Destroying from Within

My Father, Frank Nielsen, served six years in combat service with the Australian Infantry during  World War II. He spent time in North Africa fighting Rommel’s Afrika Corp and was then shipped off to fight in the jungles of New Guinea against Tojo’s Imperial Japanese Forces. He came back a physical and nervous wreck. Years of shock treatment and a  Leucotomy (not dissimilar to a frontal lobotomy) gave some relief, but in the end he succumbed to his post traumatic stress condition and died when I was six years old of a massive heart attack.

Not surprisingly, after my father’s war experience, he was a strong advocate for peace  but still maintained that Australia’s war against the German’s was necessary and just. His attitude towards war is hardly controversial. He did not oppose the war against Germany as such but took a view that all wars should be avoided at all costs. I well remember asking him whether or not he was a “baddie or a goodie” during the war. All I got as an answer was a rather pained look which I didn’t understand at the time.

But when a member of a nations armed forces stands up and refuses to continue fighting a war that is basically unjust in his/her opinion, while it is still in progress and unresolved, people look up and take notice. Especially in a country like Israel where the military is held in such enormously high regard. And so people in Israel have stood up and taken notice of Yonatan Shapira, a former Captain and pilot in the Israeli Air force and a member of a family with a long history of distinguished service in the I.D.F. , who has joined the ranks of the some 1400 declared refusers or “refuseniks” as they call themselves. In a nearly hour long interview, Yonatan describes his journey from flying Black Hawk helicopters to refusing to take part in missions to target alleged Palestinian terrorists for assassination.

Just like the prophet Jeremiah, Yonatan loves Israel and its people and says that it has a right to defend itself from terrorism, but not at the expense of the ethical traditions that make up what Jewishness has always been about. He believes that the occupation is slowly destroying the moral and ethical fibre of the country he loves. And just like Jeremiah, Yonatan has been called a traitor to the Israeli nation because he believes that the ethical traditions that he has been taught, trump loyalty to nation when the two collide. To both of  these men, to love Israel but not criticise it when it strays, is  a contradiction in terms.

Yonatan firmly believes in the ethical nature of service in the I.D.F. as he has been instructed but believes that the current Zionist state is involved in an occupation that is pulling Israel down a path that is ever more morally compromising the Israeli people themselves. The occupation is destroying the fabric of Israeli life from within.

Christian Zionists would do well to listen to the story of Yonatan. Just as the great Israeli intellectual, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, believed  that the occupation would create a police state within greater Israel and sap it of its moral and spiritual values and that the use  of religion as a means to rationalise brutal chauvinism and the annexation of territories to which a previous historical connection existed was a debasement of Judaism, so Christian Zionists who claim to love Israel would be acting far more like a true friend of Israel if they implored the Zionist state to return to the ethical traditions of the Torah rather than egging them on in an insatiable land grab.

To see the full interview with Yonatan Shapira, follow the link below and hear this amazing story.

Craig Nielsen

ACTION FOR PALESTINE

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