Sunday, May 07, 2006

To Shake Or Not

TM on Jewlicious has an interesting post about the political move one soldier made at a recent commendation ceremony.
Sergeant 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.


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.
Now, the IDF has taken action:
Sergeant Hananel Dayan, the decorated Israel Defense Forces soldier who caused a furor last week when he refused to shake hands with IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz "to protest the expulsion" of settlers from the Gaza Strip, was expelled from his unit.
This is where things get more interesting. Dayan purposely did not shake Halutz's hand as a political protest - but he didn't disobey orders, refuse to serve, or anything of the sort. In fact, the reason he was at the service was specifically because he was an excellent soldier. He did salute, but did not shake hands.

All of this, of course, forces the question: Should there have been any punishment, and if yes, was this a proper one? TM and other argued both on Jewlicious and at the article on Ha'aretz that in fact it was a fair punishment.

TM [emphasis mine]:
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.
TM continues beyond this, but if anything the rest of the argument is overly emotional, somewhat anti-right wing, and undermines these points. This part, however, is very good. Dayan, by rejecting the IDF which only services the government, is making a mistake. It is completely unacceptable to reject the actions of the IDF as a soldier.

However, I don't believe that Dayan did so in this case. There are those who say refusing such handshakes is common practice when disagreeing with a commander in the IDF - I do not serve, and cannot comment, but this makes sense to me. Regardless, however, in this instance Dayan was actually quite careful about what he did and did not do. He clearly was an exceptional soldier, which is why he was at the ceremony. He did salute at the ceremony, as a soldier is proscribed to do; he followed every bit of protocol at the ceremony. The one thing he did not do was accept a handshake which can only be considered a gesture and not part of the military conduct at such a ceremony. In response to this gesture, he expressed his opinion.

Whether it makes sense to blame Halutz for properly following orders or not, Dayan did not act in a way which "caused damage to military discipline and the value of service". If anything, Dayan very carefully followed military discipline and despite his opinion showed his incredible appreciation for the value of service. If anything, he should be looked upon as an example of how to act as a soldier, both by the right and the left, even if you disagree with the actions of the IDF. It seems clear that his punishment is unwarranted and he should be returned to service.