I have written several posts in the past about children of Israeli political and military leaders like Ehud Olmert, Moshe Arens, and Menachem Begin, who have turned against their fathers’ hard-line political views and embraced an alternative peaceful vision of Israeli-Palestinian co-existence.
Thanks to reader Rupa Shah for pointing me to this fascinating report about Omer Goldman, daughter of the Mossad’s former deputy director, who is resisting conscription into the IDF:
On her last day of freedom as a civilian, I saw her at the gates of the…base to which she had received orders to report for induction for a two-year stint with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), like every Israeli girl. But she came to refuse the draft, to be tried and to be imprisoned…
Several dozen supporters showed up – members of Anarchists Against the Wall, her mother and a few girlfriends – and she stayed close to them as though she were trying to delay the end, the moment when she would clash all alone with the army.
For Omer, this transition is sharper and more surprising than for most conscientious objectors: she is the daughter of the outgoing deputy head of Mossad, the man who very nearly became head of the organisation.
The article notes that her father, a career intelligence operative, served under Meir Dagan, the current director, until they clashed over unspecified policy issues, at which point the subordinate decided to retire. Given that her father’s intelligence specialty is Iran, one wonders what the conflict might have involved. Possibly a difference of opinion about what Israel’s stance toward that nation should be? Dare I hope that he stood up for a less bellicose approach toward Iran?
By the by, Gideon Levy wrote an astonishingly and deservedly harsh Haaretz story, Killer of the Year, about Israeli TV Channel 10 naming Dagan to be Man of the Year. Levy wondered since when has Israel turned into the kind of country that places laurels on the heads of men with blood on their hands and hatred in their hearts.
Igal Sarna describes a crucial moment in Goldman’s path from child of the pampered elite to young dissident:
She is one of about 40 high school students who signed the 2008 12th-graders’ letter. Thirty-eight years ago, the first such letter caused a huge uproar…Since then there have been other letters and the uproar has died down. But in Israel conscientious objection still arouses cold, self-righteous wrath.
…The crucial moment of her metamorphosis occurred this year when she went to a Palestinian village where the IDF had set up a roadblock. Someone she had considered her enemy all her life stood beside her and someone who was supposed to be defending her opened fire at her.
“We were sitting by the roadside talking and soldiers came along and after a few seconds they received an order and fired gas grenades and rubber bullets at us. Then it struck me, to my astonishment…For the first time in my life an Israeli soldier raised his weapon and fired at me.
Sarna also describes how her father received her momentous decision to resist conscription:
…He is decidedly opposed to what I do and even more to my refusal to serve in the army.
“At first he thought this was a passing phase of adolescence and later he understood that this is coming from a place deep inside me. He and I have very similar characters. I, too, fight to the end for what I believe in. But we are opposites ideologically.
This is a very telling statement. There are many Israelis and their Diaspora supporters who view Goldman and her like with deep suspicion. They seem to be traitors to their nation and its cause. Yet what is important to note here is that they, in their choice to resist, are as much patriots as their fathers. This time we’re living in requires a different type of patriotism, one that stands up against injustice and speaks out for reconciliation with Israel’s “enemies” for the sake of Israel’s future.
Omer is a very brave young woman.
Re Richard’s comment that “Levy wondered since when has Israel turned into the kind of country that places laurels on the heads of men with blood on their hands and hatred in their hearts.” –
Last night I was at a ‘Jewish Outreach for Obama’ meeting – a very enthused crowd by the way – and a man announced that he would be showing a video of his cousin serving in the IDF in 3 Israeli wars. A big roar of approval went up from the crowd!
Why would people cheer this? I am sure not every individual in the IDF is a killer of innocents, but there have clearly been a sufficient number of atrocities by the IDF to consider someone suspect.
This young woman shows one hundred times the courage to stand up by herself, unlike soldiers who do their work with massive force supporting them.
This incident is emblematic of the bellicosity of even liberal Jews when it comes to Israel. These same people who are against the war in Iraq, who support social justice for the marginalized in the US, who support health care for the uninsured in the US, but do not care about Palestinians who die for lack of access…
What blinders these people are wearing!
