Earlier this week, we ran a piece by Yoav Schaefer called an An Open Letter to Mori Rothman. In the letter Yoav wrote about the story of Mori Rothman, an Israeli currently sitting in jail for declaring himself “a conscientious objector” and publicly refusing to serve his compulsory service in the Israel Defense Forces. Here is some of what Schaefer, an IDF veteran, wrote:
I, like you, care deeply about Israel. We come from similar backgrounds—you were born in Israel, but attended college in the U.S.; I was born in the U.S., but made aliyah to volunteer for the IDF. We share similar values and have both engaged in efforts to build a more peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians. But now, as you sit in an undisclosed military prison, I feel compelled to write you. I want to tell you that, despite my respect for your political views, I find your decision to turn the personal choice of conscientious objection into a public campaign delegitimizing the IDF deeply upsetting. It is an implicit assault upon every Israeli soldier—especially those who served in the West Bank—and it reduces Israel and the IDF to the occupation alone, which is just as irresponsible as ignoring it altogether.
The letter received a lot of attention and thoughtful feedback, both here on Tablet among our commenters and elsewhere on the internet. One of those venues was the Daily Beast’s “Open Zion” forum, which published a response by Jesse Rothman–Mori Rothman’s brother. Rothman wrote:
First, you fail to recognize that the IDF is a political entity with certain political goals, goals that I often find unpalatable. There is a temptation to place militaries outside the realm of politics because it seems somehow insensitive to address these issues when sons, fathers, and brothers are dying. However, in Israel, just like everywhere else in the world, this is a mistake. There is nothing apolitical about militaries. The IDF is an extremely political entity and it is organized to protect only some citizens, and only sometimes. It bears stating explicitly: when serving in the IDF, you are not serving the people of Israel, or the Jewish people. You are serving the state of Israel and you are serving the government of Israel. There are some people who believe these categories are interchangeable, and certainly there is some overlap. They are, however, by no means synonymous.
The opportunity to expand a conversation on a topic as complicated and meaningful as this one is rare given the nature of new media and its short-attention span. We’ve linked to Rothman’s response because we hope that we can continue a discourse. We’d love to have your thoughts.