dayanSergeant Hananel Dayan was awarded a decoration as one of the finest soldiers in the IDF. The Independence Day ceremony was at the Presidential Residence and attended by not only Israel’s President, Moshe Katsav, but also by Ehud Olmert who is now PM, and the IDF Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz. Halutz was also at the same rank during the disengagement from Gaza.

At one point in this ceremony, the key principals went over to the decorated soldiers to congratulate them. Not only were salutes exchanged, but the Chief of Staff warmly extended his hand to shake that of these soldiers who represent the cream of the crop as far as the IDF is concerned. Most of these soldiers are young men and women and their rank is usually that below officer. For those who don’t know, in the IDF, the officer ranks are entirely filled with soldiers who serve as non-officers until they are invited to serve as officers, after passing the Officers’ training course. Point being that Dayan is a sergeant and he was being directly introduced to the highest ranking officer in the IDF – a military, hierarchical organization.

Here’s where things get a little wacky. Israel being a country where discipline is not always strong, some people feel very comfortable expressing their feelings even when the occasion may not be appropriate. What Dayan did was salute the Chief of Staff, Halutz, but then refused to shake his hand and basically leaned over and told him as much.

Halutz was embarrassed and angry. Olmert was angry as well. After all, this was a special ceremony and somebody was ruining it with a political statement. Except that the somebody who was doing it is a soldier, not a civilian, and different rules apply when it comes to self-expression. Dayan explained that he refused to shake Halutz’s hand because his grandfather’s home was one of those affected by the disengagement – essentially, the IDF evicted his grandfather from his home and from Gaza.

The upshot of this is that the incident harmed the ceremony and has received a tremendous amount of airplay in Israel. Of course, many on the Right who opposed disengagement immediately sided with the soldier, calling him brave and wonderful and a true patriot. Many on the Left and Center were outraged, although they have not been overly ascerbic about it because it was a relatively mild form of protest.

The IDF, however, took a different position. After interviewing the soldier, his Brigade Commander (a colonel) decided to expel him from the Armored Corps unit where he served. He didn’t just serve, he was considered among the finest soldiers in the entire brigade, which is how he was invited to the ceremony in the first place.

The Brigade commander explained his decision thus:

“[Dayan] chose to express a personal protest of a political nature and in so doing caused damage to military discipline and the value of service. In expressing his personal position, he violated the brigade’s values of comradeship, mutual trust and partnership.”

Now the IDF is considering whether to remove the decoration from Dayan’s record and may preclude him from having senior roles or roles with responsibility in the future. Since the IDF selects their officers from the non-office rank, a young man who was almost certainly going to be asked to move to the officer ranks will now likely never be invited to do so.

There are many who feel the IDF is going over the top by punishing this protest and should simply have let it go. The soldier, they say, continued to act as a soldier but refused on the personal front to be accommodating to Halutz.

I see it differently and happen to agree with the IDF. As a civilian, this soldier has every right to dismiss or be rude or to ignore any member of the IDF. As a soldier, however, he is taking an overt and unacceptable position whereby he rejects the IDF’s actions. Make no mistake, that is his protest: that the disengagement was inappropriate and the man who led it, by extension, is a man not deserving of his handshake.

Huh? Since when does the IDF get to pick which actions it may or may not take? It is an apolitical organization doing the government’s bidding and in this case the government, headed by Sharon and after months of protests and numerous attempts to bring down the government, legimately and democratically ordered the IDF to move ahead with the disengagement. This was their duty from the moment the political echelon gave the order. Not only was it their duty, but in removing the settlers, they were doing something no different than when they were in Gaza, at the government’s instruction, to protect the settlers and the settlements. Except that when things don’t go according to the viewpoint of certain settlers and certain settler movements, suddenly they seem to forget that the very same system was what enabled them to, say, live in Gaza despite the inhospitable environment.

Halutz had to accept the orders from above and to execute them to the best of his ability. For doing so, he and the other officers and soldiers involved, were labeled as no different than Nazis by the opponents of this move. The same settlers also boycotted the appointed civilian head of the disengagement authority and prevented a senior officer who went to the holiest site accessable to Jews in Judaism, the Western Wall. They not only prevented him from praying, but forcefully pushed him away from the place.

