MTKL’s Israeli Army Women Calendar
Just a couple of months after the Gaza war, Israel has found a new way “to show the world the beauty of Israel and its people” — via the power of a pin-up calendar featuring real IDF soldiers.
Or, as the creators of the MTKL Israeli Army Women Calendar like to call them, “the chosen amongst the chosen people.”
These chosen women, brought together by two former (male) soldiers who “scoured the ranks of the powerful Israeli army,” would like you to donate $25 to their Indiegogo campaign so that they can not only ship you this calendar, but also create a whole line of clothing and accessories that will blend “the best of military and street into must-have urban fashion.”
Their goal is to make $30,000 off the calendars, enabling them to bring their clothing line to production in early 2015. So far they’ve raised about $3700 — which means that a bunch of people are already walking around wearing jewelry “fashioned after the official IDF Dog Tag.”
I say that because, if you ask me, this fashion line — and the pin-up calendar being used to showcase it — is pretty much the most unsexy thing I can imagine.
It’s not just that this product is the work of two men using a bunch of women’s bodies to make a quick buck. Leave aside for a minute the obvious feminist objections to pin-up calendars writ large — and hone in on this calendar in particular. It doesn’t take long to see that we’re being sold more than your average “male gaze” sexual fantasy. What we’re being sold is an ideology that equates sexiness with militarism, and Israel with both.
Palestinian mourners carry Orwa Hammad to a prayer session at a Silwad school / Naomi Zeveloff
On Sunday afternoon, the main street in Silwad, a village north of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was lined with parked cars for as far as the eye could see. Palestinians from all over the area had come to pay their respects to Orwa Abd al-Wahhab Hammad, the 14-year-old killed in clashes on October 24 with the Israeli military. Posters with Hammad’s photo — a serious-looking teen with his black hair combed forward — were plastered on bumpers, windshields and on fences throughout the town, each one bearing the imprint of Hamas, Fatah or the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
According to news reports, the Israeli Defense Forces said it opened fire on Hammad after he was getting ready to hurl a lit firebomb toward Route 60, an account which Palestinian officials dispute. A family member said that Hammad was with a group of boys throwing rocks when he was killed.
Hammad was raised in Silwad, a village of around 6,000 people marked by a stone Arabic sign and a marquee advertising a USAID-sponsored road project. But Hammad was also a United States citizen, the second one claimed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the past week. On Thursday, an East Jerusalem Palestinian named Abdel-Rahman Shaloudi plowed a car into the Ammunition Hill light rail station, injuring seven people and killing three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun, an American citizen whose family had taken her to the Western Wall for the first time that day. Shaloudi was killed by Israeli police as he fled the scene. On Sunday, an Ecuadorian woman injured in the attack died from her wounds.
Nine workers at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport lost their jobs yesterday because they refused to interact with passengers who arrived from Ethiopia.
The workers, contractor employees of the Israel Airports Authority, were asked to hand out Ebola information pamphlets to the Ethiopian Airlines passengers and to direct them to an area where they could have their temperatures checked. The workers were reluctant to do so out of fear that they would contract Ebola. They argued that they weren’t properly protected.
These nine workers weren’t the only ones afraid to come into contact with the passengers. They told Ynet that they were asked to perform the task only after the airport’s permanent employees refused to do it. The contract workers were threatened, and when they still insisted they would not perform the procedure, they were fired on the spot.
Eventually, cops stationed at the airport were the ones who agreed to undertake the procedure.
This incident follows a new directive that was issued three days ago. According to the latest decision, passengers coming to Israel from any country in Africa have to fill out a questionnaire and have their body temperature checked. This new protocol is an expansion of a procedure that included only passengers from countries with incidences of Ebola: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leon.
As part of the new protocol, even passengers coming from Cairo ¬— only about an hour flight from Tel Aviv — are getting tested, as they come from “Africa.”
Hossam al-Dabbus makes art out of remnants from the Gaza war / Getty Images
As donors pledge billions to rebuild Gaza in the wake of Hamas’s war with Israel, one Gazan is engaged in another type of construction: turning remnants of the war into works of art.
Hossam al-Dabbus, a 33-year-old who works in Gaza’s honey industry, has collected shells, rockets and missiles from the war that killed around 2,2000 Gazans and more than 70 Israelis — and turned these objects into flower vases.
