On IDF Refusals To Follow Orders

The Interlocking Perspectives Of National Law, International Law And Jewish Law (Part One of Three)

Louis Rene Beres, (Professor of International Law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international law.) The Jewish Press

Here we go again. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Now it is Hebron, where a number of soldiers have correctly refused intrinsically wrongful orders to evict fellow Jews from their homes. Now it is Homesh, where authentic Jews labor industriously and heroically to remedy earlier IDF evictions.

Ted Belman
I argued the same thing in Insubordination is appropriate when government is illegitimate.

Still committed to an incomprehensible policy of national auto-destruction, the present government in Jerusalem – following the humiliating surrender script that has painfully evolved from Rabin’s original codification of “Oslo” – drags out the same tired mantras of IDF military “discipline,” “command” and “loyalty.” To be sure, Israel’s soldiers must normally carry out orders and respect proper lines of command authority, but not when matters are incontestably abnormal. It should certainly appear abnormal to any thinking Jew that Israel’s leaders are still requiring the citizenry to plunge headlong toward collective dismemberment. As was expressed recently by Gary Cooperberg in his always lucid Voice From Hebron (August 16, 2007),

    “…a sharp distinction must be made between orders given in an operation of battle with our enemies, and a political order which has nothing to do with defending the nation and which may conflict with moral and ethical standards.”

Significantly, Gary’s point here is far more “moderate” than my own, which is that IDF Jewish eviction orders are genuinely injurious to Israel’s national survival and (as we shall soon see here) to global security as a whole.

A few years back, when then Prime Minister Sharon first began to implement his flawed ideas for “disengagement,” a good friend of mine in Israel, a hard-fighting veteran of all-too-many wars, summarized his views of the newest Jewish capitulation as “irrational, fatally dangerous, unjust, immoral, illegal and disgustingly inhumane.” Forced upon Israel by “blatantly undemocratic means,” he continued analytically, its underlying cause is “auto-anti-Semitism.” Ironically, of course, because the association of surrender with Sharon was so out-of-character, the Sharon government’s edict to evict fellow Jews was nonetheless a de facto expression of “auto-anti-Semitism.” It was, therefore, not only the corollary right of each individual Israeli soldier to reject disengagement, but his absolutely sacred duty.

Sadly, to be sure, nothing fundamental has changed. Nothing at all. On the contrary, to the extent that Prime Minister Olmert has very consciously coupled his plans for additional territorial surrender on behalf of the “Road Map” with a recent mass freeing of terrorists – and also with the extensive arming of one murderous terrorist faction (Fatah) against another (Hamas) – the Jewish soldier’s obligation to resist Israeli self-destruction is now more compelling than ever. This legal and Halachic argument is all the more true presently, because Fatah and Hamas have both the clear intention and the documented capability to escalate to mass-destruction forms of terrorism.

Let us not forget that the essence of any government rests upon a credible assurance of protection. By definition, there is always a solemn “pact” that exists between citizens and governments concerning this existential assurance, and right now the Olmert government is manifestly determined to violate its part of the bargain. Understood with particular respect to the Jewish State in 2007, it must be fully understood that any IDF military orders that would plausibly undermine Israel’s statehood are inherently lacking in moral and legal authority, and must be strenuously opposed.

In short, Israel’s soldiers have no right or obligation to follow orders that are prima facie contrary to Jewish survival. Naturally we can’t expect that each soldier will have the right to determine for himself in each case whether a particular order is valid or invalid, but in the matter before us presently, the degree of danger that would accompany further Jewish evictions are manifest beyond a reasonable doubt. If we should also factor into this matter the enormously pertinent Nuremberg Judgment and associated Nuremberg Principles, it will become altogether clear that the obligation to disobey military orders contrary to any state’s survival is generic and universal. Indeed, this precise obligation has already become synonymous with the very meaning of “Nuremberg.” Hence, Israel’s obligations here are binding by both direct obligation and by extrapolation from general jurisprudence.

When Ariel Sharon first began to implement disengagement, Israelis immediately started to inquire: Will military refusals to participate in the expulsion of Jews cause the IDF to weaken or even to disintegrate?