The issue is not necessarily bellicosity. Even defenders of Dagan among the Ha’aretz talkbackers say in essence, albeit not explicitly, that people like him and their organisations are necessary evils – and then they go on adulating them to the point of idolatry. Rosen’s excitement over the “man who would cut the throats of terrorists with his own hands, using a box-cutter – a man of action with a knife in his teeth”, as nauseating as infantile, is a case in point. The issue is militarism, unreflected idolising, lionising of those in uniform, of the perpetrators of unchecked violence in the name and the service of “my country, right or wrong”.
A conscientious objector myself (though privileged to live in country where it’s legal to have a conscience), Omer Goldman is my sister, I applaud her and wish her all the strength and resolve she’ll need.
gene schulman says
Olmer Goldman is the ultimate pin-up. Not only is she a brave young woman, she is also beautiful. Thank you for publishing her photograpn. It will hang on my wall to remind me that beauty is more than skin deep.
Omer isnt a brave girl.
The hard path is to choose not to serve.
Serving your country is a sacrifice.
I served my country for more than 3 years. It was probably the toughest experience i’de ever have. Choosing to escape your duties is a in 99% of the cases a decision of selfishness.. This girl Omer is no different.
Israel is a country that is standing for over than 60 years as a lighthouse among dark and corrupted countries.
Because people like me. We will continue and prevail in every battlefield we are put on.
In addition, talking about peace is blessed. as long as it is considred as equal and fair.
This site, this article, this movement, are all far from what they say they are.
Richard Silverstein says
You have completely misunderstood Omer. She is not ESCAPING her duties in refusing to serve. Her duty is to uphold her own vision of what Israel should be as a nation, and this does not include oppressing millions of Palestinians against their will. She is UPHOLDING her duties by going to prison.
And if you think yr service was hard try spending periods of time over 8 yrs in prison as Jonathan Ben Artzi did before the IDF agreed to excuse him fr. service.
If we wonder where the dark, brutal impulses come from in some IDF actions against Palestinians we have to look no farther than comments like this, I’m sorry to say. Eyal doesn’t recognize the possibility that Israel too is capable of being a dark, corrupted country.
Oh, you mean like Lebanon? And the war against Qassams? Won those wars did you?
Richard Silverstein says
@gene schulman: I didn’t want to write about her beauty because I thought that would distract from the serious issues at hand & perhaps even be seen as sexist. And even being beautiful will not help her deal with the horrible prison experience she is about to suffer.
But she is very beautiful without doubt.
I appreciate your comment about beauty and sexism.
Devil's Advocate says
I think the phrase “child of the pampered elite” is very accurate. Look at Aviv Geffen, who is related to the late Moshe Dayan. You don’t see Mizrachi Jews behaving this way! Only the “elite” are allowed to throw tantrums.
I also appreciate and understand the irrelevance of her beauty to the topic and issue at hand, wherein she shows great courage and moral discernment. But hey, as a guy I have to profess she’s very pretty. She’s a beautiful noble dissident…
Peter D says
Richard is right: you don’t have a clue. It requires much more courage to be a refusenik in a country like Israel than to be a good boy or girl and serve like everybody (besides the exempt ones). To withstand the condemnation of almost the entire society and still hold your own – even if we forget about the prison term (myself spent only one week in the military prison, even that as an officer – still, no fun to realize you’re no longer a free man anymore). I am coming from the same place as you, also served more than 4 years in the more dangerous posts and I say: this girl – and other refuseniks like her – has more balls than I by far. I keep asking myself whether I would have the courage to refuse, understanding the things about occupation that I do now, and I want to hope that yes, at least refuse to serve in the territories, but it is easy for me to say not facing the real test; in reality the societal pressure and danger of ostracism may be to hard to bear.
Richard Silverstein says
@Devil’s Advocate: THese are all vast, & largely empty generalizations. Do you think a member of the “pampered elite” would choose volutuntarily to submit herself to unlimited prison time for the sake of her principles? You’ve got it, & her all wrong, bud.
I am amazed you are able to determind Omer’s motivation for being a refusenik. Your remarkable statement leads me to believe you a) know her intimately , are b) clairvoyant or c) a compulsive liar.
To act conscientious is never selfish,neither is it the easy way out. Ask Mordechai Vanunu or brigadier Yiftah Spector who wrote:
It is people like these two, and Richard here, Phillip Weiss, Uri Avnery,Noam Chomsky,Norman Finkelstein and many others–and yes, Omer Goldman that makes me believe that there is hope for a restoration of jews reputaion of being humanists of high moral and a peaceful solution in ME based on justixe, not military superiority.