Dabbus, who lives in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, first found his materials by combing through the Gaza wreckage. As orders poured in for his art, he asked Hamas police for more defunct projectiles from the war.
“When my children grow up I’ll be able to show them these and tell them — here are remains of the 2014 war that left over 2,000 people dead, and this is how I transformed an instrument of death into a vessel of life, making these bombs into flower vases,” Dabbus told Agence France-Presse.
Demonstrators call on the British parliament to recognize ‘Palestine’
The British Parliament’s decision to back a motion to “recognize the state of Palestine,” by a margin of 274 to 12 votes, means nothing — and everything.
Nothing, because the passage of this motion was a purely symbolic matter, close to but not really a true indication of parliamentary feeling on the matter, since not all MPs were allowed a free vote and fewer than half of them even bothered: 90% of Conservative MPs didn’t show up. At worst, the whole thing can be viewed as a stunt, promoted by a cadre of anti-Israel MPs on the backbenches, seized upon by Labour leader Ed Miliband to undermine the authority of the government and score political points, less than a year out from the general election.
The fact of the matter is that, even prior to the vote, the government was clear that its position on Palestinian statehood would not alter. While critical of settlement policy and human rights violations, the Conservative Party is the most pro-Israel party of the three main parties in Britain. The Conservative Friends of Israel continues to have a great deal of influence within the parliamentary party itself. One vote will not overturn that dynamic, nor will it make a state for the Palestinian people any more of a reality. Only the Israelis and Palestinians together, not the British, can make that happen.
So, no need for Israel to drag the British ambassador in for a lecture, as recently happened to Sweden’s envoy. But that doesn’t mean that Jerusalem should ignore events in Parliament entirely. While the vote might mean nothing today, it means everything insofar as it shows something is shifting in Britain and Europe more broadly, where the increasing criticism of Israel heard on the street is being reflected at a higher political level.
Rebecca Vilkomerson speaking at the Open Hillel conference / Gili Getz
“I bought my ticket right after my rabbi’s Rosh Hashanah sermon. I knew I needed this community,” a student participant at the Open Hillel conference told me today.
The student went on to thank Open Hillel for providing a long overdue space for young Jews to come together and question the institutions, frameworks and viewpoints we have been taught. The message rang out loud and clear today at the inaugural Open Hillel conference: My generation is not content to be spoon-fed talking points, courted by free trips to Israel, or talked down to from patriarchal institutions that advocate policies at odds with our values. We want to proactively grapple with the hard questions that define the political and moral choices facing our community today.
Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership construct a political litmus test that prohibits the ability of students to engage with these questions. For Hillel, openness is an only-if-you-agree-with-our-funders kind of deal. The line is drawn at support for nonviolent resistance to occupation through boycott, divestment and sanctions — beyond that you become a “demonizer’” or “delegitimizer.” These are the rules of the conversation as dictated by Hillel, but the students are not content to stop there.
It was clear today, after hours of packed workshops, panels, speeches, and conversations in the hallways, at lunch and in the elevator, that the Open Hillel conference had struck a nerve. The floodgates have been opened and they aren’t shutting anytime soon. Over 350 people participated in this weekend’s conference — a far cry from the “small group of activists” Hillel International president Eric Fingerhut dismissed in his recent op-ed.
Judith Butler speaks at the inaugural Open Hillel conference in Boston/Photo by Gili Getz/Open Hillel
(JTA) — Four rabbis are engaged in an animated debate about Jewish law. Three of them agree, but the dissenter is adamant that he’s got it right. He cries out: “A sign, God, I beg You, a sign!”
It begins to rain, but the three in the majority are not swayed. “Another sign, please God!”
The rain picks up and lightning strikes near the rabbis, but still the three refuse to budge. After another plea from the one rabbi, a voice thunders from Heaven: “Heeeee’s Riiiiight!” The three rabbis look at each other, not sure how to react. Finally, one responds: “Well, all right. So it’s three against two.”
This lighthearted parable — an adapted version of the Talmud’s “Oven of Akhnai” story — highlights one of the foundational truths of Judaism: We do not always agree on our foundational truths.
Our disagreements are not a hindrance to communal existence but rather the source of an intellectual diversity. No matter the subject, it is precisely in and through these disagreements that Judaism finds its richest expression.
