Self-promoted privileged voices are speaking up and protesting in Israel, declaring their higher status and demanding their conditions be met, even if it means holding the democracy hostage – a disturbing trend that threatens to besmirch the country’s values and principles.
Israel has established the State of the “more equal” at Air Force Hatzerim Base
The admirable contribution of Israel’s Air-Force pilots, for the sake of the homeland, does not give them the right to blackmail Israel’s democracy with threats. Also, the Israeli press normalizes dissent, and a broad Israeli public sector is fed up with the unelected ‘elites’ who run their life.
Written in Hebrew by Kalman Liebskind | Translated from Hebrew by Nurit Greenger
Iserael’s Privileged Minority
Once in a while, a debate erupts in Israel dealing with inequality and class gaps in Israeli society. Sometimes these are differences on a sectarian basis or on an economic, cultural basis, and sometimes on the basis of the relationship between the center of the country and the periphery. Almost always, those who are marked as being of a higher status feel uncomfortable with the discourse that paints them as privileged.
However, in recent days and for the first time, more members of the privileged group are declaring themselves, in a clear voice and without shame, without feeling discomfort or embarrassment: “Yes, we are privileged. Yes, our country is more than yours. Yes, we have more rights than you. Yes, our voice is worth more than your voice.” So are the signers of the pilot petition, the military doctors’ petition, the cyber people’s petition, the air traffic controllers’ petition, so are all those who announced, in one form or another, that they would be happy to continue serving in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), but only on the condition that Israeli society accepts all their prerequisites.
The Privileged Media
And in front of this unprecedented phenomenon is a local press that every time it seems to have reached its lowest point, it is here to prove to us that it is possible to go a little lower and even lower. A press that tells itself that it is Zionist and patriotic, that warned in the past about rabbis who called for the Right recalcitrance, that saw them as dangerous people who are ready to burn down the house of Klal Yisrael – all of Israel – now normalizes every recalcitrance letter and refusal to do military reserve duty. It does not argue with those who announce that they will not show up for reserve service duty, does not challenge them, does not make it difficult for them, but helps to incite them.
You witness military reporters’ excitement to bring to light another letter and another threat. How much saliva drips from their lips following two more military reservists who announce that they will not show up for their military reserve duty, and with what sympathy each new entrant is received in the news’ edition, while many who are part of this military reservists’ group hide in shame since they do not think the same. And because of the lack of boundaries, the double standard, the enthusiastic willingness to help anyone who threatens to topple the entire building, the State of Israel, just because it suits them politically.
A few traits unite all the military reservists who decided to drag the IDF, with great cynicism, into the political field. First one, they know that their military service and the fact that they belong to the soldiers of one or another unit have no relevance to the discourse regarding legal reform.
This reform is not related to the pilots who informed the Chief of the General Staff that if the legislation is passed, most of the aircrew in reserve duty will stop flying. It is not related to the military doctors, 209 of whom decided that “if the predatory legislation continues, we will not be able to continue enlisting as doctors for the reserve duty in the IDF.”
It is not related to the flight air controllers, who announced that “with a heavy heart we will support the many friends from among us whose conscience order will not allow them to continue volunteering for military reserve duty.”
Nor to the cyber systems people who announced that “we will not be able to continue volunteering for military reserve duty.”
Vocal Minority Plays Politics
Each of the signers of these petitions could have gone, as a private citizen, to the demonstrations against the legal reform legislation which they oppose; or join together in a joint petition with their childhood friends from seventh grade – but they chose a different path. In order to create the chaos that will advance their political worldview agenda, they chose to sink the IDF in a political struggle, knowing full well that with their own hands and with open eyes they are dismantling one of the last institutions – the IDF – that to this day has connected all the citizens of Israel, regardless of different opinions and differing perceptions.
They aren’t doing it just because they think it’s a terrible legal reform or it is a coup d’état, or all that jazz. Even three years ago – when there was no legal reform yet, when Yariv Levin was not yet the Minister of Justice and Simcha Rothman was not yet a member of the Knesset – 540 former Air Force officers, including fighter pilots and navigators, together with 314 former elite forces and naval commando, sent a letter to the president of the country demanding that he will not assign the mandate to form the government to Benjamin Netanyahu. Even then, the fact that they served in one unit or another had nothing to do with this letter. Even then they chose to desecrate the IDF’s sanctity, as if the IDF belonged to them more than it belonged to those who chose Netanyahu to be their leader.
