The Worldview of One Israeli Soldier

You see a lot of young Isreali soldiers here.  Military service is mandatory for young men for three years, and two for women, after they finish school.  I understand there to be certain permissible exceptions, such as Palestinian-Israelis and Orthodox Jews, and some pacifists, although there is a current highly-publicised case of a nineteen-year-old from Haifa who is in prison, and has been on and off for some months, for seeking conscientious objection under grounds that do comply with the IDF’s definition of pacifism – more here (from Harriet Shirwood at the Guardian).

Most buses I’ve taken have had a few uniformed soldiers travelling on it.  Sometimes you’ll end up sitting next to one, and sometimes they have their massive guns slung over their shoulders, too.

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I sat beside one such (gunless) soldier on the bus to Tel Aviv a couple of weeks ago.  We got talking, and I took the opportunity to ask some of the naïve questions you can only get away with as a foreigner.  This is what I was told:

  • The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) is the most humane army in the world;
  • More people have died in the war in Syria in recent years than the number of Palestinians killed since Israel was established; “Why doesn’t the world care as much about what’s happening there?  It’s because the world hates Israel (apart from the US).”
  • Gaza, where Israeli settlers and military withdrew entirely in 2006, and from which rockets are still regularly fired into Israel, provides evidence that Palestinians do not want peace, and that withdrawing from the West Bank would not bring peace;
  • Contrary to popular belief, Gaza is not in fact short of food – I should see how many supplies Israel allows in there, and I should not listen to propaganda that says otherwise (he’s never been there himself, though);
  • The world media is biased against Israelis;
  • A two-state solution is the answer, but the Arabs don’t want peace.  Only the Israelis have ever come forward offering peace proposals, and the Palestinians have rejected them all;
  • The building of settlements is not a problem.  Here’s why: Settlement building didn’t start until after 1967, and it wasn’t possible to come to a peace agreement before this time.  Ergo, it’s nothing to do with the settlements;
  • He has one Palestinian-Israeli friend, or at least there was one in his class in school, and their fathers work together in the same hospital;
  • His grandparents were Holocaust survivors;
  • Is he Zionist?  “Of course!”

Please note: These views do not represent my own views, and neither do I claim that they are representative of other Israeli soldiers – they are just the views of one person I spoke to on a bus, which I am sharing because they represent a different perspective and experience to many of the others I’ve been hearing, and sharing on this blog.  Strongly agree or disagree?  Feel free to (respectfully) comment.

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