Open Hillel — a student-led campaign to change a Hillel International rule that, among other things, precludes it from partnering with groups that seek to change Israeli policies through nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) efforts — is hosting our first conference this week at Harvard. We are gathering because we believe that the principle of intellectual diversity ought to apply to our politics as well as our theology.
Hillel President Eric Fingerhut chats with a student / Flickr: Hillel News and Views
Once again the love affair between the Jewish people and higher education is back in full bloom. The start of a new school year, and the Jewish New Year, marked the beginning of robust programming for Jewish college students across the globe.
As students dig into their studies, the events in Israel and Gaza this past summer are a hot topic on many campuses. In response, Hillel International, the largest Jewish student organization in the world — its growing network now serves some 550 campuses in North and South America, Europe, Central Asia, Australia and Israel — is drawing on its expertise in promoting deep and thoughtful discussion. Hillel is sponsoring a broad range of programs to help students understand the issues and how they will affect Israel and its neighbors in the future.
Hillel professionals have heard presentations from both the Israeli ambassador to the United States and the leader of the opposition in the Knesset. Hillel student leaders have organized interfaith gatherings and intercultural dialogues. Hillel educators have offered seminars and discussions for students to learn about contemporary Israeli society and culture, to reflect on their own relationships with Israel and to develop skills as dialogue facilitators.
Hillel students have also modeled what respectful discourse looks like: At Cooper Union Hillel in New York City, students countered an effort to boycott a speech by the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and encouraged Jewish students to attend and listen respectfully, which they did. And, of course, the tens of thousands of students who attended High Holiday services at Hillel joined Jews all over the world in praying for a year of peace for all people.
What all these activities have in common is they welcome and include students of all backgrounds, all political positions and who have an exceptionally wide array of relationships with their Jewish identities and with Israel. They do so within an environment that is intellectually rigorous, respectful of difference and committed to honest conversation. Hillel is among the most religiously, intellectually, culturally and politically pluralistic organizations in the Jewish world — a testament to both the diversity of Jewish experience and of the college campuses we serve.
Inclusivity and broad-mindedness are part of our core values. All students are always welcome at Hillel. And these values guide all of our work. That work includes listening to all student voices, including those of the activists behind the “Open Hillel” campaign and other campus groups.
“There is no asylum seeker problem in Israel.”
So said Netanyahu when, following his recent address to members of the Jewish Federations of North America in New York, one of the attendees raised the issue of African asylum-seekers.
“They are illegal job immigrants,” the Israeli prime minister said, adding: “Asylum seekers can come in like those from Syria — but not job seekers from Africa.”
There are a few problems with this.
First of all, while all of Syria’s other neighbors have welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees (Turkey and Lebanon each host over one million Syrian refugees), Israel has accepted none. Israel does welcome Syrians who’ve been injured in the ongoing civil war in the country and offer them top-notch medical treatment free of charge. Most patients are interested in returning, but even in cases when they are not, they are deported back to a country engulfed in war. Thus, the State opposed the petition filed to the High Court by a 17-year-old Syrian girl who was treated in Israel and wished to remain here. She was deported to Syria in early 2014.
But, more than that, there’s the fact that about 48,000 African migrants reside in Israel. The government insists that they are “illegal work infiltrators.” Is that true — or are they refugees who would face persecution if returned to their homelands?
In her recent New York Times op-ed, Mairav Zonszein describes incidents in which left-leaning Israelis were intimidated and even attacked by right-wing thugs. She concludes that, to quote the title of her piece, “Israel Silences Dissent.” By using this phrase, she suggests that Israel displays a state-based system of intimidation against those who do not accept its core principles, which increasingly privilege Jewish ethnicity and religion.
While Zonszein points out some alarming signs in the social reality of Israel, we would argue that depicting Israel as a country that persecutes dissenters is a gross exaggeration. Israel’s freedom of speech is still widely exercised, even in moments when Israel is under attack and masses of Israelis are mobilized to serve the country’s basic security needs.
What’s more, by leveling these kinds of accusations, Zonszein does nothing so much as play into Israel’s dysfunctional culture of debate — exactly the culture she aims to expose.
(Haaretz) — It was fairly predictable. The Israeli government, after all, has been doing its best lately to send the message out that we’re all on the same side when it comes to opposing the monstrosity that is the Islamic State.
