Today’s topic is inspired from the people at www.ProtestWarrior.com. I’d recommend checking out the whole site including the FAQ, a high-schooler’s experience, the photo gallery, and videos. For the abridged version, take a look at their sign collection.1
These “ProtestWarriors” peacefully demonstrate for their cause using the democratic rights given to all American citizens. Whether or not one disagrees with their politics, they have an equal right to freely express their positions. By facing their “enemy” head on, they become warriors of protest.
In contrast, Israel is faced with a different type of protest warrior – the soldiers who are protesting the government’s orders. A while ago, several soldiers refused to serve where their personal or ethical beliefs were compromised. Today, many rabbis are calling for a similar insubordination to protest Sharon’s withdrawal plan.
As expected, some support and some criticize these insurrections, often changing their views on if they agree with the politics. Prof. Asa Kasher2 has been particularly critical, but in reinterpreting his ambiguous code of ethics, the dissenters may have rights themselves.
What are the legitimate rights of protest for soldiers? On one hand, we would expect soldiers to be obedient to their superiors. On the other hand, in the case of crimes against humanity, most would reject the defense of “we were just following orders.” The U.S. created a special category of “conscientious objector” for some servicemen. However, were this to be applied in Israel, the entire military would be dismantled since everyone would object to some element of the government’s policies.
Is it be possible for a military to have its own Protest Warriors without jeopardizing the delicate chain of command? When should we expect soldiers to disobey orders?
1. Ironically, I first noticed this sign on campus which was taken down by the next day.
2. Also son of R. Menachem Mendel Kasher, author of the Torah Sheleima, and to whom I am (or was) personally connected in an exceedingly roundabout way.