Thursday, August 16, 2007

"I was only following orders"


Letter from Ruth Matar (Women in Green) Jerusalem
Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dear Friends,

On Monday, August 6, 2007, the Olmert Government ordered 3,000 Israeli Military personnel to forcibly evict two Jewish families, with a total of 14 small children, from their homes in Hebron. (These families had originally been promised permits by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) which were later arbitrarily denied to them by Olmert’s Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz.)

These homes, incidentally, were built on the site of originally Jewish-owned property. These homes, amongst many others, were destroyed following the Hebron Massacre in 1929, in which 67 Jews were brutally murdered by the Arabs.

In addition to the eviction of the two families, the IDF was ordered to destroy a holy place of worship, the Shalhevet Pass Synagogue, which was named in commemoration of a ten month old Jewish baby murdered by an Arab sniper in 2001.

Many soldiers found these orders very disturbing; twenty-two of them approached their commanders to express their difficulty with taking part in this mission. Only twelve of these soldiers decided to actively disobey orders, two of them commanders.

These soldiers received a jail sentence of 28 days and upon release are to be demoted from serving in their fighting units.

It is important to note that the IDF eviction refusal was much more widespread than reported by most Israeli media. However, the daily Maariv, in a front-page story, reported that “hundreds of soldiers refused and were reassigned to washing dishes, cleaning tents, or helping in the mess hall, by their commanders - out of the sight of the cameras.” The report stated that the soldiers who objected to taking part in the Hebron eviction were not just religious Hesder students, but many others as well.

Even at this point there is still very emotional, heated discussion in Israel, whether these soldiers were justified to refuse orders from their superiors.

Some people claim that it would be impossible for a democracy to survive if soldiers were allowed to question and disobey their superiors.

Others feel that, precisely in a TRUE democracy, the individual should not be required to follow orders which he feels are of questionable morality.

According to the first argument, any action by an individual soldier can be defended by the famous statement “I was only following orders”.

This excuse was used by the Nazi war criminals at the post World War II Nuremberg Trials. However, it was not accepted by the International Military Tribunal. Article 8 of the Charter of this Tribunal states explicitly: “The fact that the defendant acted pursuant to orders of his government or of a superior, shall not free him from responsibility.” Thus, the Nuremberg Trials determined that this is no defense and that some orders are illegal and must not be followed.

A surprising defender of the second argument is Ariel Sharon.
In 1994 Ariel Sharon wrote an article entitled “Hebron isn’t Yamit”, which was published in the Jerusalem Post on April 4th of that year.

One of the most important sentences of Sharon’s article is the following:
“That is why every Jew must understand that at stake in Hebron is not the destiny of a few hundred Jews, but the fate of the whole Jewish community in the land of Israel.”

Women in Green have decided to republish this article by Ariel Sharon because of its timelessness and importance. Following is the article, as it was originally published in the Jerusalem Post in April, 1994, and as it will reappear in the same newspaper, in a front-page ad, 13 years later, this Friday, August 17, 2007.

Ariel Sharon, The Jerusalem Post
April 4, 1994

IT was with a heavy heart that I appealed last week to the citizens of Israel to oppose the evacuation of Jews from Hebron. Hebron is Jerusalem, not Yamit.

I called on Jews to stage a passive, non-violent popular resistance against the declared intentions of the government because the security and the rights of Jews everywhere in the Land of Israel will be undermined almost irreparably if the government goes ahead with its plans for Hebron.

If, despite the protests, the government implements its plan, it must know in advance that we shall return to Hebron.

I have no doubt that Jews in their multitudes, both here and in the Diaspora, feel that the government has lost all Jewish- Zionist direction. The very thought of sending the IDF to evacuate Jews from Hebron is incontrovertible proof of this. Jews are feeling, justifiably, that the fate and future of the state is in danger.

Throughout most of my adult life I followed orders and issued them, as a soldier and commander in the IDF. That is why I understand the supreme importance of the duty to fulfill legal orders by which all soldiers and commanders are bound. This is so that the military system which protects us will be preserved.
At the same time, one must warn that if a government dares to uproot Jews from the heart of the Land of Israel, a process may begin at the end of which there will be nothing left for the military system to defend, except for itself.

After all, we created the IDF to protect the Zionist ideal of settlement which was endangered from the start by Arab aggression and threats of annihilation. This was even before we returned to Hebron, when only with immense difficulty did we manage to keep the 1948 part of Jerusalem.

If the government uproots the Hebron Jews it will be uprooting a cornerstone of the IDF: to protect every Jew who has settled anywhere in the Land of Israel.

Therefore, just as every soldier and commander in the IDF must follow the legal instructions of the government, every citizen in a democratic country must ask himself what he must do when he believes the government's policy endangers him and his future.

This question is particularly pertinent when the state is a Jewish state whose future is increasingly jeopardized by the government's attempts to reinforce the PLO's hold on our land by undermining and uprooting Jews from their homes.

AS OF this Pessah, every Jew must feel as if he himself is about to be exiled from Hebron. He must understand that if he does not rise to stop this, he may be uprooted from his home in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba and any other place.

In contrast with the days of exile, it is not only the privilege but the duty of every Jew in this democratic state to rise and warn his government through passive resistance of the evil that it is liable to bring upon him.

What Jews could not do in Germany and in Poland before annihilation, they must do in their own country; they must stand up and resist.

The moment the government raises the question of the fate of the settlers in Hebron as a bargaining chip with the Palestinian enemy, it is liable to cross the redline of protecting the majority of Jews in the Land of Israel.

How will this government be different from Jewish leaders in the darkest days of Europe who negotiated with the Nazis to rescue some Jews while abandoning others - and who in most cases succeeded in rescuing none?

There are great democracies which can afford to make such mistakes; which can save themselves, even on the edge of oblivion - at the price of hundreds of thousands of victims. But our democracy is too fragile and young to be able to do so. Therefore Jews must exercise their democratic right to oppose being used as guinea pigs for the peace experiment the government entered when it signed the Oslo agreement.

The agreement was an experiment whose consequences were known in advance and which are already eating away at us. It is an experiment which is about to turn Israel into a combination of Lebanon, Sarajevo and Johannesberg.

Zionism came about first and foremost to bring us back to Jerusalem, Hebron, Shilo and Beit El. It is from these places that we came, it is about these places that we dreamt, it is to these places that we yearned and prayed for 2,000 years. Only if we return to them can we again be a free Jewish people.

The whole enterprise of the Jewish renaissance is nothing but the settling of a Jewish minority in the heart of hostile Arab areas. It was true about the pre-State Yishuv and it has been true of the State of Israel, in every settlement or group of settlements in Tel Hai, Petah Tikva, Be'er Tuviya, Safed, Tel Aviv; settlements in the Negev, Galilee, the Hefer Valley, Karmiel and Hanita.

That is why every Jew must understand that at stake in Hebron is not the destiny of a few hundred Jews, but the fate of the whole Jewish community in the land of Israel.

* * *

With Blessings and Love for Israel,

Ruth Matar

Women For Israel's Tomorrow (Women in Green)
POB 7352, Jerusalem 91072, Israel
Tel: 972-2-624-9887 Fax: 972-2-624-5380

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Israel's Betrayal of the Jews
Ariel Sharon: From Zionist to Traitor
Free Speech Under Attack in Israel


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