When law and morality conflict, morality must be obeyed. And that conflict will soon arise, again, in the land of Israel.
According to the time-honored tradition of Socrates, Thoreau, and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Naftali Bennett said that under certain circumstances, the Israeli soldiers are morally legitimized to refuse the order to evacuate other Jews.
Was the State of Israel established to implant Jews in, or to uproot them from Judea and Samaria? Is it moral to use the army to implement an anti-Jewish legislation?
Israelis living in Tel Aviv’s Sheinkin and Dizengoff Streets, the same people who blessed the soldiers who refused to serve in the territories, will regard Bennett’s disobedience as tantamount to “the destruction of the state”. But seven decades after the Nuremberg trials, there is still a vital lesson: military orders don’t take precedence over individual conscience. That’s why doctors daily refuse to perform abortions. Because the Western world believes that a person must follow his conscience and that there is a higher law than a military order.
Why does that logic not hold in Israel?
The author Amos Oz, in “Morality, War, Occupation”, wrote that “we shall not let you drive the Arabs out, even if it requires the division of the state and the army … even if it requires the bombing of the bridges … the Israeli Right should know that certain deeds … will cause the liquidation of the state “.
Why should transfer be morally justified when it’s applied to Jews? Only in Israel, Jews expel Jews. Only in Israel, Jews give up synagogues the be firebombed.
What happens in the “settlements” had already been experienced by the Jews during the first phase of the Holocaust, when there was the Jews’ “resettlement” from outlying communities to the large ghettos. Now the Arabs have free access to “state-owned land”, while the Jews remain cooped up in their chicken-pens waiting for slaughter or eviction.
Right and wrong, good and evil are not determined by the Knesset. Otherwise, why would Sophocles’ “Antigone” or Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” have been included in the schools’ curriculum? Because there is a higher law superior to the decrees of any authority. Where do enlightened, Western, democratic countries draw the line beyond which even a law is not to be obeyed?
The Israeli soldiers and officials have a moral example, that of the Greek philosopher Socrates. When a law made his teachings a punishable crime, he declared in court: “Had you said to me … we acquit you, but on condition that you … pursue philosophy no more … I would have answered: ‘I, my fellow Athenians, love and cherish you, and yet … so long as I live … I shall not cease to occupy myself with philosophy’”.
Every enlightened civilization from the time of Socrates down understands the right of conscience over martial law.
For many centuries, expecially after the Holocaust, the idea of having a Jewish army to defend the Jewish people seemed like a dream. Today there is again a Jewish chief of staff. But there is a limit to obedience. Those who, following orders, destroy Jewish homes or help remove the IDF bases that protect them, do so because they find those orders morally unobjectionable. Those who refuse to carry out those orders do so because they have decided the order is immoral.
The officials who are called to enforce another eventual freeze or disengagment in Judea and Samaria can engage in civil disobedience, the same which won blacks in the US south most of their rights, and broke the back of the most primitive forms of segregation.
A few days ago a friend active in the battle to protect Judea and Samaria told me: “With the collaboration of the settlers, the deportation will come true. If they say – we are staying- then the government wouldn’t dare to leave them defendless, at least because the soldiers then will ran home to defend their parents”.
The question now is: Will the Jews help the international community to enforce one of the biggest anti-Semitic crimes in history? Or they will do like Jonathan Pollard, who in his Butner, North Carolina, jail cell carries a picture of IDF refusers?
In the ’20s and ’30s, the Communists, mostly Jews, incited Arabs to slaughter other Jews. And in the ’40s, people from the left handed Jewish fighters over to the British. And the left helped the PLO during the war in Lebanon.
Once, God forbid, the heart of Eretz Yisrael is lost under the leftist Trojan horse of “two states for two people”, once the Israeli people see the horror of returning to the 1967 borders; once the fact that they belong to a beaten, cheated, deluded nation dawns upon them – tens of thousands, if not more, will leave for some other “territory.”
And the “settlers” place will be taken by hundreds of thousands of returning Arab refugees. By then, it will be too late. No commission of inquiry will be able to save the Jews from the bitter consequences of a PLO state in Western Eretz Yisrael.
Over the gate of Aristotle’s academy was inscribed the injunction: “Love Socrates, love Plato, but love the Truth more than both.” Now the truth is: Will the Jews throw other Jews to the wolves? That’s Israel’s most important question.
And even for the non Jews who care about the fate of Israel, there are just two possible reactions: being concerned or complacent.
The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book “A New Shoah”, that researched the personal stories of Israel’s terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary. He is at work on a book about the Vatican and Israel.