The Israeli Left’s Hypocritical Campaign for Universal Military Service

ShowImage.ashxThe last Israeli election was bizarre.  In a country facing existential threats to its existence from across its borders and massive jihadi genocidal terrorism, the largest election issue was the conscription of religious yeshiva students into the army.  This became the main issue of the election thanks to the success of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party and also thanks to Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home Party.  Both parties did so well that they allowed a government coalition to be formed without the Ultra-Orthodox chareidi parties for the first time in many, many years.   And, since the election, much of the energy of the new government has been devoted to finding ways of forcing the ultra-Orthodox to serve in the army or at least do national service like the rest of their fellow citizens.

My own position on this is clear.  I favor eliminating the exemption of yeshiva students from military service, and, without quibbling about details, I endorse the initiatives to end the disgraceful exemptions for them from serving.  I reject the argument that these people need exemptions to study Torah.  I am all in favor of studying Torah.  I study Torah myself and I see no reason why a person cannot study Torah if that person also serves his or her country and works for a living.

In fact, I will state this more strongly.  Real traditional Judaism proclaims that people who attempt to exploit their positions as students or teachers of Torah for personal gain are guilty of the worst forms of sacrilege and abomination.  This means not only that the seeking of exemption from military service on grounds of one’s studies is a disgrace, but seeking any sort of financial arrangement by which one benefits financially from Torah study is just as prohibited and obscene.  That means that yeshiva students need to work.  If Rashi (the leading Torah commentator of the Middle Ages) and the Rambam (Maimonides) could study Torah while making a living and working for their sustenance, then so can yeshiva students in 21st century Israel.  Those who live as parasites and leeches on the financial handouts from the rest of society, extorted through the political process, all supposedly for the sake of studying Torah, are guilty of the worst forms of sacrilege or Chilul Hashem, and that is an Orthodox Rabbinic judgment from the Talmud.

Ironically, holding such a position puts me and those like me in the same political camp (for a rare change) with the secular Left in Israel.  It has been chortling with delight at the prospects of ending the wholesale exemptions from military service for the Ultra-Orthodox, and any time the Left is happy about something, the rest of us need to be on the lookout.

But there is a greater irony to all this.  The secularist Left has been prancing about and peacocking its grand moral stand in favor of military service for yeshiva students, preaching about the high morality of national service and universal conscription for the entire population (although never proposing expanding it to include Arabs).  Service is patriotic, it is part of basic citizenship, it is the duty of all Israelis, so they insist in the usual leftist herd unison.

There is one itsy-bitsy problem in all this.  It turns out that the very same secular Leftists who are so proud of themselves for demanding universal conscription and military service for the ultra-Orthodox are PRECISELY the same people who have been running the campaign on behalf of Natan Blanc.  He is a 20-year-old make-pretend conscientious objector who has refused to serve in the Israeli military for political reasons and is now the national poster boy for the Left and especially for Haaretz, the Palestinian newspaper printed in Hebrew.

Blanc, first of all, is not religious at all and has no moral positions based on religious belief.  He also is not a pacifist.  He explains quite candidly that the reason he refuses to serve in the Israeli military is because he is opposed to “occupation.”  In other words, he wants an exemption from military service because he disagrees with national policy on ideological grounds.  Blanc has been arrested 10 times, has sat in prison for 177 days for disobedience and insubordination and refusal to serve, and yesterday the Israeli government weenied out and decided to release him from prison.  It thus granted legitimacy to the position of the Left, which holds that people who disagree with government policy should be exempt from serving in the military.  See this story.   Haaretz has been serving as Blanc’s PR service and has run story after story praising and saluting him.  Blanc has also become the patron saint of the rest of the Left, who squeal in delight over his great moral devotion and principled conscientious objection.   Finally, Blanc’s father, David Blanc, is a math professor at my own school, the University of Haifa, and has been (mis-)using university facilities to promote the campaign on behalf of his son, in coordination with Uri Avnery’s radical anti-Israel Gush Shalom mini-movement (see this).