The self-righteousness needs to end. This soldier should be punished severely, as should any participants in the actions I describe above. The last thing Israel needs is a politicized military, and a split one for that matter. Actions such as this hasten that day, just as they did during the disengagement. These actions should be denied and confronted. If those that continue to claim that the state of Israel is indeed immoral or ruined or not worth defending because of the disengagement do not return to their senses, it is time to exclude them from the mainstream.

I write this on a day when supporters of certain Hebron settlers who were to be evacuated burned an Israel flag, and other Hebron settlers threw rocks and stones at Palestinian children and the Israeli soldiers assigned to protect the children as they were going to school. On the way back from school, the settlers attacked again. The Israeli soldiers did not shoot at the rock-throwers, but I would venture they had every right to do so. Perhaps in the not-so-distant future we will actually see an anti-Zionist coalition between these settlers and the Haredi mobs who lit fires on Yom Ha’atzmaut and refused to respect Yom Ha’Zikaron. Dayan may be a fine soldier, but if he has no understanding of the basis foundations of the state of Israel, with democracy and the neutrality of the IDF among them, then he does not have the maturity to serve as an officer, and the act of embarrassing his commanders and fellow soldiers in that ceremony indicate that he doesn’t deserve to be among their soldiers either.

Also, one last point, before people start talking about how others like him will now refuse to serve, I’m afraid that ship has already sailed. He is merely somebody who expressed this underlying sentiment publicly. Those soldiers simply shouldn’t serve as combat soldiers. It is clear their motivation is not going to be there and it is clear that their sense of duty to the state of Israel has been corrupted by a sense of entitlement to their own points of view regardless of how few Israelis may share them. They usually brush off that majority of Israelis in unkind terms that attack their patriotism and love of the land and the state. They should look closely in the mirror.

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  • Good for Dayan.
    Shame on Halutz and his pinko friends.

    Letists protest in the name of free speech and freedom of expression, but when someone does something they don’t like….. they’re very quick to silence them.

  • There is a good op-ed in today’s Ha’aretz from Ze’ev Segal on this topic.
    Basically the author says that the punishment meted out to this soldier is disproportionate, he did not disobey an order and even a soldier has freedom of expression.
    The author quotes a verdict from the military appellate court in 1997, in this case upholding the conviction of a major who sent out hate mail to various public officials. The judges noted that this was done because of A) the person’s rank B) The severity of what was written in those letters C) The blunt and adamant way it was stated. The court summed up by saying that freedom of expression must not be violated, even in the case of a soldier, unless ‘the statement constitutes, to a near certainty, severe harm to public safety.’
    I think therefore the critical question to be asked is whether the soldier’s behaviour represents a severe threat to the cohesiveness of the army, as a hierarchical organization that obeys the orders of the government, as such behaviour would severely harm the army’s functioning, and by extension public safety.
    The answer to the question I think is clearly no. The soldier cannot be held personally liable for refusal by some on the right to carry out orders, or for the disgraceful conduct of some settlers and their supporters against the armed forces of the State of Israel. The former must be dealt with in a forceful manner, which the army has done by trying and expelling refuseniks from both the left and the right. The latter, when they represent a threat to the army and police, must be bought and tried before the judicial system. In this case the soldier is not refusing an order, and thus promoting refusal, nor is he threatening to politicize the IDF or impair its functioning. He should be sent back to his unit and not made into a right wing martyr.
    I harshly condemn this soldier’s actions. Nonetheless just as we demand cool heads from the right despite the emotions involved, those on the left must exercise prudent judgement and take things in proportion.

  • The military, for those who have served and understand, is and has to be built on a Hiarchy of authority of command. Any soldier privately disrespecting a ranking officer must be disciplined, a unit offense. Any soldier publicly disrespecting a ranking officer must be expelled after a public Courts Martial, an Army wide offense.

    How to hell this character got in a position of decoration in the first place would be the more interesting story. Was he just using his war video game skills in reality and got good at it without an understanding at all of what it takes to make soldiers go into a real battle?

    Can’t you just imagine what other bizarre behavior he might choose to display, or not, in
    a real war. Like refuse a commanders command to charge, or just as bad, charge without a command.

