Secular Commentator Explains Reasons for Draft-Dodging

Sep. 4, 2007

In a recent essay, Yaniv Itzkovitch, writer for Yedioth Ahronoth, put into words the feelings of an increasing number of young secular Israelis who are avoiding army service.

"Army enlistment stems from motivation, and motivation stems from a sense of belonging. A person would want to contribute to a society whose objectives he can identify with and when he trusts in its honesty, knows where its efforts are directed, and why he is asked to sacrifice his life.

"Yet in Israel today, nobody knows where we're headed. What are the country's objectives? What are its borders? What about its character? Is it democratic before it is Jewish, or Jewish before it's democratic? Is it willing to pay the price of peace or willing to live on its sword for eternity? Have you, elected officials, not dodged your prime mission, to show us what we're fighting for?

"Place yourself in the shoes of a boy facing enlistment to the army. Try to think about the deep confusion he's experiencing. On the one hand, he sees Israeli citizens trampling over democracy in the territories, yet on the other hand he's supposed to risk his life to defend them.

"If you don't want him to be a draft-dodger, tell him one of two things: Tell him that everything is ours, Hebron, Nablus and Gaza; the people of Israel, the Torah of Israel, and the greater Land of Israel. Or tell him: "We're unwilling to see you dead in Hebron." Get him out of there. But please, I beg of you, do not resort to emotional manipulations such as 'look down in shame.'"

Our comment:

The secular generation, more and more, has left Zionism behind. When Itzkovitch asks if the country is Jewish before democratic or democratic before Jewish, he means that in his opinion it should be democratic, which necessarily means not Jewish, because a Jewish country is an inherently undemocratic idea. It is the religious Zionists with their perverse understanding of the Torah who are the true Zionists today; it is against them that our battle against Zionism must be focused. If not for religious Zionism, before long there would not be any Jewish state on the map.

A second lesson to be learned from this essay is that the anti-Zionist yeshiva students who have always refused to serve in the Zionist army should do a better job portraying themselves as conscientious objectors, rather than just "deferring their draft" because of yeshiva studies. One sometimes hears Haredi advocates giving the Zionists apologetic explanations that yeshiva students are "the real protectors of the country" because of their Torah study or that "the army is a secular environment". These false excuses leave them open to the draft when not in yeshiva, or when it is possible to arrange fully Haredi brigades (as has already been done).

The Haredi world should come out with a strong position: "A person would want to contribute to a society whose objectives he can identify with and when he trusts in its honesty, knows where its efforts are directed, and why he is asked to sacrifice his life." And more specifically, Torah Jews refuse to fight because our Torah forbids a Jewish state and forbids fighting against the nations of the world. Haredim who cannot make ends meet while studying in yeshiva should make a point of leaving yeshiva and getting jobs, and when they are drafted, should object on principle and be sent to jail en masse. This farce of perpetual yeshiva studies to escape the draft only avoids the issue. If secular draft-dodgers can confront their issues with Zionism head-on, why can't we?