Lesson from Eisenhower for the IDF

By Michael Nolan
 
We assume that a stable, democratic republic enforces its own laws and abides by those of the international community. We assume, as well, that a soldier obeys orders, despite personal views, in a stable, democratic government. But Israel, billed by virtually all American leaders the nation’s staunchest ally, can’t or won’t abide by these defining principles. In one example, according to a recent piece in the Israeli publication, Ynet, “a soldier with the Kfir Brigade.   refused orders pertaining to the razing of buildings in the illegal [by United Nations law ]West Bank outpost of Migron.” Ynet continued, "This was not the first time in which Kfir Brigade soldiers have been linked to cases involving refusing orders pertaining to settlements and outposts.” 
 
It’s not a new problem. In 2007, Time Magazine offered the opinion that, “[t]he evacuation of an entire settlement, some officers say privately, could lead to widespread dissent within the army ranks.” 
 
Perhaps a fifty year old lesson from the American president, Dwight D. (Ike) Eisenhower, might serve as an example for Israel.  
 
In September 1957, Little Rock, Arkansas was an open sore on the face of a nation. Governor Orville Faubus, steadfastly opposed to federally ordered integration of the Little Rock public schools, dispatched the Arkansas National Guard to stand in the schoolhouse door to prevent nine Afro-American boys and girls from entering Central High School. Students and grownups alike massed threateningly about the black children, their white faces frozen by the cameras for eternity in the ugly contortions of mob hatred.
 
In response to Faubus’s flouting of the law, Ike called in the U. S. army’s 101st Airborne Division, led by the controversial General Edwin Walker. Walker was a right-wing ideologue and member of the far-right John Birch society. In later civilian life he organized demonstrations against school integration. But in Little Rock, in 1957, he did his job as a soldier. He put aside personal belief, and obeyed the lawful orders of his government. Given those unenlightened times, it’s safe to assume that some of Walker’s privates and non-coms and young officers were equally opposed to integration. But the troops stood fast, in obedience to the lawful orders of their superiors. As a result, nine brave black kids took their rightful place as students at Central High. 
 
But before calling in the troops, Eisenhower addressed the American people on TV:  [I]t would be difficult to exaggerate the harm that is being done to the prestige and influence and indeed to the safety of our nation and the world.” Then, for the good of his country and the world, the president asserted a value of international peace and decency that today’s Israel might well be advised to embrace: “We are portrayed,” Ike declared, “as a violator of those standards which the peoples of the world united to proclaim in the Charter of the United Nations." 
 
Israel, saddled with no such Ike-like inhibitions, has flouted UN law for decades, most notably, perhaps, UN Resolution 242, calling for "Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict [the 1967 war]. Withdrawal? On the contrary, since the inception of Res. 242, yet more land has been stolen, homes bulldozed, Palestinians murdered, food and medicine embargoed, all under the Zionist  (and decidedly non-democratic) assertion that "God gave this land to me."
 
Of course it’s not just the military breaking the law. Seth Freeman has pointed out in British Guardian newspaper that, “what began as a casually dismissed effort by a bunch of radicals [i.e. the settler movement] on a windswept hillside in Samaria has morphed into a 500,000-strong unstoppable force – and all under the watchful eye of Israeli voters.”

Even in the unlikely event that Israel wanted to give anything back, ever, it is would be faced with a dilemma that would surprise most Americans, who have been force-fed by the media with the pretense that Israel is “stable” regional influence. Well, it’s not stable, as manifest by military resistance to the return of the illegally seized turf, much of it fueled by the belief that occupation is a manifestation of God’s covenant.  Disobedience (in some cases mutiny) has grown so fierce that authorities worry about widespread military disruption in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). 
 
With so much at stake for the peace process, American citizens should expect Israel to live up to its word by enforcing international law, the way President Eisenhower enforced the law, despite the best efforts of a  recalcitrant governor, over half a century ago.

– Michael Nolan is a freelance writer. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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