Saluting the IDF
Certain tough choices that the Israeli military regularly faces have been overlooked lately, and it’s no wonder. As the government ironed out its coalition agreements to make way for the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister — and in the wake of statements made by top brass over the past few months — the focus of discussion has been the “morality” of the IDF.
Though “purity of arms” is not a new topic of debate in Israel, it recently became a particularly hot bone of contention, after an IDF soldier shot and killed a subdued Palestinian terrorist in Hebron. Though the soldier is on trial for manslaughter, and his guilt or innocence will be established in court, his action has been used as an example of what’s wrong with Israeli ethics in general and the dangers of such turpitude infecting the army in particular.
Since this is what the world’s BDS advocates and other anti-Semites have been trying tirelessly to convey in word and deed, they couldn’t have been more pleased to be given unwitting legitimacy by the likes of the IDF chief of staff and his deputy. The former handed them the utter fallacy that poverty leads to terrorism. The latter virtually likened the atmosphere of the Jewish state to that of 1930s Germany. And the now-former defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, defended both of them, while offering his own warnings about the perils of abandoning societal and military morals.
Meanwhile, although Israelis have been forced to contend with a surge in Palestinian terrorism that came to be called the “lone-wolf intifada,” the international onslaught — from the corridors of the United Nations to the British Labour Party to university campuses across the world — do not restrict their criticism to what is currently going on in Israel. No, they continue to raise the issue of IDF behavior during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 2014 war against Hamas in Gaza.
Never mind that the war itself was not only justified, but late in coming, as the bloodthirsty terrorist organization fired rockets, missiles and mortars into Israeli population centers without let-up. Forget that an extensive network of tunnels for the smuggling of weapons and kidnapping of Israelis was revealed prior to and during the incursion. Ignore the fact that the many millions of dollars and euros provided for the subsequent rehabilitation of the Hamas-controlled enclave have been spent on rebuilding tunnel-and-rocket capabilities. And dismiss the glorification of terrorists — as well as the continued calls for the killing of Jews — by Palestinian leaders. In the eyes of the Israel-bashers, all of the above pales in comparison to the ills inherent in and perpetuated by the Jewish state’s flawed democracy.
Because of the cacophony, the true nature of Israeli society, and by extension the IDF in which everyone serves (with exceptions), gets drowned out. One example is a phenomenon that came to light on Sunday, with the issuing of a new IDF directive.
All Israelis are aware of the policy of required parental consent for their kids to serve in combat units if they have only one child, or if they have already lost a child in battle (or through other means). Though such a family situation constitutes sufficient cause for a new recruit to be placed in a non-combat role, the kids themselves often beg to become fighters anyway. The IDF does not listen to the pleas of these particular 18-year-olds, however. Instead, it demands that their parents agree to it in writing.
What most Israelis don’t realize is that the IDF has been equally compassionate to those parents who sign consent forms and then change their minds. It is the abolition of this leniency that was just announced.
It turns out that during Operation Protective Edge, nine separate sets of parents retracted their previous consent, thus forcing the IDF to dispatch units to extricate their sons from the battlefield, deep in Gaza. Doing so not only endangered the lives of the soldiers sent to retrieve them, but created a manpower issue. Furthermore, it is possible, even likely, that once found, the soldiers whose parents asked that they be returned did not wish to go back. After all, it is they who wanted to become combat soldiers in the first place.
So, while the IDF does the impossible and usually thankless job of confronting terrorist enemies with no morals whatsoever, and struggles with self-imposed rules of engagement scoffed at by the other side, it also spends energy grappling with the genuine concern it feels for panicked parents.
The IDF s not only a heroic army, but a moral one to its core. It therefore should be saluted, not criminalized.
Ruthie Blum is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.