Hat tip: DaatTorah
The ever anti-Jewish The New York Times ran a recent piece looking at religious-secular tensions in the Israeli army. Naturally, the bias in the piece was obvious: the religious soliders in Tzahal are a bunch of messianic fanatics ready to liberate all of Greater Israel with blood and fire... oops, sorry, that's the Arab slogan.
Several of the testimonies, published by an institute that runs a premilitary course and is affiliated with the left-leaning secular kibbutz movement, showed a distinct impatience with religious soldiers, portraying them as self-appointed holy warriors.
A soldier, identified by the pseudonym Ram, is quoted as saying that in Gaza, “the rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles and their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land. This was the main message, and the whole sense many soldiers had in this operation was of a religious war.”
Dany Zamir, the director of the one-year premilitary course who solicited the testimonies and then leaked them, leading to a promise by the military to investigate, is quoted in the transcripts as expressing anguish over the growing religious nationalist elements of the military.
“If clerics are anointing us with oil and sticking holy books in our hands, and if the soldiers in these units aren’t representative of the whole spectrum of the Jewish people, but rather of certain segments of the population, what can we expect?” he said. “To whom do we complain?”
Now to understand the problem with this excerpt, it is important to understand some history about the Tzahal. Traditionally the kibbutzim, especially the Labour Zionist ones, have been the source of the best soldiers and offiers. Look at the higher echelons of the army and you don't have to try hard to find kibbutnikim serving in most important roles.
However, over the last couple of decades with the slide amongst Labour Zionists into post-Zionist self-hatred, this predominance has been challenged. What's worse, the principle challenge has come from the Religious Zionist community which is especially galling to Labour Zionism. After all, one of the principle of the secular Zionist movement is that Israel was meant to be a socialist and non-religious state both because of the ideology of the movement's leaders and because of the widespread belief that Torah Judaism was a ghetto religion incapable of handling the burdens of running a modern country. However, the latter assumption was disproven decades ago. Now with Religious Zionism starting to predominate in the army, another assumption has been shattered, that secular Zionists make the best soldiers. And this is something the Israeli left can't seem to come to terms with.
As the article goes on to note:
In many cases, the religious nationalists have ascended to command positions from precisely the kind of premilitary college course that Mr. Zamir runs — but theirs are run by the religious movements rather than his secular one, meaning that the competition between him and them is both ideological and careerist.
“The officer corps of the elite Golani Brigade is now heavily populated by religious right-wing graduates of the preparatory academies,” noted Moshe Halbertal, a Jewish philosophy professor who co-wrote the military code of ethics and who is himself religiously observant but politically liberal. “The religious right is trying to have an impact on Israeli society through the army.”
For Mr. Halbertal, like for the vast majority of Israelis, the army is an especially sensitive institution because it has always functioned as a social cauldron, throwing together people from all walks of life and scores of ethnic and national backgrounds, and helping form them into a cohesive society with social networks that carry on throughout their lives.
Well yes, that sounds about right. But why doesn't Professor Halbertal also note that for the first four decades of that State's existence, the same thing happened except that it was the ultra-secular kibbutzniks who were the influential onces having an impact on society?
But for me, the bottom line is to look at why the Religious Zionist movement has become such an important part of the army: because they're the only community in Israel that makes no bones about sending their children to participate in Tzahal.
The Chareidim don't go because of so-called religious reasons. As a result, they have little influence on the army and general society. As a result, they are dismissed as parasites willing to rely on the protection Tzahal provides but without helping contribute to it.
But more and more, the Israeli left no longer willingly sends their children to Tzahal. But unlike the Chaareidim, they avoid the opprobium that draft dodging should bring with it. Withhigh minded terms such as "conscientous objection" and celebrity dodgers like Ehud Olmert's children, they are seen as taking the "moral high road".
But unlike the Chareidim who make token protests as to how the army runs itself (which even they don't take seriously) the Israeli Left still intends for the army they are less and less likely to support to remain a secular organization despite the growing numbers of religious youth fighting to protect our Land.
If the Left doesn't like it, let them help out. If they're not going to, then let them shut up.