Crossing The Red Line

Alexander Jacobson argues against refusal to serve the occupation:

In recent years, substantial portions of the Israeli left has been explicitly or implicitly legitimizing political refusal to obey military orders, while using a similar method of political argument in pseudo-legal dress. It was obvious from the start that the legitimacy would eventually serve the extreme right. Whatever the left can do when it comes to breaking the law, the right can do much better.

Jacobson assumes that the extreme right needs legitimacy from the Israeli refusal movement in order to break the law. He also doesn’t seem to understand that there is a big difference between refusal to serve the occupation and refusal to evacuate settlements. While the former kind of refusal is based on principles of democracy (Jacobson himself admits that “no nation has the moral right to decide to hold another nation under occupation”), the latter refusal is based on the concept of Eretz Israel Hashlema and religious beliefs. But such differences are irrelevent since the right to conscientious objection is a basic democratic one. Jacobson continues with the usual argument:

…if there are masses of refuseniks from right and left, who will protect the country and its citizenry, its sovereignty, its democracy, and the chance that Israel will ever be able to escape the trap of occupation? Thai workers?

Such an argument is very weak because it can be made against any kind of refusal; refusal to serve in the Swiss Army, WWI, WWII, the Vietnamese war, the Nazi regime, etc. But the fact is that most refusers are not pacifists and are willing to defend their country, while having a red line that they decide not to cross. In Israel, refusers who are willing to serve their country anywhere but in the military get two years in prison while a soldier who kills a 95-year old woman only gets 65 days. We’ve becomed accustamed to the nonexistence of the green line, now it is time to deal with the moral bankrupcy that comes with the fading of the red line.

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