Ugly Discourse and Mutiny Developing
One can only loathe the ugly discourse that is developing in the State of Israel. The distaste comes from the direction of elected officials who talk about the pilots in terms of “Cowards and wretch fall-out” or as those who should “go to hell.” The disgust is the result of what comes out from the mouths of former chiefs of the General Staff, who compare the Prime Minister of Israel to Hitler.
And yet, it is safe to say that the pilots’ protest is led by a group who thinks it is particularly privileged. A group that knows that they have in their hand what infantry fighters do not have but contribute to and endanger their lives no less for the state and who fill cemeteries just the same and no less.
These pilots have a switch in their hand, with which they try to blackmail Israel’s democracy with threats. Each of the signatories to the pilot petition letter knows that if an infantry fighter announced that he was not coming to training because something in the Knesset did not seem right to him, he would be kicked out of the unit within a minute.
“You know,” the pilots arrogantly say to the infantry and armor officers, “unlike you, we have no substitute, therefore, what you cannot do in the face of a political decision that you do not see fit, we can.” The State of Israel placed them near the light switch, only because it trusted them and did not imagine that they would use it to threaten her.
And if she did not behave exactly as they expected her to behave, they would turn off the light. And from this exact place, the signatories look at their brethren who served in the Golani and Givati Brigades, or in the paratroopers and the armor divisions, and basically told them: “Since the IDF knows that the F-15 seat cannot be left empty, our opinion is more important than yours.”
They are the privileged who are well aware of their privileges. And as the media often tries to do nowadays, this is glossed over.
At the end of the day, the Air Force Reservist pilots have declared a mutiny, and that’s how they should be treated.
Middle Finger to All of Us
Moments after receiving harsh criticism, the reservist pilots, with generous artillery support from journalists, began to downplay the severity of their action. “We actually volunteer for reserve duty,” they explained, “and those who volunteer cannot be called ‘objectors‘.” Leaving the terminology for a moment, call it objection, call it something else, it really doesn’t matter. In the end, service in the IDF, in general, and the reserve service duty, in particular, have always been a symbol of Israeli solidarity. A military reservist goes to reserve duty for his family, and no less for his neighbor’s family, for his colleague at work’s family, for his entire country.
And when the pilots announced this week that if their conditions are not met they will not show up for training, they do not point a middle finger at Minister Yariv Levin or Knesset member Simcha Rothman. They point a middle finger at a son who served in the Golani Brigade, at their neighbors, the taxi driver who drives them, their doctor at the hospital, and at all Israelis who do go to do their reserve duty without conditioning their service on the question of what is on the Finance Committee’s or the Constitution Committee’s schedule today.
Most Israelis do not, at all, take part in this “solidarity” act. There are groups in the population that do not join the IDF at all. But this is precisely where the difference lies. Because none among them have ever been treated with great love and devotion. The air force pilots yes. Because they deserve it. They deserve it thanks to their contribution, thanks to their volunteering and thanks to their willingness.
More so, those who choose to volunteer for extended reserve duty in the State of Israel could have also chosen not to volunteer. But imagine that all the heart surgeons in Israel will announce tomorrow that because of the reform of the judicial system they stop operating. Apparently, no one can come to them with claims either. Their situation is even simpler than that of the pilots. They do not work in a hierarchical body where orders must be followed. They don’t serve in uniform. They are citizens in the full sense of the word who do not owe the nation anything, and no one can force them to do what they don’t want to do.
Yet, everyone will see such a step of the heart surgeons as an ugly slap in the face to the entire nation. And why? Because the hospital placed them in the operating room and trusted them to be there when a person fell into a health crisis and needed them to save his/her life. And from this moment, at least at the level of Israeli solidarity, they have a role just like those pilots.
So it is true, the pilots don’t have to volunteer. But after the State of Israel taught them to fly, and invested so much in them, and put their names on its alert board, they have a role to play. And when they threaten not to play that role, for a political reason, they undo the thread that connects the entire nation and thus inform the nation that from the pilot’s cockpit they don’t really see the nation.
Which Woman Who Gives Birth Suffers More Pain?