So how come the very same people so ecstatic about ending the exemption from military service for yeshiva students are leading the campaign to grant exemption to Natan Blanc?   Well, the answer is obvious.  Far leftists are fundamentally anti-democratic.  They believe that people should serve their country ONLY when their country is doing what the Far Left wants, and in this case the far Left wants Israel to duplicate Gaza’s Hamastan in the West Bank, leading to Israel being drenched in a barrage of hundreds of thousands of missiles, and also it wants Israel to “withdraw” from Jerusalem and grant the “Palestinians” the “right of return” and affirmative action preferences.  The Left not only thinks that far leftists like Blanc should be exempt from military service.  It also thinks that people in general should be exempt from obeying the law as long as Israel refuses to follow the diktats of the Far Left.  Should not leftists and Arabs be exempt from paying taxes as long as Israel refuses to implement the policies advocated by Saudi Arabia and John Kerry?   Why stop at military service – why not make all obeying of laws conditional on the government adopting the policies advocated by Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky?

And if Israelis stubbornly refuse to implement the agenda of the Far Left voluntarily, then international pressure and sanctions should be implemented against Israel to coerce Israelis into submitting to the will of the 2% of society that comprises the radical Left.  The leading voice advocating such international pressures to subvert the sovereignty of the Israeli voter has been Amiram Goldblum, a radical leftist professor of pharmaceutical studies at the Hebrew University and a founder of “Peace Now.”   (Goldblum was also the initiator of that pseudo-survey a few months ago claiming to show that Israelis favor apartheid.)

Blanc, by the way, does not claim to be religiously opposed to all use of arms, which has been the basis for exempting some Quakers and others in the US from military service (back when the US had conscription).   Blanc is not religious at all and as far as I know does not oppose all uses of force or arms in all cases on principle.  I suspect he would applaud any international military effort to defend Syrian civilians from the assaults by the Assad regime.  Blanc just opposes the use of arms by Israel as long as Israel refuses to duplicate Hamastan in the West Bank and abandon Jerusalem.  Blanc also did not offer to do non-combatant military service in the IDF, such as serving as a cook or male nurse or janitor.  Most Israeli soldiers by the way are non-combat personnel (in fact I was one such) and Blanc would have no problem finding such a position.

So now that Netanyahu and his team have once again chosen the cowardly path and capitulated to the protests by the Leftists supporting Blanc’s exemption from service and release from prison for insubordination, just how are they going to justify their campaign for universal service for the yeshiva students?

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    If only 2% of Israelis are leftists, what power do they have?

    Tell the 2% to go to Hell, Eurabia, Gaza.

    • Answer

      They conbrol the Israeli courts, university and media

    • Answer

      They conbrol the Israeli courts, university and media

    • Answer

      They conbrol the Israeli courts, university and media

  • AdinaK

    Steven , we both know that there are "two rules of law" in Israel: one for leftists/Arabs and the other for nationalist Jews. And one needn't have a crystal ball to intuit which side gets the shaft.

    However, this incendiary topic is addressed in the following interview, and it is also very clear in its prescription. I suspect Steven will agree, or at least understand, where its essence is coming from –

    And the fact that leftists who refuse to protect Israel's heartland – Judea and Samaria – are released from jail, yet nationalists are hunted down hither and yon for refusing to destroy Jewish homes/communities, tells us all we need to know about the (biased) "law of the land".

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel

  • Isracampus

    Learn more about Goldblum and Israel's radical academic Left at

  • Poupic

    Thank you! It has been my argument forever, word for word almost exactly. Everybody should serve, no exceptions.

  • SHmuelHalevi

    The Israeli "service" was turned into a political tool in particular since Oslo. I served in the IDF both as a soldier and as a Consultant to the MoD, Military Avionics and QA. We never had rubber bullets, sponge bullets or paint ball rifles as weapons! Today the "service" is used by the Israelitists, unJews, renegades and worse to control and divide, not to work on soldiering. Except against other Jews. The whole thing is very damaging and I sense, soon will be borught to a head.
    The Netanyahu and his cadre "leadership" is tantamount to abusive charlatanism.
    They must go starting with Peres and Netanyahu, Livni and Weinstein..

  • Carol Levine

    Amiram Goldblum is a lot WORSE than indicated in the article. Find out the truth at

  • tickletik

    Forcing people to work against their will is slavery. Forcing a man to risk his life against his conscience is tyranny.

    I am utterly unimpressed with your argument, which when stripped of all it's flowery prose comes down to "I want it so they must do it."

