Letters to the Editor: Readers write in about free speech in IDF

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Regarding “Netanyahu summons Ya’alon over support for IDF free speech” (May 16), would Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon or the administration of any country tolerate defeatist talk by any officer, let alone a deputy chief of staff? Would any officer, let alone a high-ranking one who, using his “right” of free speech, urges capitulation to the enemy, be allowed to remain in his position? Of course not.
Everyone is entitled to a private opinion, but military officers are not free to voice opinions that are destructive to the defense or morale of the defenders of a nation. Thus, what Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon appears to be saying, in supporting the right of soldiers to speak up, is purely political.
When a high-ranking officer says something – however objectionable, however outrageous, however destructive, however it aids our enemies – that Ya’alon agrees with, well, it ought to be permitted as “free speech.” If, however, an officer voices statements not to Ya’alon’s liking, such as Col. Ofer Winter’s quoting from scripture, well, it is apparently out of line.
Shame, shame. Ya’alon belongs on a college campus, where only certain points of view are considered worthy of being freely expressed.
YERUCHAM REICH Jerusalem Deputy
Chief of Staff Maj.- Gen. Yair Golan’s Holocaust Remembrance Day speech was an insult to those who perished in the Holocaust, as well as to Jews today.
His major duty is to prepare our soldiers for combat against our Nazi-like enemies, such as Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic State in order to avoid another tragedy of the likes that befell our people 75 years ago.
This should have been the message of a responsible officer on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Golan’s slight comparison of our nation to the behavior of the worst of mankind during the Holocaust was dishonorable.
It was exploited by the international media against Israel. In this sense, he caused severe damage to the image of Israel and the IDF – 10 times more than the actions of Sgt. Elor Azaria, now on trial for having killed a wounded terrorist in Hebron.
Either Golan should face court-martial or the Kafkaesque trial against Azaria should be dropped.
Kudos to Liat Collins (“Labour pains,” My Word, May 13) for, more than other commentators, coming closest to hitting the nail on the head about Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan’s miserable words on Holocaust Remembrance Day, insinuating proto-Nazi hatred of Arabs in Israel. Her anecdote about a clueless Israeli in London insensate to anti-Semitic insults applies to Golan no less.
The general represents a brass that, since the IDF’s establishment, has been overwhelmingly staffed and dominated by graduates of the socialist, post-religious collectives, the kibbutzim and moshavim, with their defective understanding of anti-Semitism.
Golan is the type to believe that, as he said, the “political processes” in Germany a century ago that led to Nazism could occur anywhere and to any people, with the Jews the victims at that time almost by chance.
Worse, any people including Jews are capable of becoming Nazis, given the right circumstances.
Provincial Israelis like him who grew up surrounded only by fellow Jews and never personally experienced antisemitism – like being called a “dirty Jew” by schoolmate in their formative years – really don’t understand it. In a word, Golan hasn’t got a clue as to the insanity of Jew-hatred that is inexplicable in his intellectual universe.
The secular, socialist Zionists foresaw a day when the Jews would become a “normal” people by living in their own country, and anti-Semitism would disappear. Well, today’s resurrection of lunatic Jew-hatred in the form of “Palestinian” nationalism, with its wacky claims of Israeli “war crimes,” has put that fantasy to rest, even if Golan and the IDF brass have yet to understand that.
The fracas that has developed over army officers speaking their minds, wherever and whenever it be, brings to mind the MacArthur episode in the United States in 1951.
President Harry S. Truman dismissed Gen. Douglas MacArthur for being outspoken against government policy, relieving him of command of all American forces in the Far East in the midst of the Korean War.
Some members of Congress were shocked and suggested impeaching Truman. This was quickly dismissed, since the US Constitution expressly designates the president as commander in chief of the military.
History has vindicated Truman for his action in upholding civilian supremacy over the military.
The writer is an emeritus professor of American history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In “The fruits of subversion” (Column One, May 13), Caroline B. Glick describes certain army officers who gave away secrets or colluded with foreign governments to curry favor of one sort or another.
This sort of internal rot was prevalent in the French army in May and June 1940. The officers remembered all too well the bloodbaths of World War I – and who could blame them? But their faith in their own country and its government was so eroded that when the Nazis invaded in June, the whole army disintegrated, soldiers threw off their uniforms and fled.
Now, Moshe Ya’alon, our defense minister, is quoted as saying that our commanders should be able to speak their minds “even if they stand in contrast with the ideas adapted by senior commanders or the government.”
I learned in seventh grade civics class that the army’s purpose was to carry out the orders of the elected government. Of course, there should be debates among army officers in closed forums, but on the air waves and in public, this sounds like insubordination.
As a citizen whose children and grandchildren serve proudly in the IDF, and as one who served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, I am shocked at the remarks by senior IDF soldiers.
Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, according to “IDF deputy chief of staff caught in firestorm again – over comments made a decade ago” (May 16), said: “It is unimaginable that in an effort to ensure our soldiers’ safety, we can destroy whole apartment buildings.” One must wonder whose side Golan is on. I shudder at the thought that a senior officer in the IDF feels that enemy civilians are more important than the lives of our own flesh and blood.
As it is, the IDF is, according to both the American and British senior soldiers, the most moral of armies.
Britain’s Prince Harry, an officer in the British Army, said on his return from service in Afghanistan: “Your first job is to save your own guys; if you’ve got to drop the bomb, you drop the bomb.” The main objective in wartime is to win the war and save as many of your own side’s lives as possible.
If the other side doesn’t like this, it should not have started the war in the first place.
In addition, the comment by Moshe Ben-Zaken, an aide to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, about the self-sacrifice of Maj. Roi Klein, accusing him of leading his men into a trap (“Ya’alon apologizes for aide who criticized war hero,” May 16), is disgraceful. It is easy for someone sitting in the comfort of an armchair to criticize soldiers fighting in the field. One might ask where Ben-Zaken was during the Second Lebanon War.