  • Hey Adam Hyman, first of all, fuck you. If there is one thing I can’t stand it’s American experts on Israel like you who leave terse comments and have no idea what the fuck they are talking about. Obviously you know nothing of the IDF. Discipline is of the utmost importance in the Israeli military. Especially in tanks, the unit where this soldier serves. Questioning orders can mean life or death for a tank crew and teamwork is a necessity. Leftists have been jailed for refusing to serve in the territories so a double standard doesn’t exist. Must be really easy for you to offer your expert military opinion from your humble abode in San Diego. And please, for the sake of all of Israel, don’t visit. Oh, and you have the absolute worst taste in music.

  • This soldier earned the honor by demonstrating cohesion, teamwork, devotion, etc. – in the heat of battle, where it counted.

    By contrast, Halutz is a lackey brought out of mothballs to rubber-stamp the expulsion after Sharon canned the previous chief of staff, who had the balls to say what the intelligence and mid-levels of the army were saying – and leaking – to anyone who would listen: the expulsion was ill-advised on military grounds, and would severely endager Israel’s security.

    Halutz engaged in similar saber-rattling during the expulsion, to prevent career officers who disagreed with the expulsion from breaking rank and protesting.

    The people denouncing this soldier were full of righteous praise for “whistleblowers” and “conscienscious objectors” who didn’t just refuse to shake someone’s hand – they refused to serve in the West Bank, leaving their comrades to shoulder arms without them.

    Just a TEEENSY bit more severe than missing out a photo-op at a cocktail party, eh?

    But those were leftie dissenters. So they are automatically noble.

    And all the talk about “the cohesion upon which an army is based” and “the army just follows the government’s orders, officers can’t change policy” is applied VEERRRRY selectively.

    Free speech for me, but not for thee.

  • Harry,
    I’m a tank commander, and I like seargent Dayan enough to want to buy him a beer. As a tank commander in the same tank as Dayan, I want to know that my soldiers will fill their orders, but especially also not be robots. I want them to speak out if something’s wrong, machine-wise, order-wise, and personally as well.

    If one of my soldiers doesn’t want to shake my hand, or eat lunch with me, than that’s his right. Halutz and the whole army behind him was shamed not by Dayan, but by their own sissy emotional tantrum overreaction. If you’ve really served in the army, you’d know that this sort of thing happens not so rarely, and at the end of the day, the soldier-commander stands. The commander does not dismiss a chutzpah soldier because of some one time incident.

    Dayan deserves to be punished for chutzpah, nothing else.

  • I’m with Josh on this. Let the punishment fit the crime. I had no issue with jailing refusenicks. Dayan was a soldier’s soldier when it counted and allowed military discipline to slip at a party. He should at most get a slap on the wrist and a stern talking to, but the IDF REALLY over reacted on this one. And Harry… come on, try to be kind to people you disagree with. I know, I know, I’ve been to the dude’s myspace profile and I have issues with it, but please… a little sensitivity?

  • Josh
    I – like Harry – have been through Majda (no tears). I know this sort of thing can occur in the army. If you are the commander on my tank, during miluim, best hold on tight, because I don’t agree with your politics and I’ll drive into the nearest gulley (jajua) full on as fast as possible – bit of chutzpah, nothing else.

    I probably wouldn’t really, but I hope you get the point.

    Adam Hyman
    a)Your taste in music is abysmal.
    b)How would you know what Halutz’s opinions are? Surely he executes what the democratic government requests based on what we the electorate have said we want to happen time after time after time?

  • a soldier with gumption and principles,this guy is a genious,he has them all excatly where he wants them, in the head lights.and they are dancing to his tune.heck he deserves another medal.

  • TM: You make some good points, but when it comes down to it, Dayan was quite specific in his gesture – he refused only to shake Halutz’s hand. He exemplified what it means to be a proper soldier even when one disagrees with the government, and made sure to salute properly during the ceremony. Only when offered an additional handshake did he refuse to shake it – that’s not damaging to military discipline, that’s an expression of opinion. In terms of military discipline, he was exemplary.

