The case of Avi Bieber, who refused to take part in the demolition of an abandoned outpost in Gaza yesterday, cannot pass without comment. His actions are essentially the opening strike of an outright rebellion which has the potential to destroy the IDF -- and thus potentially the entire State -- from within. He is being hailed as a hero by some, but to others, and to me, is truly dangerous. I hope that the IDF deals with him promptly and severely to set an example to others who are considering following in his footsteps. I also hope that any people who were there for the express purpose of obstructing an evacuation that the democratically elected government of Israel had decided upon are dealt with in the same way.
Last but not least, I hope (in vain, I suspect) that it means something that he was the only soldier to rebel (although some accounts hint at a slightly different version of events). Here's what I think about what he and his father had to say, although the only point which is really important is #2:
- Ha'aretz: Bieber defended his action as that of a conscientious objector, saying that his family "didn't come to the country to expel Jews from their homes." Firstly, that wasn't what he was asked to do; he was being asked to demolish vacant buildings near a settlement. The only Jews around were protestors who were there deliberately to prevent the military action. In any case, why Bieber came to 'this country' and what he believes the country is about is completely irrelevant; once you've signed up to to the IDF, it's your orders that count.
- Bieber: "I didn't enlist in the IDF in order to destroy communities or prepare the ground for the destruction of communities. I enlisted in the IDF to defend the state, and this action is not the role of the IDF." The only reason one enlists in the IDF is to obey legal orders. What the army makes soldiers do thereafter is not up to privates but up to the democratically elected government. If he doesn't like the policy, he can vote to change the government, but it's not up to him to disobey orders. In addition, what constitutes 'defending the state' is a matter of political opinion, which is why it's so dangerous for soldiers to begin deciding for themselves which orders they are going to follow. There were plenty of soldiers on the other side of the political divide who thought that fighting in Lebanon contributed nothing to defending the state, but went anyway.
- Bieber's father Ralph: "He saw that his commanders were beating Jews, and he'd never seen anything like that in his life." Those Jews were there specifically in order to make it difficult for the Army to do its job. They almost by definition put themselves there in order to be 'beaten up' / involved in violence. One might also note that the protestors were deliberately, violently attacking Jewish soldiers -- "military sources reporting that one IDF officer was kicked in the face by a settler and another female officer was attacked and slapped by a youth" -- and that this is just as shocking.
- Bieber defined himself as a 'conscientious objector': He's clearly not as there are clearly causes for which he is willing to pick up arms. Does he even understand what this means? He may object to the disengagement, but he's not a conscientious objector, who objects to violence under all circumstances.
All the same, despite all the media attention, there's nothing special about this boy. He simply did what he was taught and is repeating back all the key phrases he's had drummed into him, whether they're relevant or not.