Rabbi Eliezer MelamedThe writer is Head of Yeshivat Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law, whose works include the series on Jewish law "Pininei Halacha" and a popular weekly column "Revivim" in the Besheva newspaper. His books "The Laws of Prayer" "The Laws of Passover" and "Nation, Land, Army" are presently being translated into English. Other articles by Rabbi Melamed can be viewed at: www.yhb.org.il/1
Three years ago, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, upon the recommendation of Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, decided to terminate the ‘Hesder’ program in Yeshiva Har Bracha. Thus, the Yeshiva became a ‘yeshiva gevoha’ (an advanced level yeshiva), devoid of a means for the students to combine army service with their Torah studies.
Why? Because I voiced my Torah-based opinion that a soldier who receives an order to expel a Jew from his house in the Land of Israel should refuse the order.
This is not the place to explain the validity of this position. Nevertheless, even one who disagrees with it, believing that a soldier must fulfill such an order, and if not, be punished – at the very least, should respect this position, seeing as it is the position of ‘Gedolei Torah’ (eminent Torah scholars), my Rabbis, in whose path I am simply attempting to continue.
When the uppermost security echelon tries to impose its position, determining what a Rabbi can or cannot say, basically, they resolve that they possess all the truth and morality, and a Rabbi has no freedom to think or express himself. Such an attitude is intolerable towards any human being – let alone a Rabbi, whose job requires him to express a Torah-based position according to the best of his knowledge, and without bias or fear of retribution.
However, Barak and Ashkenazi presented themselves as the bearers of the flag of morality, Zionism, and the law, and in its name, decided to revoke the ‘Hesder’ option from Yeshiva Har Bracha which I head.
Now, in the wake of the publication of the State Comptroller’s report concerning the scandalous ‘Harpaz affair’, which involves the two of them, it turns out that the same uppermost security echelon itself acted with unparalleled corruption, and hence, the “quality of their judgment” and the “purity of intention” in their lofty speech against us has become a parody.
The ‘Harpaz affair’ occurred in the months following the removal of Yeshiva Har Bracha from the ‘Hesder’ program.
A Corrupt Moral Infrastructure
When the moral infrastructure is corrupt, there is no choice but to hold tight to the formal law regarding having to carry out orders. Therefore, it is no surprise that it is those who are themselves corrupt, who are willing to risk national security in order to promote their own interests, using all methods of falsehood, forgery, fraud, and incitement – made such efforts to preach about the duty of obeying the law and fulfilling orders.
From their perspective, this is the moral straw they hold on to, in order to give some value to their jobs. Even Col. Erez Weiner, the now-dismissed assistant to the Chief of Staff, claimed in his own defense that all the borderline criminal activities he was suspected of performing, was done under orders, and therefore, absolved him of responsibility. The State Comptroller, however, was not convinced by this bizarre argument, but rather, recommended that the Attorney General open an extensive criminal investigation against all those involved.
“Orders” cannot purify the rot of corruption, just as they cannot purify the expulsion of Jews from their land simply because they are Jews. This is even more obvious when such an order is given to soldiers who enlisted in the army in order to protect their nation and country, and not to fight their own brothers and sisters; even the most basic of military commands do not permit the use of troops against a country's own citizens. If we had a normal court of law, it would defend the soldiers from such immoral orders, and also defend citizens from the discrimination on the basis of their being Jewish that was immoral in the expulsion.
A person whose value system is shallow, is unable to distinguish between refusing an order to fight the enemy, an act which damages the essential military infrastructure, and refusing an order to expel his own people, which expresses a higher level of conscience, seeing as it is a refusal of an order that must not be imposed to begin with on a soldier in a democratic, moral state.
The Roots of Corruption
This corruption did not start with these individuals – the fact is that much of the General Staff were involved, directly or indirectly, in all the episodes of deceit and mutual harassment. The corruption began, however, with the gnawing-away of the moral recognition of the Jewish nation’s right to its land, and the duty of the army to protect its people and country, and to strike and defeat those who rise against it.
When the revised goal of the top military leadership is not to fight the enemy, but to advance the “peace” process, together with members of bloodshed and deceit, world-class terrorists like Arafat and his cronies – then, all notions of good and evil are jumbled; morality and justice are replaced with the values of blind obedience to orders. Instead of defeating the enemy.
The current goal is to please the media and the world’s political leaders. Praise from Western leaders is more important than the country’s security, and settling the Land. Thus, concepts such as “victims of peace” are created, so while “peace” is only written about in the newspapers, the victims are buried in the cemetery.
Without real vision and values, career advancement in the army and in civilian life has become the main purpose of these senior officers. To this end, it is better not to initiate any military actions, not to take any pre-emptive operations against the enemy, to participate in deceiving the public about the hallucinations of future peace, and to promote a secular agenda in the army because, currently, they believe this will advance them further.
And when a security operation does occur, their main goal is to ensure that they come out of the commission of inquiry unscathed, and if there is guilt, to make sure it falls on the head of the lowly guard at the gate, who just happened to be there by coincidence.
We are left with the consolation of all those exemplary people, the soldiers and junior officers, from the lower and middle levels, who truly are ready to risk their lives for the people and the country; but the values that motivate them to do so, were absorbed in their parent’s home’s, and not from the leaders of the army.
The Deep-Rooted Rectification
In order to purge corruption from the senior echelons, the Government and the heads of the Defense organization must once again define the goals of the army: to defend the people and the country. To repeat and re-affirm that there is no nation in the world whose rights to their land are as well-established as the Jewish nation. It starts with the Divine commandment from the Bible, with which the whole world is familiar; it continues with the historical rights to the land of our forefathers – there not being another nation in the world who claims their country is their native land; and continues with the inherent moral right, which states that after the Jewish nation agreed to share the land with the Arabs living here, (most of whom emigrated to the country over the last one hundred and fifty years), but they refused all these offers, and in a series of wars, strove to destroy us – they have no right whatsoever to request a compromise.
Additionally, in wake of the Left’s hallucinatory “peace”, it has become abundantly clear that the Arabs are not willing to compromise, but at most, are willing to deceive us in order to receive – without going to war – parts of our land, and generous funding – and afterwards, continue fighting us for the rest.
And if asked: Well, what can you do? There are still Leftist’s who innocently believe that it is justified and possible to make peace with enemies, even if those enemies don’t express remorse for all the murder and hatred?
Unfortunately, I do not have a comforting answer to this question. As long as such people have an impact, we will have to suffer all the ills of moral weakness that leads to corruption, to terrorist attacks, and to security crises. In other words, we will have to continue dealing with ‘victims of peace’ – in souls, and in values. In souls – the holy martyrs; in values – the corrupting of moral principles, and of historical and inherent justice.