  • Hello Josh, I spent two years as a loader in Gash 82, served in Gaza, Hebron, Golan and Lebanon in the Seventh Brigade and I also served several years in a tank reserve unit until a semi-crippling disease forced me out of a combat unit. I’m no stranger to tanks or combat. That said, knowing that you are a tank commander, I am thankful that I never served under you. I’ve read your numerous anti-IDF statements on this site before and frankly, it scares me that extremists such as you even exist in our army.

    Some choice quotes:

    “Under Sharon’s watch, he’s turned the army into an impotent shell worrying more about its image rather than the israeli defence force.”

    “The army overstepped its jurisdiction. And while a special law was brought up to allow it’s participation in the disengagement, well, that is supposed to be over now. The army though, seems to feel it still has that mandate to destroy outposts and police the territories, and guess what? That’s illegal.”

    I see where your loyalties lie…

    “Why bother commenting?

    One day, you’ll realize that every word coming out of these great Rabbis was honey that you let spill on the ground when you could have eaten in ecstasy.”

    “The soldiers are comforting themselves.

    The obeyed immoral orders and most will live the rest of their lives with this burden of guilt. Some will be happy to have taken part.”
    “I already know when the first bullet will be fired. Tens of thousands of land of Israel loyalists are now converging on the south (with god’s help, me very soon as well) but one scared soldier who’s been brainwashed with the importance to follow orders will fire on a ‘suspicious person’ in the dark and claim later he thought it was a terrorist infiltrator.”

    “I’m packing my bag right now with some clothes and other things and I’m not sure how much to bring with. I don’t know when I’m coming home again. I’ve told my friends at work, my team leader and manager of my intentions. The last time I took off work, it was to go to miluim/reserves down south. Today, I’ll probably be heading down south once again, but this time to oppose that army and add my body to the tens of thousands who are already heading in that direction.”

    “The army, the police and the evil people who sent them won’t be successful.”

    got to speak with several enlisted girls and the impression is a sad state of Israeli education. Conclusion: ‘they’ (yup, I’m generalizing) support the disengagement because ‘something’ has to be done, and if the government decided to do it, then they have a good reason. The girl themselves have been given a light brainwashing about refusing orders, (though I remember numerous sessions in my army service about the danger of obeying ‘illegal/immoral’ orders and the obligation for every soldier if a red flag goes up to bring this issue to the attention of his officiers), and they were told that they will not be taking part directly, only doing extra guard duty in various places. Basically, sort of reminded me of the Soviet Army which had Communist Party officers in every unit to make sure that everyone is thinking the right way.”

    Ck, I’m sorry for being nasty, but Rascall Flatts and Tim McGraw? Come on!

  • Harry – do you have anything to offer this forum other than ad-hominem attacks, well-researched or not?

    This is your second trolly post.

  • I dunno, I have to point out that Josh has been wrong on most of his predictions in the year leading up to the disengagement. His viewpoints to lead do questions about his take on the Israeli political system and he is a man with a tank. I don’t see anything wrong with pointing out things that he has said in the past because they represent part of the wave I describe in this post. This soldier has no shortage of supporters, but most of them reject the current government, the previous government and have come to loathe, or at least reject, the IDF.

    Come on folks, we’re talking about a decorated young soldier who wanted to make a statement that the IDF is a piece of shit because of the Gaza evacuation and the Chief of Staff of the IDF who has dedicated his life to serving Israel is a piece of shit who does not merit a handshake from some little pisher who has been in the army a whole two years. Why does he not merit the handshake? Because he executed the government-mandated evacuation.

    The soldier should be punished and those who have a problem with the IDF executing orders from the government need to wake up because they are deepening a rift. Just as the Israeli populace allowed, through various governments, to have the settlements receive support, that same populace has the right to terminate that support and demand the settlers move elsewhere. Those who don’t get it should recognize their hypocrisy and turn back before some soldier gets an idea that’s a little more ambitious than ignoring a handshake.

  • A bit self righteous, aren’t we? I do not agree with Dayan: I think it was chuzpah and probably against the Halacha and certainly not derech eretz. I do believe that you have gone overboard in your expressions and that’s a pity, since your blog is beginning to look like a screed and not a dialouge.

    Free speech and army discipline don’t go to well together, but is Israel that is par for course. The Pilot’s letter was also politics and Halutz himself has crossed the fine line between between being a commander and being a politician more than a couple of times (for example before Yom HaShoah).

