Rabbis: Soldiers must refuse IDF orders

Servicemen urged not to take part in dismanting outposts; Pines-Paz wants Mazuz to launch probe.

migron outpost 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
migron outpost 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Leading religious Zionist rabbis called Wednesday evening on IDF soldiers and officers to disobey orders to dismantle and evacuate outposts and settlements in Judea and Samaria. "The holy Torah prohibits taking part in any act of uprooting Jews from any part of our sacred land," wrote the group of rabbis that included Hebron-Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, Beit El Chief Rabbi Zalman Melamed, Yitzhar Rabbi David Dudkevitch, Rabbi Haim Steiner of Yeshivat Mercaz Harav and Rabbi Ya'acov Yosef, the eldest son of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. "We call on all security personnel to refuse expulsion orders. A soldier or a policeman who is asked to take part in an uprooting operation is obligated to refuse this order, which goes against Torah values," they said. The rabbis met in a synagogue at the Givat Asaf outpost located at the entrance to Beit El in Samaria. The outpost was established in May 2001 after the murder of Ofra resident Asaf Hershkovitz by terrorists. Givat Asaf, with a few dozen families, is one of the largest outposts slated for evacuation. The meeting was called after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak initiated a plan to dismantle 26 outposts deemed to be illegal. Harel Cohen, a spokesman for the spiritual leaders - who call themselves Yesha Rabbis (Yesha is the acronym for Judea, Samaria and Gaza) - said that in recent days, many soldiers had contacted their rabbis to ask them what they should do if they were ordered to dismantle outposts or settlements. "There are a lot of high-ranking IDF personnel who either live in an outpost or have family and friends who do," Cohen said. "They are facing a very difficult situation." Many kippa-wearing officers had been talking about the difficult situation, a senior source in a religious pre-military academy said. However, he said that he doubted there would be much insubordination. Over the past two decades, due in part to a fundamental change in religious Zionist rabbis' outlook toward military service, which is seen as a religious duty, there has been a sharp rise in the number of religious Zionists who serve as career officers in IDF combat units. The soldiers are torn between their duty to serve the state and their religious faith in maintaining Greater Israel, including Judea and Samaria. Unlike Yesha Rabbis, many religious Zionist rabbis opposed insubordination during the 2005 Gaza disengagement as long as the soldiers were not directly involved in dismantling or evacuating settlements. The IDF mostly respected religious soldiers' and officers' requests not to take a direct part in the operation. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva in the capital's Old City, and Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel were leading spiritual leaders who opposed insubordination. Heads of religious pre-military academies, such as Rabbi Eli Sadan of Eli and Rabbi Rafi Peretz of Atzmona, also advised their graduates not to disobey orders, instead urging them to maintain the unity of the Jewish people. Rabbi Mordechai Rabinovitzh, who signed Wednesday's declaration, called it a "wake-up call." "I think it is a crying shame that not one single senior officer resigned rather than take part in the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif [in 2005]," Rabinovitzh said. "Soldiers need to show they are not simply robots and that if they are given an inherently immoral order to exile Jews, they must refuse." Rabinovitzh rejected the claim made by religious Zionist rabbis opposed to refusing military orders that rampant insubordination would undermine the unity and cohesion needed to maintain armed forces. "Throwing innocent people out of their homes is an immoral act. When soldiers commit immoral acts, it leads to corruption and a complete breakdown of the moral fiber," he said. Rabinovitzh also rejected the argument often put forward by more integrationist religious Zionists that settlers are the messengers of the Jewish people and that if a majority of Jews are opposed to maintaining outposts, they must respect this. "Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak made their decision to destroy outposts without a cabinet vote. They claim that the law gives them the power to forcibly remove people from their homes. But even if there were a cabinet vote or the majority of Israelis favored dismantling outposts, which I don't believe they do, it would still be immoral and prohibited," he said. MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) called on Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to launch criminal investigations against Yesha Rabbis. "The rabbis' call to refuse military orders undermines Israeli democracy," Pines-Paz said. "This is dangerous incitement that is liable to break up the IDF. I call on settlement leaders to distance themselves from these rabbis' declaration. And I call on the attorney-general to open investigations against the rabbis for allegations of incitement."•