It is important to understand that in essence, deep down this is precisely what the entire demand for reforming the judicial system is based on. It is a statement by a broad Israeli public that is fed up with this country being divided into classes, and that those who run the country’s affairs are actually the members of the minority group who did not pass the voter’s test.
A large public sector no longer wants a legal system, which was not chosen by anyone, to inform them that with all due respect to their worldview, they have a different worldview.
And just like in the judicial system, these protest days teach Israelis how powerless the majority in Israel is and how much in every part of the citizens of the State of Israel’s life there are unelected minority groups, who [think they] know better what is right for the people, as a whole, to do. So it is in academia, in the media, in different parts of what was once called the People’s Army.
The protests of the last two months in Israel – which helped the people understand better that there are those who are allowed to block roads and there are those who are not; there are those who are allowed to threaten refusal to serve and there are those who are not; there are those who are allowed to compare Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin to Hitler, and there are those who are not.
All these are the exact faces of the deterioration that the citizens of the State of Israel must stop and end.
Deterioration on the slope, at its bottom there are those who are more equal and less equal. Those who sit on all the switches and manage the lives of the country’s citizens, and those who are for them the lumberjacks and the water pumpers. The former are allowed everything, even if they are a minority. The latter are allowed only what the former allow them, even if the latter are the majority.
One should look at the media’s attitude towards the thugs who tried to block the entrance to the Kohelet Policy Forum’s offices, with sacks and barbed wire fences, and called “traitor, traitor” at the Forum’s CEO Meir Rubin, when he came to work. And the news sites repeatedly reminded everyone that one of the arrested in this event is a lieutenant colonel in the IDF elite unit. “The salt of the land, who thwarted thousands of terrorist attacks and saved thousands of Jews,” as one of the reporters explained. It must be said here that some are equal and some are more equal. And if he is from a military elite unit, then he’s allowed.
Even though it was always known it existed and was always felt it is in Israel, never was it demonstrated so very tangibly in Israel. On this, really, on this is the struggle of those who seek to return the justice system to its proper course. And against this, exactly against this, it is fought by the self-lifted ‘elite’ minority who fear that the switch will be taken away from them as well as its almost total control over the majority.
Those who want to understand who is ‘privileged’, should listen to the debate going on right now when the right-wing mentions how it stood the biggest and the most difficult test it faced, the test of secession from Gush Katif and part of Samaria. It is not the same thing at all, explain the legal reform’s opponents. The disengagement was a specific event by the government and the Knesset, making a legitimate decision, while here it is a change of regimes. Privileged, in this context, are people who are convinced that because of who they are, their claims are more just, their protest is more valid and their pain is greater.
One must put aside the irony of this claim when the protesters against the legal reform fear that tomorrow there will be no one to protect their civil rights, while at the same time they live in peace with the greatest trampling of civil rights that has ever happened in Israel, as manifested in the disengagement from Gaza Strip. This is about the arrogance of someone who is convinced that hurting him hurts more than hurting others. What the current minds think about the justice of their protest should not be underestimated, but one has to disparage their disdain for everything related to the justice of the protest of many of their people.
And here is a fine example of this matter that comes from Major General (Ret.) Gershon HaCohen: “It’s like two mothers lying side by side in the maternity hospital and they can’t argue about which of them suffers more pain.” And he is right. The protests cannot be compared. Everyone hurts what hurts him or her. And in a solidarity society, everyone is expected to acknowledge the pain of the other, and not patronizingly explain to him or her that his or her pain is less severe than yours, therefore, you are allowed to block roads and refuse military reserve duty – while he or she is not allowed to do the same.
Reluctance Grows and Lives on the Political Left
Kalman Liebskind is an Israeli journalist who belongs to a sector that for years has been perceived in the media’s discourse as a constant suspect of recalcitrance. As such he asks, “Who can you trust, who will you be loyal to on the day of command?” The people were always told, “To the rabbi-teacher or the commander?” The facts have always pointed to the people standing by the side of the government, but the facts, as we learn every day, no longer have any value.
The discourse of disobedience germinated from the Left; grew from the Left and lives within the Left, a million times more than at any such opportunity that occurred on the Right in general, and the religious Right in particular; 99% of those who refused to obey and threatened to refuse to obey came from the Left. And so with a long series of letters from Left-wing twelfth-grade students that began in the 70s.
