Soldiers' families back Hebron refusal

Parents proud that sons wouldn't take part in eviction of settlers from market.

By MATTHEW WAGNER
August 9, 2007 02:10
2 minute read.
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When Moshe Leibler got word that his son, a soldier in the Binyamin Brigade's Duchifat Battalion, was ordered to help evacuate Jews from their homes in Hebron, he drove out to his son's army base in the Jordan Valley to demonstrate. Leibler was joined by the families of other soldiers. "We held signs that said: 'My son won't expel Jews,'" recalled Leibler, a psychologist from Kochav Hashahar, a settlement in the Binyamin region. "We came to strengthen our children and give them emotional support so that they would not commit the blatantly immoral act of expelling Jews from their homes," he said. In the end, Leibler's son was not asked to get on the bus to Hebron and, as a result, was spared from having to pay the price of his convictions. But Yonatan Cohen's son was ordered to go to Hebron to evacuate the two Jewish families and their supporters. He refused and was sentenced to 28 days in prison by the army. Cohen is proud of him. "It is bad enough that the government of Israel issues orders to expel Jews from their homes," he said. "It is even worse that soldiers who are trained to fight our Arab enemies are being used for the expulsion. But it is unpardonable that a boy who was himself expelled from his house was ordered to commit such a morally repulsive act." Cohen was evacuated from his home in Gush Katif two years ago, during disengagement from the Gaza Strip. "There were 36 soldiers who originally refused to take part in the [Hebron marketplace] evacuation," he said. "In the end, only seven refused. But they are the real heroes." The Cohen and Leibler families embody the ideological tensions and moral quandaries faced by religious soldiers who have been taught ethical principles that sometimes clash with IDF orders. In this case the soldiers were ordered to replace border policemen at a checkpoint in Hebron so they would be free to help evacuate the families. Ironically, the same homegrown values that make evacuating Jews - or even indirectly aiding in such evacuations - anathema, also fuel them to become some of the IDF's best and bravest fighters. "My son enlisted in a combat unit and became a squad commander despite the expulsion and all the horrible things the government did to us, because he believes it is important and a mitzva to protect the state," Cohen said. "God willing, the politicians will repent someday and learn that the army should be used against our enemies, not against our brothers." Neither Leibler nor Cohen were concerned that widespread insubordination could lead to the demise of the IDF. "What really impresses me is that these soldiers really worked through the morality of their decision," said Leibler, an immigrant from the US. "Even the ones who did go, did so after very serious thought. "It is a shame that there is no tradition of civil disobedience in Israel. In the national religious camp there is a tendency to view what the state says as necessarily good, and when there is a dissonance between the state and their own beliefs, these people find themselves in a serious quandary."

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