But that message upsets those who don’t want the world to forget that there’s no entity on earth that could possibly be as incorrigibly evil and destructive as the state of Israel. We’re talking about those folks for whom this summer’s events in Gaza were clearly a premeditated genocidal operation designed to kill Palestinians - and Hamas rockets were just a convenient excuse.
The Islamic State poses a quandary for these activists - who see the Middle East in black and white, in which the black hat belongs to Israel. Even those who prefer to see the warm and fuzzy side of organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah have trouble justifying the barbaric behavior of the Islamic State group - otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL - in any way.
So if they can’t say that ISIL is WORSE than the Jewish state, they’ve decided that the best way to vilify Israel these days is to make clear that the nation’s behavior is surely the equivalent of bloodthirsty beheaders.
And thus, in a catchy way to equate the two, the hashtag #JSIL was born on Twitter, presumably standing for Jewish State in the Levant.
When it comes to Israeli-Palestinian relations, there’s much to be cynical about lately. The 50-day long carnage resulting from Operation Protective Edge this summer, the frozen peace process, the dueling speeches by Netanyahu and Abbas at the U.N. — and then there’s the festering issue of Israel’s minorities.
This week, Israel’s new president has come out with a touching video demanding that Israeli society replace racism, intolerance and thuggery with unity, tolerance and empathy. According to the president’s Facebook page, President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin approached 11-year old George Amira after seeing a video the boy had created from his own experience at the hands of schoolyard bullies. The president invited the young Jaffa resident to his office and suggested they collaborate on a similar video with a country-wide message of hope.
“Speaking up against violence is everyone’s responsibility,” the president’s Facebook posting said. “We can see it intensifying in our society, and we must stop it,” he continued.
I could be cynical while watching President Rivlin’s video. But I’m not.
Benjamin Netanyahu, left; anti-ISIS fighter, right / Getty Images
Speaking at the General Assembly this week, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu repeated a refrain he has sounded for three decades (since his days as Israeli ambassador to the U.N.) — that all forms of terrorism are different sides of the same coin and have civilization as their target:
So when it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas. And what they share in common all militant Islamists share in common. Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabab in Somalia, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Al-Nusra in Syria, the Mahdi army in Iraq, and the Al-Qaida branches in Yemen, Libya, the Philippines, India and elsewhere.
The startling assortment of groups; the lumping of a Shiite movement (Hezbollah) with those that can treat Shi‘a as apostates; the linking of Israel’s enemies with those now targeted by the United States — all this is politically convenient. But is it accurate?
In Haaretz, Moshe Arens has accused the Israeli left of not accepting, first, that Israeli democracy is working fine, and second, the specific “verdict of the electorate.”
Arens’ framing of Israeli democracy is flawed because he leaves several important points out of his description. To begin with, the Israeli left doesn’t wonder why the system isn’t functioning; they know perfectly well that it is. It’s the incentives they’ve identified driving the vote that they want to change, not the system itself.
They’re worried about the apathy that characterizes recent Israeli voting patterns. In addition to a declining voter turnout rate — from between 70% and 90% from 1949 to 2003 to under 70% since then (though it has risen slightly since 2009) — the default pattern has for some time been the right-wing parties, particularly as the economy has been doing well. Israeli leftists understand that the voting public needs to be made aware of the price of maintaining that pattern — mostly occupation and settlement expansion and the moral, political, financial and security costs associated with them. They also know they need a stronger message than the right’s playing on general security threats and efforts to instill fear of those with different political ideologies and backgrounds.
Arens is right that the electorate has held the left accountable for Oslo, the withdrawal from Lebanon and even the withdrawal from Gaza. He might have added that the left-wing parties themselves haven’t been able to get beyond the old slogans that “ending the occupation” and “negotiated withdrawals” would make everything immediately better. But he might also have added that the right-wing parties haven’t gotten past their own outdated ideas.
Israelis hide in a concrete pipe used as a shelter during a Palestinian rocket attack / Getty Images
This summer, I heard the word “we” over and over as Jews around the world (appropriately) condemned the horrific murder of Palestinian youth Mohammed Abu Khdeir. “We Jews don’t do this,” they claimed, even as empirical evidence to the contrary mounted. Some Jews do do this. But they are clearly the exception. Jews know what it’s like to be persecuted. That means we don’t hate Arabs because of who they are, but we hate how some Arabs behave. We are most certainly not racists. Okay. If you say so.
Until recently I felt proud of the manner in which my whole community handled questions regarding race. Then last month, I found myself becoming one. A racist, that is.