This is the case with left-wing movements such as “There is a limit” (Hebrew: Yesh Gvul), “New Profile” (Hebrew: Proffil Chadash) and “Courage to Refuse” (Hebrew: Ometz L’sarev), that have over the years signed thousands of Left-wing Israeli soldiers on various refusal petitions. This is the case of the IDF 8200 prestigious unit reservists’ letter and from the veterans of the elite commando unit and the pilots. Yes, again pilots, who in 2003 announced that they were “opposed to the execution of illegal and immoral attack orders, the type that is carried out by the State of Israel in the [Judea and Samaria] ‘territories.’”
And what about the ideological Right? Almost nothing. Calls by rabbis for refusal, and there were some, were almost always met with a yawn. Claims by Right-wing activists that they have the signatures of 10,000 potential refusers ended in nothing; 8,500 Israeli-Jews were displaced from their homes in Gush Katif, in the Gaza Strip, during the Gush Katif and northern Samaria disengagement.
The State of Israel sent backhoes to destroy their homes and communities, and the bodies of their deceased family members were removed from their eternal graves. No group in Israeli society has ever passed such a test. And how did it end? Then the Chief of the General Staff Dan Halutz, who now embraces the idea of refusing reserve duty, reported at the time to the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee that the entire act of disobedience to remove Gush Katif residents from their homes ended up with 63 soldiers who were punished harshly. There is only one side here – the Left – which flirts with these types of threats every time something is not to its liking. The Right, as a group, does not play this game.
And after all that has been said, it is necessary to explain why the current threats to refuse reserve duty calls or not to show up are worse than any refusal that has been to date in Israel, from the Right or the Left. Because refusal is not necessarily wrong, but it should have several clear conditions.
One is that it comes as a last resort. Not everything that doesn’t look good to me allows me to refuse, and not every political plan that has not yet grown ligaments and skin gives me legitimacy to announce that I am not coming to do my military reserve duty.
The second is that refusal is a matter of conscience. And since conscience is a personal matter and it is not a group organ, a call for refusal or a refusal petition is an invalid matter.
The third is that all of this comes with a clear price that must be paid, and it doesn’t matter who you are and to which political party you belong.
The fourth condition, and the most important of all: Refusal should be a response to crossing an ethical-moral red line, which some call a clearly illegal command with a black flag flying over it.
An order to uproot a community of settlements in the Land of Israel and hand it over to the enemy is this very red line. Members on the Left think that bombing a terrorist’s house when there are also non-involved in terrorism in the house is that red line. Between this and the current group of privileged petition signers, of the last few days, who announced their refusal to report to military reserve duty or warned against such a refusal, without any illegal order received, there is clear nothing.
The majority of the public’s policies their elected representatives in the Knesset promote, do not seem to appeal to these ‘privileged’ – and that alone is a reason for them to stay at home. And this should be condemned in any way possible.
The Judicial Reform Dangerous for Cyber
As the protests in Israel continue, and even though the media insists on not interrupting the protesters with questions, it is difficult to hide the level of the insanity. Large parts of everything that has been happening in the past few weeks on the streets of Israel are sitting on a platform of lies and cheap and dangerous propaganda. A large public faction that takes to the streets is fed by threats of a “dictatorship” and a “regime coup” and ridiculous comparisons to Poland, Hungary and the Nazis, and has no idea that someone is playing tricks on them.
University Professor Nonsense
Here it is necessary to mention the letters written by the president of the Hebrew University, Prof. Asher Cohen, and the rector of the university, Prof. Tamir Shafer, to the members of the Hebrew University community: “If the proposed reform laws are passed – the government will be able to imprison people such as the former legal advisor to the government or anyone who expresses positions that do not bear favor in the government’s eyes, because there won’t be a legal system that could balance this.”
They wrote this lie without blinking an eye.
It is interesting to know whether these two important personalities are lying voluntarily, or they themselves also fell victim to what is being told in the news editions. What is clear is that between the nonsense they sold to their thousands of students and reality there is no connection. Nowhere does the legal reform allow the Attorney General to be put in prison.
At the same time, one should refer to another petition signed by 147 oncologists, who explained that the legal reform would harm, among other things, “the system that treats cancer patients.” And since it sounds delusional, even psychotic, and since the list of signatories to the petition includes several names of people who are among the most serious and intelligent in society, in delving into the sections of their petition – and don’t believe what you read among other things, the doctors warn that if the reform, if passed, patients will have a problem financing their medications and choose which hospital they want to be treated at. Besides, they fear that “patients of Arab origin, women and minors in risk situations, and LGBT people – will be discriminated against in the provision of oncology treatment.”
