Army drafts 'unsuitable' disengagement protesters

Young men who had been deemed unfit for IDF to serve in combat units.

IDF patrol Hebron298AP (photo credit: AP [file])
IDF patrol Hebron298AP
(photo credit: AP [file])
Dozens of religious Zionist youth who had been classified by the IDF as unsuitable for army service because they demonstrated against disengagement in 2005 were permitted to join combat units in this month's induction. Of approximately 450 hesder yeshiva soldiers who were recruited in the first week of August, about 30 had difficulties enlisting due to their political activities, according to sources in the Union of Hesder Yeshivot. The hesder program combines Torah study and army service. All but a handful were eventually permitted to join the army, despite their right-wing political activity. The soldiers were cleared by the IDF after passing a personal interview. During the interviews the young men were asked to describe their anti-disengagement activity and to explain what motivated them. Some were asked how they would react if they were asked to evacuate Jewish settlements. The IDF said that in March 2006, it was decided that young men who had been blocked from enlisting because of involvement in antidisengagement protests would be allowed to join the army unless they had physically attacked a soldier or another member of the security services. Approximately 180 people were removed from the no-recruit list in March, the IDF said. The army did not provided a figure for how many were still blocked from joining up. A., one of the hesder students who has yet to be cleared for IDF service, told The Jerusalem Post he had been placed in the reject list because he forced his way into a large gathering of people and held a sign in orange letters - the color of the Gaza Coast Regional Council that symbolized the anti-disengagement struggle - that read: "A Jew does not expel another Jew." A. said he was interrogated last week by a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) official. According to A., the questions focused on his ideological beliefs vis-à-vis army service. "He asked me what my opinions were about refusing orders," said A. "He wanted to know if I was fully aware of the danger involved with refusing orders, that it could tear apart the IDF. "I told him I was sure that I would never evacuate settlements, no matter what. I told him that while I thought in theory that evacuating settlements might be logical, my conscience would not allow me to perform such an act." A. is scheduled to meet with an IDF psychologist in two months. A.'s father told the Post his son's plight was all the more maddening considering the ongoing rise in the number of draft dodgers. R., 19, said Sunday he had been trying to join the army for a year and a half, and that the IDF had not given him any reason why his request had been rejected. His mother said she "was at her wit's end that even if the IDF were to come tomorrow and say my son could enlist in the army, what about the year and a half of uncertainty that he was forced to suffer through, without even being told what his crime was. And even if he's enlisted, who knows whether the Shabak [Shin Bet] won't continue to follow him clandestinely." R. said he was involved in demonstrations during disengagement, but had not fought with anyone. The army's role in the unilateral pullout and evacuation of 25 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria dealt a serious blow to the IDF's relationship with those who identify with religious Zionism. This sector views the settling of the Land of Israel by Jews as a God-given commandment that will set the stage for the imminent final redemption promised at the end of days. Territorial compromise and the dismantling of settlements are viewed as both a physical and a spiritual retreat. Rabbinic leadership and grassroots sentiment in the religious Zionist camp opposed using the IDF to evacuate Jewish settlements. For religious Zionists, the raison d'etre of the IDF and its justification for the use of force are restricted to protecting Jews and advancing Jewish sovereignty. In the months that led up to disengagement, perhaps thousands of religious Zionists took to the streets to protest. Some demonstrators blocked roads, burned tires and grappled with law enforcement officers. High-school-age protesters who were arrested for their anti-disengagement activities were disqualified from military service. The Shin Bet's Jewish Department also tracked these activists and blackballed them. Many of these young men did not discover that they had been disqualified from IDF service until a year or two later when they reached draft age and began the enlistment process. The IDF does not notify these young men of the issue even after they apply to be recruited, according to hesder sources. Between 6,000 and 7,000 religious Zionist high school graduates enlist in the IDF every year. They join combat units, especially the infantry, at disproportionately high levels. A high percentage go on to fill low- and mid-level command positions. During disengagement, the vast majority of religious Zionist soldiers obeyed evacuation orders. However, the IDF is concerned that there has recently been a move toward a more hard-line position. Profiling young religious Zionist men is one of the techniques the IDF uses to limit the number of soldiers who, like A., openly admit that they will not follow orders to remove Jews from their homes.