Haim Weiss, who was once glad to serve
in the Israeli army, tells his defence secretary
why he will not go to the West Bank
Monday May 6, 2002
Dear Ben Eliezer
I must put in writing the reasons that
have led me to one of the most difficult
decisions of my life - to refuse the call for
reserve duty in the areas of Judea and
Samaria [the West Bank], and the Gaza Strip.
This decision was difficult for two reasons.
First and foremost is a matter of principle:
I believe that living in a democracy offers
equal parts privilege and obligation,
and that it is my duty to adhere to the
decisions made by majority rule,
barring exceptional circumstances.
The second reason is that over
many years of reserve duty,
I have not only served a very important cause,
but also formed close bonds with the soldiers
in my company and battalion.
It is extremely difficult to imagine them
serving on dangerous missions while
I sit at home.
Despite this, the current situation
leaves me no choice but to refuse.
The citizen's conscience provides a critical
foundation for the checks and balances inherent
in a democracy. Israel has done more than grant
citizens full rights to protest against injustices.
By including the concept of "a clearly illegal command"
in the code of military law, it has obliged its soldiers to
refuse to carry out orders that are immoral or opposed
to the values on which a democracy is based.
As I see it, this concept means that when a
soldier is issued with a command opposed
to his moral values, he must refuse to obey it,
report the event, and ensure that such orders
will not be repeated.
A soldier who does not do so cannot escape
being held morally responsible by claiming that
he only carried out orders,
but can expect to be tried for his actions.
This law indicates that the military and the state
see the soldier as an autonomous moral being,
who must carry out commands only if they pass
his moral scrutiny.
The most critical question that arises is
"what exactly is an illegal command?"
What is immoral as opposed to just
inconvenient or unpleasant,
and into which category does the
current situation in the territories fall?
An order to fire on a child standing
before a roadblock is clearly illegal.
But if the order is to shoot above his
head to chase him from the roadblock,
does the emotional damage the shooting
causes the child make the order illegal?
Is it illegal to continually enter Palestinian
citizens' homes in the middle of the night?
Is it illegal to prevent the free
movement of Palestinian citizens?
Aren't the searches,
our many mistakes,
an indication that our treatment of the
Palestinian population under our rule is clearly illegal?
Military law does not define what
a clearly illegal order is,
but leaves it to the soldier.
My interpretation of the law does not
limit it to orders involving attacking,
killing or injuring people.
it includes any command that,
leads to humiliating human beings,
robbing them of self-respect,
depriving them of the basic human rights
protected under the UN declaration of human rights,
a document signed by Israel.
I used to believe there was a purpose
to my presence in the territories.
I believed the solutions I offered would prevent problems.
Today, I believe my presence cannot solve
those problems and that the orders issued
are illegal because they deprive the Palestinian
population of its basic rights and freedoms.
Prohibiting Palestinians from travelling along
roads without providing alternative routes,
the never-ending delays at roadblocks,
the many hours required to travel short
distances, the humiliation,
the destruction of homes,
the incessant searches,
the need to aim weapons at innocent women and children -
all these actions turn the Israeli Defence Force into an
immoral occupying force, and in these I refuse to participate.
These actions on the part of the IDF
provide no protection to Israel.
They protect only the settlements built on
conquered territory, where Israel has no
right to establish settlements.
The friction with the Palestinian population
is caused by the need to provide settlers
with freedom of movement, not by the need
to prevent suicide bombers entering Israeli territory.
As long as Israel continues to hold the settlements,
it will be forced to act immorally toward the Palestinian population.
In addition to the great harm we are
causing daily to Palestinians,
we damage ourselves as a society.
Our society is based on moral precepts in Judaism,
which states that "loved is a person created in God's image".
Instead, we are raising a generation of violent
young people immune to pain and human suffering,
a generation who don't see in the Palestinian a
human being, only part of a mass to be avoided
We are raising a generation that stops
pregnant women, old people and children
from getting to hospital.
I am very sorry that things have reached this point.
I would be very glad to serve the IDF
on any mission entrusted to us,
as long as its objective is not connected
with subduing the Palestinian population
under our rule.
Captain Haim Weiss
Haim Weiss, 32,
is a captain in the tank corps and served
in the IDF for four years during his military service.
He is completing a PhD in Hebrew
literature at the Hebrew University