The Draft Dodgers be upon thee, Samson

The chorus of wailing and bemoaning led by the wretched Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern (famous for saying: “Saving the wounded is not a biblical commandment”) was recently joined by the Minister of Defence, Ehud Barak, and even won a rare remark by the Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi. Stern, who followed the oh-so-successful battle in Lebanon with his own “Not enough people died in Tel-Aviv” campaign, earned the support of his two seniors.

But the “leftists elites stab us in the back” campaign is utterly unfounded. In an impressive article by Yagil Levi, he analyzes the non-conscript statistics and deflates Stern’s hot air balloon. Out of the 26 percent of the young Jewish men who are not drafted, 11 percent are ultra-Orthodox; 4 percent are abroad; 4 percent have insufficient education or a criminal record; 2.5 percent have health problems and 5 percent have psychological problems. Levi shows how the so-called “dodgers” come from the poorest and most beaten-up segments of the population. This is not exactly the Tel Aviv jet set. The conscientious objectors and bleeding heart artists are no more than a statistical anomaly.

Even so, it is true that the sons of the elites do not serve in combat units and are underrepresented among the officer corps. But combat service and leadership need someone to step up to the plate and volunteer to them, and the people who abduct people from their lives to be enslaved to the state for three years, simultaneously granting an entire political faction the right to fully or partially shirk conscription, and also act as a tool for one particular side of the political game for generations, have lost the right to demand volunteering of any kind from the sons of the deprived political camp. For more than 40 years the IDF has lied and deceived the Israeli public and the courts in order to protect the settlements in the Occupied Territories. For more than 40 years, the IDF has done the best it could to destroy any chance of peace.

It made sure to conceal these decisions by claiming that “the army doesn’t choose which orders to carry out”, but those who kept track and saw how the IDF repeatedly fails to evacuate settlers’ outposts but swiftly evacuates a mock settlement set up by the Anarchist movement, know well that the IDF is lying, as always; as always, it is a political actor with no real opposition. The Israeli left plays by the rules to its own detriment: had the people of the left indeed dodged en masse the abusive missions that are the majority of the IDF’s actions, if they’d detach from the appearance of gravitas that always and only benefits one side, they might have gained a lot more traction.

Which raises the question: where does Barak find the audacity to be dragged into that odious campaign? After all, this is the man who gave us the vision of “a small, smart army”, who knows about the wasteful, slothful headquarters; about whom former Meretz leader Yossi Sarid coined the expression “fleeing Ehud”, to describe Barak’s escape from the Knesset plenum during a vote on the conscription of the ultra-Orthodox, in order to avoid being counted as a supporter of such conscription; and who has recently been a member of the cabinet who gave five more years extension to the Tal Law – a law approved by him as a Prime Minister – which gives ultra-Orthodox youths a safe-harbor from conscription.

The sad answer is that a backstabbing campaign has a lot of demand among the “Proud Jewish” rabble. Indeed, Barak won’t gain a single vote by buttering them up, as they’d rather contract Ebola than vote for him (which – you have to grant them – is a perfectly understandable preference when the alternative is voting for Barak); but then again, Barak was never a successful political actor.

(Originally posted to Friends of George by Yossi Gurvitz. Translated by Yair Mahalalel on August 2nd, 2007)


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