    The religious parties today are stronger than they were in '48. In '48 the state was on a high, it was run by amoral socialists who did what they pleased and the popularity of the Israeli government were at an all time high both with the Gentiles and with the Jews. It was in this climate that you and yours failed so utterly and spectacularly at forcing your fellow Jews to submit to your will with regard to a draft.

    Now we are in a very different age. The army does not need these conscripts, you do not have any popularity anywhere, the religious parties are far more powerful now than ever before, and unlike the last time you tried this stunt, your country is split in two regarding nationalistic aspirations, with half the youth looking to exit.

    Here is what you will achieve with your stubbornness: Netzach Yehuda will disband because the youths currently going there will regard you as attempting shmad. It doesn't matter how YOU regard it, this is how THEY will regard it. So that's the only ultra-orthodox combat unit disbanding. This is coming from the Rabbi in charge of that unit, not me.

    All those Kollel men who were going as jobnikim, gone. They will now refuse to fulfill needed roles in tech and support which they were very well suited for given their intense study.

    All those pre-kollel youth who were joinging the army because it suited their character to work as mechanics,etc, also gone. They will now refuse as a matter of principle. Those who would still like to go, will no longer get the quiet permission of the community.

    Meanwhile, you will also implement "economic penalties", in english it means you will drive that community into poverty. Creating another underclass of people with an effect that will ripple out and cause those who do business with that community to suffer. Those religious philanthropists who have the money will now use that money to fill the void you've created instead of using that excess money to create jobs.

    And if you decide to start jailing people, then we can expect riots, more chaos, more damage, as well as the costs of putting men in prison when they could be doing something useful.

    And what do you get from all this? What is your big accomplishment? What is your payoff for the economic, political, and social chaos, not to mention outright hatred and civil strife you will have created at a very dangerous moment for all of us?

    You get to put your boot down on the neck of the one group of people on the planet somewhat weaker than you.


    • Answer to Dumbkopf

      Of course if Israel does NOT have conscription, the Arab fascists will destroy the country and conduct a second Holocaust of Jews, but forcing people to serve in the military in times of war is a far worse infringement on autonomy and individual choice. That is what you are saying?

    • PhillipGaley

      Which, when stripped of all it's flowery prose comes down to: "By any means fair or foul, to avoid taxation or sharing the burden of purpose for common benefit or survival"; but, sloth and mendicancy is not so easily painted as otherwise.

      While slavery had to be put to an end if for nothing else than its consequential limitation against the natural incentive to work, to produce, to build, and to provide for, first in those affected and thence against the entire society, in any society, the fact of weak conscience in the group who wish others always—and in all ways—to pay the freight is reflective of characteristic moral inability in the whole, for reasons of economic and social class structure—Mexico is one example, but various individual examples show up, too—was it Dan Qualye who received a National Guard appointment in avoidance of front-line service? But, there are many others, the actual problem having more to do with sense of values not transpired in proper parenting and in the educational process.

      But even before, in failing to convey sense of worth in what our Society is about, the religious thinkers let down their share of the load in leadership—we have nothing worth protecting in force of arms, nothing worth passing on to our children, no purpose worthy of consideration, . . .

      I would marvel to know just how a few self-deluded religionists are to be correctly held as owning the limelight for self-serving refuseniks when nearly an entire Mandarin system of policitians and bureaucrats lead the way, . . .

      I would say that, these exemptions for conscience should be allowed, and upon th e reason that, while those who employ it are comparable to "the canary in the coal mine" for power over one's own creativity, they are of sufficient mental power also, to look at a slice of bread and then know which side has the butter—when a society removes the limitations to incentive in human productivity, there will be so very few remaining who seek refuge in spurious delusion, . . .

      And in consideration of the eighth paragraph, money does not hold nearly so large a part in creating jobs, as do ideas and inspiration—money merely follows in tow, . . .

  • Milhouse

    The Rambam worked for his living, though only after his brother died. Rashi did not; he was a professional rosh yeshivah, just like the Geonim in Bavel.

    • Ari

      Wrong. Rashi earned his own living as operator of vinyards.

      • Milhouse

        Wrong. There is no basis at all for this unfortunately common belief. There is direct evidence, from his own correspondence, that he made his living from his yeshivah, exactly as did the Geonim of Bavel. That is why he too was referred to as a Gaon.

      • Milhouse

        PS: You probably also believe that his daughters wore tefillin. Another fairy tale invented in the late 19th or early 20th century.