And dear oncologists, you can only bang your head against the wall and not understand from which section of the reform did you learn that tomorrow morning an Arab cancer patient will not receive chemotherapy?
What’s up with you? What is this nonsense?
Wait, and it doesn’t end here because the oncologists are also afraid that following the legal reform there will be a violation of “academic freedom to teach and research areas that are criticized by the government.”
When trying to understand what they mean, does the government decide that colon cancer belongs to the Leftists? That from now on research budgets will be directed to lung cancer, because that speaks more to the Likud supporters? What is this thing?
And this is the petition that is the most saddening because these really seem to be serious people who are engaged in saving lives and caring for the sick. But when there is no limit to propaganda and nonsense, apparently every folk tale catches on.
Cyber Personnel Nonsense
And here is another example. In an interview with one of the cyber personnel petition initiators, who announced that if the reform is completed, they will no longer come to the military reserve duty, the interviewee explained to the interviewer that the cyber apparatus has very significant capabilities, that this apparatus operates in great secrecy and with a “low signature, and to activate it, you need some kind of democratic mechanism that prevents the exploitation capacity of such evil doing.”
Will the legal reform relate to and affect the cyber system? Has Esther Hayut, the Supreme Court of Israel president, up to this day approved the interviewee’s actions in his unit, and now, with the legal reform he fears that his position will be weakened, and he will not know what he is allowed or disallowed to do?
Try as you might, it is very difficult to understand how he and his unit are related to the event of reforming the legal system in Israel, which, in the true sense of the word, has turned into an internal dictatorship. And it’s not that he didn’t try to explain: “A plane flying wherever it is – you hear it,” he explained, “and a tank, wherever it is – it leaves a very distinct signature. Cyber capabilities have no signature, there is no noise, you don’t know when they are activated, and they can be powerful and sometimes just as deadly. So these abilities should have both transparency and legal control, and that’s what was harmed here today,” said the clueless and brainwashed.
But the interviewer did not give up on him. “I want to understand what you are afraid of. After all, the politicians, even according to what is happening in the legal reform, do not start activating the army from tomorrow morning, nor later. There is a separation between the army and the politicians. Are you afraid that the politicians will run the army and tell it what to do? You don’t get your orders from politicians, do you?”
The interviewee then explained that it is important for him that his cyber system be subject to a democracy that has checks and balances. “So I’m trying to understand what you fear will happen now,” the interviewer tried to understand again. Interviewee: “I’ll give you an example. For instance, I’m sure China or Russia have a lot of patriots who are engaged in developing cyber capabilities, but because they are operated by dictatorial regimes, without fully independent legal control, we often hear news that these countries criminally use their cyber capabilities. They are caught all the time and their people are then detained for investigations in all kinds of places in the world. So we are not ready to give these tools to a system that is fundamentally undemocratic.”
The interviewer: “Are you afraid that Israel will turn into Russia or China?” “Unequivocally, this is the slippery slope, that’s where the potential of these things goes,” replied the ignorant interviewee.
Convoluted Illogical Logic
Look readers, beyond the fact that the interviewee did not know how to explain exactly what the legal reform is going to change in the cyber system, let’s go with the wild imagination.
Let’s assume that the government is on a rampage, that tomorrow morning Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir himself breaks through the interviewee’s military base guard post, then stands on the highest table and announces “From today I give orders here, and my first order is to launch a cyber-attack against Merav Michaeli” (chairwoman of the Labor Party and member of the Knesset on the part’s behalf).
Does anyone prevent the interviewee from then announcing that this seems to him to be an illegal order with a black flag flying over it and to refuse to carry it out? Does it cross any red line? After all, it is clear that Israel is a billion kilometers away from this place.
So why does the interviewee already announce that he and his friends will not show up to do their military reserve service duty?
Because he and his cynical friends want to turn the IDF into a political battleground. Because they have access to the switch. Because they failed and lost in the last elections and they think it is possible to blackmail the Israeli public with threats and lies.
After all this they will stand in the city square and they will shout anxiously “democracy, democracy.” What kind of democracy is this exactly, promoted by the privileged dictators?