’s blessing, wholesale and premeditated law-breaking was carried and continues to be carried out with the establishment of outposts; the army’s officers have learned that it is worth their while to get along with the Judea and Samaria settlers, and its soldiers are put in impossible situations every day facing people, some of whom deny the legitimacy of the regime they represent.

[…]

Anyone who goes back and reads about the military rabbis, and the non-military rabbis, who walked around and met with the troops just before Operation Cast Lead and who talked about a holy war and who handed out booklets in which the enemy was described as Amalek [the Hebrews’ biblical nemesis whom they were divinely enjoined to destroy], those who thought that this well of motivation would be relegated only to the war against Hamas, will be given a stinging slap to the face.

Sheleh’s commentary (full text below) comes on the same morning that a recently retired IDF  general warns that the IDF “must not turn into the Phalangists” and a senior military analyst at Yediot asserts that Israeli inaction against settler lawbreaking “is providing the rope that will be used as a noose for the [Israeli Palestinian diplomatic] negotiations.”

This is only the beginning

Analysis, Ofer Shelah, Maariv, November 17 2009 [front-page]

The parents of the soldiers from the Nahshon battalion who held up protest signs against evacuating settlers and who were sentenced yesterday to time in the stockade, insist that their sons had not coordinated the act in advance but, rather, had acted spontaneously in response to the evacuation of the houses in Negohot. That could be, but it no longer makes much difference: after all, they were emulating exactly what the soldiers of another battalion in the same brigade did not long ago. And from the moment the pattern was set—holding up signs, making sure that there is someone around to photograph the event and send it to the media—the IDF has to realize that this is a phenomenon that is not about to go away.

It wasn’t born in a vacuum, of course. The army is now eating the rotten fruits of long-running processes—for some of which it is to blame and for some of which it isn’t. With the army’s blessing, wholesale and premeditated law-breaking was carried and continues to be carried out with the establishment of outposts; the army’s officers have learned that it is worth their while to get along with the Judea and Samaria settlers, and its soldiers are put in impossible situations every day facing people, some of whom deny the legitimacy of the regime they represent. On the other hand, the army was also used by a cynical regime and by the top commanding ranks, which enthusiastically took part in disengagement, in which Ariel Sharon used the army’s prestige as armor. In any case, the army can no longer claim its hands are clean and be horrified by the fact that some of its soldiers do not shrink from committing  political acts while still in uniform. The officers did this before them.

And those whose children don’t serve in infantry brigades that serve in the territories, particularly Kfir, whose soldiers spend nearly their entire service there, have no right to complain about those who do choose to do combat service and to become officers, who feel they have the right to express their views, especially since they are paying a price for them.

The message that the Kfir soldiers are sending is that this is only the beginning. A government that continues to hide its head in the sand, that continues to think that it is doing its job by one-time acts and plays a double and triple game with all the political sides, will get an army in which the political act, either by a lone soldier and then maybe of an entire unit, become more and more legitimate. A command level that continues to say “the army does not choose its assignments,” and does not set a clear red line between what the IDF does and what it does not do, will get units that will be torn apart from within. The chief of staff should remember very well the last time this happened, albeit on a small scale—in the ranks of the reserve corps in the years after the first Lebanon War.

Those who hope that the national-religious public will continue to produce an enormous number of officers and combatants and that this will not have an effect on the units’ functioning, should open their eyes. Anyone who goes back and reads about the military rabbis, and the non-military rabbis, who walked around and met with the troops just before Operation Cast Lead and who talked about a holy war and who handed out booklets in which the enemy was described as Amalek [the Hebrews’ biblical nemesis whom they were divinely enjoined to destroy], those who thought that this well of motivation would be relegated only to the war against Hamas, will be given a stinging slap to the face.

The Kfir soldiers must be punished, and not excessively severely, because that is military practice and law. But clearly this is not a punishment for them. They become heroes and models for emulation among their community. During disengagement, the commanders avoided dealing with the problem by keeping certain soldiers away, sometimes even certain units, from the inner circle of eviction. What was written on the signs held up yesterday, in the space between the lines, is very clear: don’t think that you can manage with this cosmetic act in the future too.

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Categories: IDF, Jewish Fundamentalism

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