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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Leftists blaming religious soldiers for misconduct

At the end of a lengthy Ha'aretz description of the "testimonies" of IDF soldiers who are alleged to have acted immorally in Gaza comes this elliptic statement from Danny Zamir, who heads the Oranim Academic College from where this controversy erupted:
"It is quite possible that Hamas and the Syrian army would behave differently from me. The point is that we aren't Hamas and we aren't the Syrian army or the Egyptian army, and if clerics are anointing us with oil and sticking holy books in our hands, and if the soldiers in these units aren't representative of the whole spectrum in the Jewish people, but rather of certain segments of the population - what are we expecting? To whom are we complaining? "
It sounds like he is saying that the soldiers who allegedly acted badly in Gaza were predominantly religious soldiers, an interesting statement because none of the testimonies mentioned anything about religious soldiers doing anything wrong and Zamir himself was not in Gaza. Not only that, he is saying that it is obvious that religious soldiers are less moral than their secular counterparts. (The only complaint about religion in the testimonies was that the IDF rabbinate gave them too many books of Psalms.)

This underlying hatred that leftists in the IDF have towards the religious soldiers is placed in a fairly twisted context by the New York Times' Ethan Bronner, who interviews a number of leftists and records their unsubstantiated claims without bothering to get even a token interview from the other side:
Immediately after Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 and then from several West Bank settlements, there was a call to disband certain religious programs in the army because some soldiers in them said they would refuse to obey future orders to disband settlements. After the rise of Hamas in Gaza and the increase in rocket attacks on Israel, that discussion died down.

But Yaron Ezrahi, a leftist political scientist at Hebrew University who has been lecturing to military commanders, said that the call to close those programs should now be revived because what was evident in Gaza was that the humanistic tradition from which a code of ethics is derived was not being sufficiently observed there.
And the religious military colleges directly compete with people like - Danny Zamir:
In many cases, the religious nationalists have ascended to command positions from precisely the kind of premilitary college course that Mr. Zamir runs — but theirs are run by the religious movements rather than his secular one, meaning that the competition between him and them is both ideological and careerist.
And, incidentally, the only officer who is known to have refused orders in the NYT story was not a religious soldier, but - Danny Zamir:
In 1990, Mr. Zamir, then a parachute company commander in the reserves, was sentenced to prison for refusing to guard a ceremony involving religious Jews visiting the West Bank city of Nablus.
Clearly, Zamir is someone who holds deep-seated antipathy for religious Jews. The Israeli Left is making accusations against religious soldiers, which have not yet been confirmed by any facts as far as I can tell. It sounds like these accusations might just be a springboard for starting an internal fight for the IDF's soul between the old-time kibbutzniks who were instrumental in building the state and the religious Zionists who are now in the vanguard of Israeli nationalism, a pursuit which seems to have become somewhat distasteful among the Left.

The accusations must be investigated thoroughly and, if proven, dealt with on all levels of the IDF. But it would be reprehensible if they are being exaggerated or made up as a way to demonize part of the Israeli population and divide the nation.

The NYT's Bronner has written his story from a viewpoint that is entirely sympathetic towards the leftists.

UPDATE: See this article by Yaacov Lozowick as well.