As sirens blared, we experienced the physical stress that comes with even the few runs to the bomb shelter that we had in Jerusalem. The rush of adrenaline that washes over you every time you hear a siren.
Jewish graves daubed with anti-Semitic slogans in a German cemetery / Getty Images
Is anti-Semitism ever a response to things that Jews do?
Jeffrey Goldberg thinks saying “Jews… Jewish organizations, or the Jewish state” ever cause anti-Semitism amounts to blaming the victim. Thus he attacked Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, for tweeting, “Germans rally against anti-Semitism that flared in Europe in response to Israel’s conduct in Gaza war.”
Goldberg is right to highlight and condemn anti-Semitic violence in Europe, which is horrible and scary. But he’s wrong about Roth, because he’s thinking fuzzily about anti-Semitism.
First off, denying that Israel’s behavior has any causal role in anti-Semitism is deeply counter-intuitive. This summer, Israel fought a war and anti-Semitism surged in Europe — are those two facts supposed to be a coincidence?
Social scientists like to say that you cannot explain a variable with a constant. That is, there’s plenty of “irrational hatred” of Jews in Europe, but there always is. To explain changes in anti-Semitism, we need to discuss things that change — current events. And that’s why, as Brooklyn College political scientist Corey Robin noted, in 2002, the esteemed Jewish sociologist Nathan Glazer not only attributed contemporary anti-Semitism to a reaction to Israel, but further claimed, “hostility can be reduced and moderated by [Israel’s] policies.” When you approach anti-Semitism as a detached observer, rather than a polemicist who has a beef with Human Rights Watch, this is obvious.
Goldberg gets mixed up because he conflates two very different questions. Glazer and Roth are just describing, totally without moral judgment, what causes what. Goldberg, who excoriates Roth for “accept[ing] these [anti-Semites’] pathetic excuses as legitimate,” confuses causality with moral responsibility. As an example: Surely when the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s motorcade ran over a black child, that was one of the causes of the Crown Heights riots, but that does not in the least justify the subsequent rioting. Israel bombing Gaza may cause upticks in anti-Semitism, without detracting one bit from the moral culpability of the anti-Semites in question. German neo-fascists and Jew-haters are contemptible. There should be no argument about that. But their strength and virulence vary over time, and Israel’s actions can help explain those changes. Explaining isn’t justifying.
Courtesy of Assaf Gavron and Brooklyn Book Festival
The Brooklyn Book Festival is a highlight of New York City’s early autumn cultural lineup: a bibliophile carnival with back-to-back panel discussions featuring prominent authors from the United States and around the world.
This year Assaf Gavron, a critically acclaimed author who grew up in a moshav near Jerusalem, participated in a panel called “A Sense of Place: Writing from Within and Without.” This particular panel caught my attention because the four participating authors were all male. But the controversy that ensued, as reported by Uri Blau for Haaretz, was not over the panel’s gender imbalance. Instead, it was over Israel: Apparently rather more people reading the description of the event noticed the provenance of its sponsorship — the Israeli foreign ministry.
In response to the program note that the panel was made possible “…with the support of Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in New York,” Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign to Boycott Israel, published an open letter on its website, calling it “deeply regrettable” that the organizers accepted funding from the Israeli government just weeks after Operation Protective Edge. They note that Israel’s latest assault on Gaza “involved numerous potential war crimes.” Among the hundreds of signatories are Junot Diaz, the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, and Anand Gopal, the Wall Street Journal correspondent whose book on U.S policy in Afghanistan has won wide critical acclaim.
Also in the Adalah-NY letter is this important bit: “This is not, we emphasize, a call to isolate or boycott individual Israelis, but an effort to renounce business as usual with a state that routinely violates international law and basic human rights with impunity.”
I do believe that Adalah-NY is absolutely sincere in its insistence that it is not calling for a boycott of individual Israelis. I also believe that boycott is a legitimate means of non-violent protest. The problem is not the intention, but the potential repercussions. A ban on accepting Israeli government sponsorship would mean, de facto, that Israeli authors, dancers, filmmakers, artists and even academics would be unable to participate in international cultural and academic events.
Drek’s ISIS-inspired party poster / Facebook
Advertising is a tough business. People are busy. Getting them to come out to your event can be hard. But does that justify using ISIS imagery to gain publicity for your party?
