IDF Chief of Staff calls on troops to keep politics out of the army

Officer suspended for Facebook post: ‘Why do I need to serve the state?’

Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot (photo credit: REUTERS)
Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot
(photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot ordered soldiers and commanders to leave political disputes over the Nation-State Law outside the IDF after two Druze officers posted on Facebook that they would resign from Israel’s military.
“As a national army whose mission is to protect the security of the people of Israel and to win wars, we are committed to preserving human dignity, regardless of origin, religion or gender. It always was and always will be,” Eisenkot said in a statement.
“We have undertaken that the joint responsibility with our Druze, Bedouin and other minority members serving in the IDF will continue to lead our way.”
Eisenkot met earlier in the day with Sheikh Mowafak Tarif, the religious leader of Israel’s Druze community, where the two discussed the impact that the controversial law has had on the community.
Following the meeting, Tarif stated that he agrees with the chief of staff that all political matter be left out of the army.
“Trust us, we have your back. We have no quarrel with the IDF. You are all loyal soldiers and officers and I trust that you will leave yourselves, and the IDF, outside of public controversies,” Tarif was quoted by Ynet news as saying.
The controversy comes after two Druze officers posted on Facebook that they would leave the IDF over the controversial nation-state bill passed by the Israeli government last week, saying that they were now considered second-class citizens by law.
“This morning when I woke up to return to my base, I asked myself why? Why do I need to serve the state?” said one officer, Capt. Amir Jamal on Sunday who also called to end the compulsory draft for the Druze.
“This country that I, along with my two brothers and my father, served with dedication, purpose and love of our homeland — in the end, what do we get, we are second-class citizens,” he wrote on his Facebook page in an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Continue serving the country? I do not want to continue and I am sure that hundreds more people will stop serving and will be discharged from the army following your decision, Netanyahu, that of you and your government,” he continued.
“After a lot of thought, I decided to leave the army and not continue serving the country, a country that has a government that takes and does not give back,” he concluded in his post that has since been removed from Facebook.
The military stated that Jamal had been summoned for talks with his commanding officers, saying that “political statements are not permitted according to army regulations,” but that “soldiers and officers from minority communities were and always will be a central part of the IDF on the field of battle and during peacetime.”
On Monday night Shady Zidan, a 23-year-old Druze IDF officer with the rank of deputy commander in a combat battalion, announced that he would be leaving the IDF in a post on Facebook.
“There is no place where I haven’t been. To this day I gave my soul to the State, I risked my life, I did not see home, everything. Until today I stood proudly and saluted the flag. Until today I sang the anthem ‘Hatikva’ because I was sure that this is my country and I am equal to everyone,” Zidan wrote.
“But today, for the first time in my service, I refused to salute the flag, for the first time I refused to sing the national anthem,” he wrote.
“I’m not a man of politics and not a person who cares about it, but!! But I am a citizen like everyone else and I give above and beyond to the state, and in the end I’m a second-class citizen? So no thanks. I’m not prepared to be part of this, and so am I joining this struggle and I have decided to stop serving this country. Thank you State of Israel!” Zidan wrote on Facebook.
In recent weeks, members of the Druze community -which as a minority group in Israel serves in large numbers in the IDF, including in some of the most elite units- have said that the Nationality law breaks the traditional “blood alliance” between Israel and the Druze.
Following the passing of the law, dozens of former top IDF officials from units like Golani and Paratroopers signed a petition expressing support for the Druze community, saying “we stand with our brothers.”
“This land has absorbed the blood of their sons that has spilled, and they have stood with us shoulder to shoulder...Beyond any position or political affiliation, we stand shoulder to shoulder with them,” read the petition signed by former commanders, generals and Chief of Staffs Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi.
Supporters of the controversial nation-state law say that it enshrines Jewish and democratic values but critics saw that it discriminates against minority communities like the Druze and Israeli Arabs as it downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special.”