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Ret. IDF General: “We must not turn into the Phalangists”

Major General (ret.) Elazar Stern, who served as head of the IDF’s Human Resources Branch, Chief Education Officer and the commander of the Officer’s Academy, is a product of the mainstream Religious-Zionist movement. In an op-ed placed alongside news reporting on the latest chapter of the settler-soldier rebellion in the West Bank, he makes an impassioned call to settler-soldiers to cease and desist from sedition. He minces no words in directly attacking the settler and religious leadership for its silence and in some cases support for the phenomenon.

This public will not lend a hand to turning the IDF into an army of Phalangists in which each soldier obeys only his local leader. They won’t permit a fulminating handful of people to drag them and us to that abyss.

The more important reason for why we need to respond to this provocation is that, regrettably, it enjoys a support system. Regrettably, someone who is already past the age of 18 perceives this action to be a form of Zionism, Judaism and a way of protecting the integrity of the Land of Israel.

[…]

But more disturbing for me is the resounding silence of a preponderance of the religious public’s leaders. Perhaps they are not aware of the gravity of the implications of these precedent-setting actions, not only for democracy in Israel but, first and foremost, for their own community.

Stern’s op-ed is part of a two-page spread on the issue. Facing it is an analysis piece by Yediot’s senior military analyst, Alex Fishman, who angrily asserts that “with our own [Israeli] two hands, are providing the rope that will be used as a noose for the [Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic] negotiations.”

See below for the full text of Stern’s op-ed.

We must not turn into the Phalangists

Op-ed, Elazar Stern, Yediot, November 17 2009 [page 6]

The author is a major general in reserves and served in the past as the director of the IDF’s Human Resources Branch, chief education officer and the commander of the Officer’s Academy

There are many religious soldiers in the army. The absolute majority of them regard actions as these as an extremist phenomenon that threatens them as well. They are the ones who pay the price for it because they are perceived as potentially insubordinate soldiers. And they have already proven in difficult tests that that is not the case. The absolute majority among them has shown a mature and profound understanding of the army’s duties in a democratic society. Just as they did not disobey orders during disengagement, I am confident that they will not disobey orders in the future as well. This public will not lend a hand to turning the IDF into an army of Phalangists in which each soldier obeys only his local leader. They won’t permit a fulminating handful of people to drag them and us to that abyss.

The more important reason for why we need to respond to this provocation is that, regrettably, it enjoys a support system. Regrettably, someone who is already past the age of 18 perceives this action to be a form of Zionism, Judaism and a way of protecting the integrity of the Land of Israel. He is so confident in the justness of his position that he is not ashamed to give financial rewards to future insubordinate soldiers. Only a disgraceful educational and religious failure could prompt a person bearing the title of rabbi to seduce and to remunerate his flock with money. I hope that the law enforcement authorities have been looking into the question of whether the people who pay soldiers to break the law aren’t breaking it themselves.

But more disturbing for me is the resounding silence of a preponderance of the religious public’s leaders. Perhaps they are not aware of the gravity of the implications of these precedent-setting actions, not only for democracy in Israel but, first and foremost, for their own community.

The very fact that kippa-wearers are responsible for these phenomena has contributed to having the army closed to Judaism. These phenomena prompted, and justly so, army commanders to cancel Sabbath hosting for soldiers by religious families. Those very same commanders are afraid that in the course of those weekends the soldiers will be exposed not only to good old Jewish culture, but also will be urged to disobey orders.

If it becomes evident that the soldiers in question are students of a hesder yeshiva, and if they received the support of their rabbis from that yeshiva, the army’s arrangement with those yeshivas needs to be stopped. If their rabbis do not support the action that was taken by the soldiers, it is incumbent upon them to say so out loud and clearly, and to remove those soldiers from the hesder yeshiva program of their own volition, before the IDF does so. If they fail to take that course of action, that too will serve as a clear statement. Clear and dangerous.

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Categories: IDF, Jewish Fundamentalism

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