(photo credit: www.jerusalemites.org)
‘The rift between the civil society and the military society began during the 1973 Yom Kippur War,’ Dr. Amir Bar-On, a lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and previously the head of its special division for military studies, explains. “After the Yom Kippur War, people started to question the military in a way that they hadn’t before the war.”
The country was caught off guard at the outset of the war, and while the IDF eventually succeeded in not only repelling the Arab armies but advancing beyond its prewar borders, the victory was a Pyrrhic one. Politically and militarily, the ethos of the state had suffered irreparable damage.
“The general notion was that we are no longer accepting everything that the government is telling us,” Bar-Or says.
Almost immediately, the change was evident. One year after the war,
Golda Meir resigned as prime minister, bowing to what she called “the
will of the people,” and three short years after that the Likud won in
a general election, signifying a major shift.
“The whole ideology was a different one,” Bar-Or recalls. “No longer
was Israel defined by this collectivist notion that brings us together,
but rather the liberal ideology that the Likud was pushing, that
everybody is on his own. And if we’re on our own, then why do we all
have to serve in the military?”
The question became especially pertinent when – in the late 1970s and
early 1980s – Israel started building settlements in Judea and Samaria
and the Gaza Strip. Bolstered by a newfound sense of skepticism
regarding the establishment, reservists took particular exception to
military operations which they viewed as being politically motivated.
“When settlements were created, the military had to guard them,” Bar-On
says, adding that not everybody who was called up for such duty agreed
with the settlements in the first place. And that’s when the resentment
started to set in.
“Guarding settlements made the resentment much stronger,” he continues.
“This is a kind of process that keeps developing: The notion of ‘we
don’t know why we’re doing it,’ this isn’t the purpose of the army.”
That notion was only exacerbated with the onset of the First Lebanon
War in 1982, which, according to Bar-Or, didn’t enjoy a high consensus
among the public. The result was the first instance of a phenomenon by
now quite familiar: mass refusal to heed the call to duty.
“During the war, there was an attempt to draft one of the best
paratrooper brigades, and they refused to go,” he recalls. “That was
the first time something like this happened. It became quite clear that
we were no longer the same military that we used to be, because we
don’t agree with the role that the military is playing. When we are
called, we come, but in lesser numbers.” – M.Z.
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