Tel Aviv’s popular gay party organizers, Drek, apparently think so. In recent advertising, they used imagery from the gruesome ISIS beheadings — an executioner swathed in black hovering over a kneeling victim in an orange jump suit — to draw crowds to their Haoman 17 Club last Friday.
Wow. Just wow.
Someone actually woke up one day, went to work, and decided it would be a good idea to borrow infamous execution imagery — even as ISIS is going around grabbing chunks of Syria, and even as the group’s victims are being mourned by their families. Including one Jewish family — that of slain journalist Steven Sotloff.
You’d think the organizers would have been a little more sensitive, considering that this victim is one of their own.
But they weren’t — and they still aren’t. Amiri Kalman, one of the Drek’s founders, stands behind the design choice: “We are trying to react to current events. We have been doing it for a number of years. But we reject violence in any form and that includes the (execution) videos intended to scare the world.
“Therefore we also refuse to participate with this fear and refuse to become hysterical. This is satire, and our way of showing our contempt of them and their videos,” he told Ynet.
Kalman also pointed out that the party itself did not feature any ISIS-inspired imagery or props.
Oh good. Everyone feels better now. Right?
Wrong. Oh so very wrong. On social media, Israelis are furious.
Oh, and by the way, “Drek” means “s***” in Yiddish. Pretty perfect, huh?
The refusal of 43 men and women to continue their reserve duty in Israel’s elite 8200 intelligence-gathering unit has taken Israel by storm. The group published a letter on Friday, and it made its way quickly into the Israeli, American, and international headlines. The letter stated that these soldiers and officers are no longer willing to serve in their capacities as occupiers. In their words: “We refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to serve as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories… We cannot continue to serve this system in good conscience, denying the rights of millions of people.”
The response in Israel has been deafening. Members of Knesset who are also former members of the 8200 unit have spoken out. Likud MK and Coalition Leader Yariv Levin announced that “those who refuse to help defend our country cross the line between supporting the Israeli democracy and the freedom it represents to supporting Palestinian terror…” Labor MK and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog rebuked the letter-writers and emphasized that there were other ways to generate discussion. Not long after it was published, 150 members of Unit 8200 wrote a response letter, calling the move a “cynical use of politics in their legal and moral duty to serve in the reserve unit.”
The question everyone is asking now is — is it? Is this explosive letter a mere political stunt designed to aim more antagonism at a 47-year occupation? Or is it, as the signatories claim, something deeper — an attempt to take responsibility for the unnecessary invasion of privacy of a people who have no civil or legal recourse. It’s hard to tell, and, as with most sticky moral issues, likely a bit of both.
When I sat down with three of the original 43 signatories — a philosophy student, a technology and communications employee, and a computer science doctoral candidate — my first impression was one of earnestness: these were the “good kids.” As an Israeli 18-year-old, you don’t get into Unit 8200 by being a slacker. You get in by doing well in school and by showing flexible thinking, confidence and the ability to work well with others. The hope is that these qualities, plus training, will give these young people enough dexterity and thoughtfulness that they can be trusted with the secrets of Israel’s deep state. Unit 8200 graduates go on to found and power Israel’s innovative start-ups, and these three were likely to be no exception.
Forty-three reservists of an elite IDF corps have signed and released a letter setting out their refusal to serve Israeli “military control over the Occupied Territories” anymore. The members of Unit 8200, an intelligence unit often seen as an incubator of Israeli high tech as its soldiers move into civilian life, directly criticized Israeli occupation and settlement activity. Not surprisingly, most of the Israeli political class has criticized the letter as, at a minimum, politicizing what is supposed to be an apolitical military or, at a maximum, directly undermining the security of Israel.
I do not take issue with either the reservists’ questioning of government policy, or with the government’s reaction. Most leaders of most states would react similarly. After all, as the group with the greatest capacity to threaten or even overthrow the government, the military’s voice counts for a lot in the realm of Israeli politics.
Natan Sachs is right that the letter’s short-term impact isn’t likely to be significant: As he implies, we are still looking at relatively small numbers here.
What I do think is important is recognition of the army’s place in Israeli society. As Israelis begin to question the government’s foreign and domestic policies more and more, the emergence of similar processes in an institution considered so representative of the Israeli ethos is significant. It also underlines the point that some Israelis are pushing back against what they view as problematic, illiberal and dangerous policies.