    “On the contrary,” wrote Moshe Feiglin, “it will strengthen it (IDF) morally and establish its right of existence. Real conscientious refusal will not lead to a situation in which everyone does as he likes. The soldiers who are refusing are the outstanding ones, who wish to serve and make sacrifices for the nation and the country.”
September 14, 2007 | 1 Comment »

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2 Comments / 1 Comment

  1. Though Beres, a professor of international law seeks to support his view in Israeli civil law, religious Halachic law and international law, that Israel’s soldiers have no right or obligation to follow orders that are prima facie contrary to Jewish survival, his reference to such law is not developed and amounts to window dressing for the real premise to his argument.

    Beres shares the views of many that Olmert’s efforts to bring about a peace between Israel and the Palestinians via the Quartet’s Road Map as pushed on Israel by America, will make Israel even more vulnerable then it is to withstand the efforts by her enemies to see Israel destroyed. He also assumes and not without reason that the Palestinians and Arabs will not cease to be Israel’s mortal enemies even if such Palestinian state comes into being as part of a peace treaty.

    His support for some IDF soldiers refusing to follow orders that call for eviction of Israelis from their homes in order to facilitate the two state solution coming to fruition, rests entirely on this premise.

    There are other difficulties with Beres’ argument, some of which include:

    1. He has vaguely suggested that an IDF soldier actually has no duty to follow an order that is in furtherance of their nation’s policies of self destruction based on international law. Indeed Beres posits that the IDF soldier has not only the right, but the duty to refuse such order.

    As regards the issue at hand however, being orders for IDF soldiers to forcibly evacuate Israelis from their homes, is not a matter of international law, but rather Israeli law and even Halachic law for those Halachic jurists who wish to make their case.

    2. What Beres has left out is reference to Israeli military law, which has at least some, if not primary bearing on the issue as to a solider’s right and duty when it comes to choosing to follow or refuse such orders given from above.

    3. While it is fine to cheer on and declare as heroes, those recalcitrant IDF soldiers who refuse orders to harm Israelis and their interests by forcibly evicting them from their properties at the behest of the GOI’s policies being implemented by the IDF, it is exceedingly unfair to put such a huge burden on the shoulders of those Israeli soldiers who stand up to and defy the GOI.

    The obligation to defend Israel from her enemies falls on the GOI, every member of the Knesset and upon all Israelis individually.

    The daring of these relatively few IDF soldiers to refuse orders should be an inspiration to all Israelis to stand up for and with them for what they believe is right for Israel.

    Instead, so far we find very few Israelis, be they politicians, pundits or Israeli citizens standing side by side with these Israeli soldiers and be equally as committed as these soliders to stand up for what they believe in and be prepared to take the heat and potential consequences for having done so.

  2. The Jewish concept with the notable exception of Shas mentor Ovadia Yosef says that we should not instigate a war to recover the lands that are a part of historical and Biblical Land of Israel but in fighting a defensive war should we acquire any part of said lands it is forbidden to relinquish them for any reason or for any purpose. The principle is that since the land of Israel was a gift from god not to a single generation or government but to the whole of the Jewish people and their descendants, no single individual or group or government has the right to give away something that does not belong to them especially to non jewish enemies of the Jewish nation. The giving up of land by Jews is a non Jewish and alien in Torah and Jewish Law. One can argue that in doing so it is a renunciation of God himself in giving away his gift to the Jewish people. Now to secular Jews this may all sound superstitious tripe but to believing faith based Jews this is a bridge that should never be crossed.
    There is one Mitzva(commandment) that requires Jews to go to war no matter if the enemy is America or any other superpower and that is for the whole land of Israel. War is not an optional element to be weighed against consequences and probabilities; it is obligatory. This mitzva places the Land of Israel above the Mitvas of Shabat, fasting on Yom Kippur, etc. I won’t here go into the reasons but just state the Law.

    A Jewish Religious and Traditional Soldier while conflicted with love of Country and respect for the Political State; carries with him the additional baggage of Belonging to a Chosen People living in a Chosen Land by a Jewish God. He has also been mothers milk fed in his education that the 2nd temple was destroyed by blind hatred and civil war, which handed the Romans their total victory. How they Balance all of these seemingly conflicted positions is a terrible burden on them and presents for them a condition that in all logic should never have to be faced not after a return of 2 thousand years. Israel should never have come to this point but It looks like it will.

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