    By the way, the legality, or let’s put differently the morality, of uprooting settlements and settlers like so much baggage and moving them else where is not so clear. Yes the Supreme Court ruled that it can be done, but the rational was a bit twisted in that they do not recognize Judea and Samaria as belonging to the Jewish people and Israel’s presence is only a “military” one. That’s a value judgement and wouldn’t have happened if the Court had some balance to it.

  • Or maybe he was just sad that his granddfather died? Sheesh. I supported the disengagement, I still think it was the right thing to do. That doesn’t stop me from having a little empathy for people who were hurt by it. He should at most get a slap on the wrist though – no sense turning him into a martyr, and since when has the IDF been so big on protocol and decorum?

  • Harry,
    thanks for bringing back the memories. I can proudly say that I still stand behind each one. I do admit though, that when the going got rough pre-expulsion when the tens of thousands converged on the south to try and block the roads, that we were still sissy-wimps afraid of fighting back the ultra-violent police. Amona was a reaction to that.

    if Halutz would really only do his job and shut up, then I wouldn’t dislike him so much. On numerous times, he has blurted out anti-settlement/settler barbs. Anyway, what goes around comes around.

  • No offense Josh, but what anti-settler statements are you talking about?

    This one perhaps:

    IDF Chief-of-Staff Dan Halutz slammed talk by settlers to establish a separate state, “Judea,” and said a “handful (of settlers) are poisoning a large well.”

    where he went out of his way to distinguish radical settlers as a minority distinct from the rest?

    Or this one where he said the job of policing civilians ought to be carried out by the Police and not the army:

    “Last week we had to drive several girls in a military truck,” the army chief told the audience. “When we removed them from the truck, we discovered they damaged and ripped all the seats and inscribed the slogan ‘Long live the State of Judea, may the State of Israel be ruined’ on the walls.” … “The army will do all it can to combat the phenomenon, but the army is not the State of Israel’s police force,” Halutz said. “We have a police and we have law enforcement bodies. Their job is to deal with the phenomenon.”


    Or perhaps you didn’t like his rightly taking umbrage at the use of Holocaust imagery and statements by the settlers protesting the disengagement:

    “One of the things that happened to us is that we’re cheapening the Holocaust by everyday use (of Holocaust terminology.) Look at the disengagement and the connection to the Holocaust. ‘Never forget, never forgive’ is a sentence from the Holocaust that was posted in every Sukkah in Samaria on colorful placards showing troops evacuating residents,”


    Or what about the statement Halutz made to his officers wrt to dealing with Gaza settlers:

    Halutz told his commanders to show understanding of the settlers’ trauma. “It is OK to cry with them,” he said.

    USA Today

    Man you’re right. What a dick!

  • if Halutz would really only do his job and shut up, then I wouldn’t dislike him so much. On numerous times, he has blurted out anti-settlement/settler barbs.

    It was the left who tried to block his appointment as chief of staff, due to his lack of regret at dropping a one ton bomb in Gaza (If IIRC)

    what goes around comes around


  • Shlomo:

    1) The Pilots’ Letter was signed by reservists (who weren’t on active duty at the time, IIRC), not by regular soldiers; while I personally think it was wrong, it’s a different degree of wrongness.

    2) I’m not sure what you want from the Supreme Court. I haven’t read that specific ruling, but in other rulings, the Court has distinguished between territory which belongs to Israel and territory which does not; Gaza and the West Bank are not, because Israel never annexed them (as opposed to Jerusalem and the Golan). IOW, you’re beef should be with every Israeli government since 1967, not with the SC (or do you really want a more activist Court?)

    The soldier’s actions were grossly out of line, and give considerable misgivings as to his suitability for future command. It’s true that the IDF is somewhat looser in its discipline than other militaries; still, publicly snubbing the Chief of Staff in such a fashion is intolerable.

  • I too have served as a driver/loader in the 500th Brigade in a Magath Sheva and would have proudly served with both Sergeant Dayan and Josh, both men of strong character who have obviously displayed a loyalty to both their people and land that goes far beyond the average Israeli. Josh I for one greatly enjoy your contributions to this site,and would have proudly served under you…..

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