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The last honorable men - A little less than a happy high
komos
komos
The last honorable men
Thirteen commandos of Israel's elite Sayeret Matkal unit have refused to serve in operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, citing human rights abuses against the Palestinian people under the occupation.

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Update: In the credit where it is due file, this is the latest instance where reservists in the Israeli Defense Forces have refused to take part in such operations. Over 500 others have taken similar stances. You can find more information at the Courage to Refuse website.
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Comments
From: ex_cayetana730 Date: December 23rd, 2003 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)
This might be an unrelated thought, but I'm thinking. It seems that the most honorable deeds spring from an individual making a difficult choice and exerting his free will. The exercising of the free will might be to support a cause that is not individual, such as religion or a community or other belief system. Regardless, an individual does some thing. Maybe 13 individuals do something, and maybe they follow one person who made the choice, but the choice came from somewhere and those who followed chose to follow.

This seems to be a country of individuals whose free will is being stifled with every new day. Laws are passed controlling our every behavior, while everyone chants that this is the land of the free. Media sways our perceptions without our even knowing it. We aren't allowed to make difficult decisions for ourselves. How are we to learn what honor is then? Instead we are learning "right" and "wrong" as defined by someone else. And that is different.

Just thinking. Don't mind me, I'm reading Don Quixote.
komos From: komos Date: December 23rd, 2003 11:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I think you've hit the mark. It is only the actions and the choices of the individual that can be acknowledged as honorable or virtuous. While I believe that is possible that a virtuous and honorable society can exist, it is dependent on and measured by the actions of the individuals therein.

The social controls we see increasingly cemented do not permit a full development of the individual, and I often wonder if our obsession with unformed youth stems from this. Everything remains in a larval form, indistinguishable from the rest. Mediocrity is enforced and rewarded. Even the capacity to think critically is questioned.
riverbank From: riverbank Date: December 23rd, 2003 09:58 am (UTC) (Link)

worked with an older israeli man breifly. he said every man of age was required to serve in the army. if you refused they would lock you up and threaten take it out on your family. eek
komos From: komos Date: December 23rd, 2003 10:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't necessarily disagree with mandatory service, but one would think that a Western-styled and approved "free" democracy would promote something besides incarceration for dissenters.

Then again, convincing a majority that extreme measures of social control are necessary appears to be a relatively simple process.
jenarael From: jenarael Date: December 23rd, 2003 02:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I read this same article over breakfast and thought it a bit saddening. Thank you for pointing it out.

Wondering if maybe the American concept of democracy, historically, is quite different from how other countries -- especially newly-democratic nations -- view it?
komos From: komos Date: December 23rd, 2003 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the American concept of democracy has changed from its conception in the late 18th Century. Part of this can be attributed to the early history of the Supreme Court as it assumed powers that made it relevant. Part, to the shift in focus from the united STATES to the UNITED states after the Civil War. Then, of course, there were the liberties that were taken in the name of expediency in the face of Japanese German Russian enemy aggression during WWII and the the subsequent Cold War.

In short, yes... I think there's something to what you're saying.

Out of curiosity, how did the article sadden you?

jenarael From: jenarael Date: December 23rd, 2003 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
But the letter also came up against a deep-seated conviction among Israelis that the army must remain above political disputes. Even dovish legislators, who are highly critical of the occupation, castigated the soldiers.

Maybe not so much saddened as disheartened; are these soldiers free to make what (to me) amounts to decisions based on personal ethics or beliefs concerning the welfare of their country? Maybe it's that US military members have an easier time of it. Then again, I don't know that for sure, nor do I have a strong opinion formed about Sharon, specifically. But I wouldn't want to be in the place of the men in the article.

I am not anti-American, but er... do you think we as a country bend the term democracy to justify/negate international situations? Your comment on the history of foreign policy made me wonder.
komos From: komos Date: December 23rd, 2003 06:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
In both the US and Israel, members of the military take oaths to obey and serve. In the US (at least) I know that it is never proper for a member of the military to question the policies of the Commander in Chief or his administration. I guess that's why I find this story so compelling. These individuals are risking their careers and their social standing for the sake of their deeply held moral convictions. It's a rare and awe making thing.

I'm not really anti-American either. I do think that our foreign policy has been guided by a certain amount of cynicism since the close of WWII. "Democracy" under such influence is used in place of "an elected government favorable to the US and its interests." Our history over the past fifty years does suggest that we are willing to prop up tyrannical regimes so long as they play ball, or to tear down democratic ones that are not sufficiently pro-American. It's disturbing to me.

macthud From: macthud Date: January 2nd, 2004 03:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

sort-of...

It is improper for members of the military to disobey the *orders*, in the immediate -- but it is also improper for them to *follow* *illegal* orders...

Questioning policies is not improper, in proper context, even by members of the military, regardless of rank or position....

The single largest problem I've seen in modern American democracy is the shift from appreciation of representative democracy, to the pure-and-simple one-person-one-vote "pure" democracy -- shifting from the days where protecting the minorities from the tyrranies of the majority was just as important as protecting the majorities from the tyrranies of the minorities....
komos From: komos Date: January 5th, 2004 01:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: sort-of...

Disobeying a direct order from a superior is grounds for court-marshal. It then falls upon the accused to demonstrate, as part of his or her defense, that the action was illegal. The refusal in this case has nothing to do with legality, but is instead simply a moral stance. Military courts will not favor a defense of a refusal to obey an order based on the moral qualms of the soldier.

Based on the word of the reservist JAG attorney I work with, being a currently serving member of the US military constitutes an improper context for questioning the policies of the CIC.
macthud From: macthud Date: January 5th, 2004 02:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: sort-of...

Questioning is not the same as disobeying.

Questioning policies (macro) is certainly not the same as disobeying orders (micro).

Legality in this particular case has yet to be fully determined -- there are a good number of jurists who hold forth that Israel's actions are illegal, and thus that the actions of these individual soldiers are fully appropriate, legal, and in fact mandatory, under international law.

Policies and positions of the CIC have been consistently questioned by members of the military, under Carter and Clinton in particular, but also under Reagan, Bush (41), and Bush (43), and I daresay under most if not all previous administrations.
komos From: komos Date: January 5th, 2004 03:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
To clarify, I've not actually linked the two. I was answering two separate points you made at the beginning of your last response. To recap: 1) Disobeying a direct order is a court-marshal offense and 2) Critique of the CIC is considered improper if done by members of the military. If you wish, I can elaborate on the repercussions of violating orders versus violating etiquette in the US military, but I'd really appreciate if this didn't turn into mincing over tangential points.

I will answer this before leaving the asides altogether... the legality of the Palestinian Question has been debated since Israel was formed. That the US (itself a past and recent precedent-setter for selective disregard of international law) has been willing to run interference in the UN consistently for half a century suggests that Israel will not be held accountable for its actions at any time in the near future.
komos From: komos Date: December 23rd, 2003 02:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hope you don't mind, but I took a look at your space here and then added you since I liked what you had to say.
jenarael From: jenarael Date: December 23rd, 2003 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not at all; I added you as well. :)
Thanks.
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