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Ethics Judaism Oslo/Peace Process Zionism/Nationalism

The IDF: A Politician’s Army

The IDF—the Israel Defense Forces—has long been known as a “citizens army.” Since December 1987, however, when the first intifada broke out, the IDF has increasingly become a politician’s army. Its primary purpose is not to protect Israel’s civilian population, but to protect the international reputation of Israeli prime ministers. These prime ministers want to be perceived as humanitarians, exercising self-restraint vis-à-vis Arab terrorists.

This, they believe, will inspire respect for themselves (and Israel) as morally superior to their enemies. Self-restraint has thus become their badge of honor and reinforces Israel’s reputation as “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Given this reputation, Public Relations preoccupy Israel’s ruling elites.

Never mind that thousands of Jewish men, women, and children have been sacrificed on the altar of PR—this, to preserve the benevolent reputation of Israeli prime ministers. And never mind that despite this sacrifice of Jewish blood, the nations still regard Israel as a pariah.

The fearful if not pathological concern of Israeli prime ministers with PR cannot but emasculate the IDF. Ariel Sharon said withdrawal from Gaza would improve Israel’s international image. So the IDF, instead of protecting Jews from terrorist attacks, proceeded to uproot Jews from their homes and hand over their land to Israel’s enemies. Since then thousands of missiles have fallen on Sderot, while the IDF meekly follows the government’s callous and supine policy of self-restraint. But what else can one expect of a country that must preserve its humanitarian and democratic reputation?

Meanwhile, the IDF must also be perceived as morally superior to the enemy. It must minimize the enemy’s civilian casualties, even though this results in more Jewish casualties.

This emasculation of the IDF actually began before the first intifada. The Command and Staff College was headed by Prof. Yehoshafat Harkabi, a self-proclaimed moral relativist who dedicated two of his books to Arabs and Jews alike, as if Israel and her enemies stood on the same moral level.

Moral relativism has eroded Zionism, a word removed from the IDF Code of Ethics; so the word “Judaism.” This cannot but sap the IDF’s confidence in the justice of Israel’s cause and the Jewish people’s sacred right to “Eretz Israel”—another term erased from the IDF Code of Ethics. Harkabi, who once headed Israel Military Intelligence, advocated a Palestinian State on Jewish land, and he did so despite his 500-page doctoral dissertation showing, in lurid terms, the anti-Jewish, bellicose, and mendacious character of Arab-Islamic culture. Surely a case of political schizophrenia.

A country whose generals have been tainted by moral relativism lacks the most important ingredients of national stamina: steadfast morale or vivid national pride and a clear sense of good and evil. When Ariel Sharon said in an interview with Ha’aretz in 2002 that his son Omri taught him “not to think in terms of black and white,” he was expressing Harkabi’s corrosive and immoral doctrine of moral relativism. This made it easier for Sharon to order the IDF to expel the Jews from Gaza. Of course the IDF obeyed, having become a politician’s army.

Unfortunately, we can expect more of the same when the prime minister orders his General Staff to expel Jews from Judea and Samaria. The IDF can hardly preserve the prime minister’s reputation as the leader of a peace-loving democracy if Israel declared war on her Palestinian enemies, for war necessitates violence, even ruthlessness.

The politicians’ IDF must therefore avoid basic principles of war. To illustrate: Some 15 years ago, a student of mine, a Brigadier General, came to my office at Bar-Ilan University to choose a topic for a term paper. During our discussion, I asked him whether he had read On War, by Karl von Clausewitz, one of the greatest military scientists. He said no, and that Clausewitz was not taught at the so-called war college.

This may be one reason why Israeli generals have said—as did Ariel Sharon—that “self-restraint is a form of strength.” This doctrine, in contrast to the ruthlessness of Israel’s enemies, guarantees the victory of the wicked.

The initial object of war, says Clausewitz, is to disarm of the enemy, for as long as the enemy is armed he can always renew the war in circumstances favorable to himself. Clausewitz anticipates the self-restraint school of war. He writes: “Philanthropists imagine there is a skillful method of disarming and overcoming an enemy without causing great bloodshed, and that this is the proper tendency of the Art of War. However plausible this may appear, still it is an error which must be extirpated; for in such dangerous things as war, the errors which proceed from a spirit of benevolence are the worst.”

This being so, the distinction between civilians and soldiers becomes questionable, for civilians provide the supplies including weapons for the soldiers. A “nation in arms” suggests that every citizen is a soldier. Not that Clausewitz advocates indiscriminate slaughter. He warns, however, that “he who uses force unsparingly, without reference to the bloodshed involved, must obtain a superiority if his adversary uses less force …”

Since Israel faces the most ruthless of enemies—Arabs who use their own children as human bombs to murder Jewish children—Israel’s army must be ruthless if Israel is to survive. In no other way could the Allies in World War II have defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

To overcome Arabs who love death more than life, the IDF must reward them with their fondest wish by dispatching them to paradise.

If Germany and Japan are now peace-loving, it’s because these once war-like countries were punished, devastated, to such an extent as to hate war. Contrast Israel. Instead of punishing her enemies, Israel rewards them with arms, money, and land. Israeli prime ministers, stupefied by the notion of “confidence-building measures,” reward Jew-killers and encourage them to pursue with greater confidence the goal of annihilating Israel.

Moreover, by not punishing murderers the government corrupts the entire country, especially youth. Israel’s elites have murdered the sense of justice. They foster contempt for law. They promote crime. What else is to be expected when citizens see their prime minister releasing terrorists, rewarding their Fatah and Hamas leaders, and posing for photo-ups with Arab thugs who use the name of a deity to justify murder?

Why doesn’t the General Staff of the IDF protest against this insane and shameless policy? How can the General Staff put soldiers in harms way knowing that Israel’s prime minister is determined to shrink the country and make it more vulnerable to enemy attack? If the General Staff knows that Israel cannot long survive within its present borders, why doesn’t it politely advise the prime minister to stand up or step down?

Of course this may strike people as violating principles of democracy. But apart from the fact that Israel is not a genuine democracy, where legislators are individually elected by and accountable to the people, does democracy require its people to commit suicide?

Yes, democracy requires military subordination to civilian authority. But does it follow that democracy requires the General Staff to be more concerned about protecting the international image of Israeli politicians than protecting the lives of their fellow citizens?

On the other hand, if Israel is not a genuine democracy, but a democratically elected despotism that feels free to give away the land of the Jewish people, then let’s expose the true nature of this regime at home and abroad.

Since Israel’s multicultural elites have sacrificed Jews on the altar of PR, and have done so to promote themselves as the leaders of a democracy, then let’s shatter the myth of Israeli democracy as Avraham shattered the myths of the Chaldeans. And then let’s establish a Jewish Commonwealth consistent with the ethical monotheism of Avraham, a humanitarian who conquered pagans that had abducted his kinsman, Lot.

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