Last,but not least: Your assertion that “Israel is a lighthouse among dark and corrupted countries.” was indeed “Pièce de résistance ” in your contribution.
Off the top of my head I cannot name a single political leader in Israel who has not been corrupt. That makes Israel more a cesspool than a lighthouse.
Acai Berri says
All of this is nice and good, but what happens if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, does not accept the right of return, and the Qassams keep coming, this time from the West Bank and E Jerusalem?
Richard Silverstein says
@Acai Berri: What happens if I step into a street this morning & get run over by a bus? Bad things happen. Do you want a guarantee that not a hair on the head of a single Israeli will get mussed after a peace agreement is signed? Won’t happen. But are you willing to accept the very slim possibility that there may be some odd acts of violence against Israelis if the entire set of hostilities bet. all warrning parties are resolved & the great preponderance on both sides accept peace?
The problem with the Israeli right is they want ironclad guarantees that all Arabs will sit up straight & sing Hatikvah to them if Israel signs a peace treaty. Won’t happen.
gene schulman says
You missed my point about Omer’s beauty. I was not being sexist (I’m old enough to be her great-grandpa, for goodness sake. Were it otherwise.). The moral is that, in spite of her beauty, beneath the surface can be found an ethic, principles, and courage. It’s because of what she represents, not how she looks, that I choose her for my pin-up. May my, and other’s, blessings help her through her ordeal.
Richard Silverstein says
@gene schulman: I didn’t mean to imply that you were being sexist. I only meant to comment on my own feelings when I first saw her image, which probably mirrored yours. It isn’t very common when an inner soul mirrors outward beauty, which apparently is the case with Omer.
This is a copy of the letter sent to Omer, in prison.
To the officer reading this letter,
The content of this letter is not political or in anyway offensive to the Israeli position regarding its foreign politics or its security issues.
The main goal of the letter is to provide some personal comfort to someone that as been arrested to defend her ideas, without any physical harm to anyone or anyone’s property.
Considering the current (and past) situation to which Israeli people are imposed upon, with their lives and properties being targeted, I believe this an attitude worth of admiration.
I beg of you, Sir, to let these words come to her knowledge, in the hope that one day may pass a little bit easier to a 19 year old teenager locked in a prison, without causing anyone’s harm.
For that, I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart.
To Miss Omer Goldman
In the past 5th October (yesterday) a news article about you was written in a Portuguese Journal (http://jornal.publico.clix.pt/default.asp?url=%2Fmain2.asp%3Ffd%3DNEXT%26page%3D6%26dt%3D20081105%26c%3DC).
I cannot stop to say how impressed I was by reading your story.
Although it describes an inevitable situation, a personal deadlock in which you are (between what you believe and your personal comfort), it does so, with lightweight speech without the drama that is usually used in such statements (usually with commercial purposes). Still, the sadness reflected in this article is clear, … and comprehensive. As I felt touched by your words, I could not stop to think: “She is only 19”.
For someone of your age, to be ready to go through such an ordeal, in order to maintain your moral credibility, in a pacifist way, it is very impressive. In a landmine of hate and resented and unsatisfied people, it is so much easier to give in to hate, and use it. Yet you didn’t. You stand you ground, … and keep your integrity.!!! This attitude shows a maturity well over your age. And yet “She is only 19”.
I wouldn’t do it. I’m honest and straight forward: I wouldn’t do it!
I don’t consider myself someone who lets things by, just because everybody else does, but getting myself arrested, intentionally to prove a point, I believe to be out of my range of abilities. For that reason I can’t show anything else but admiration for those who do that.
As you may read above (hopefully) this letter is not about your political positions, nor whether they are right or wrong, nor it is about the legitimacy of the state of Israel. This letter is the result of the answer to the question:
If I were to know about someone in jail, for pacifist reasons, for purely altruist reasons, would I be willing to help that person go by another day?
The answer is yes!
I wouldn’t do it, for an ordinary criminal, selfish, carrying the burden of pain caused to someone else,… but I do it for you. … and for your colleges which share this burden in the same facilities as you.
To all of you that read this letter, I wish these words may help you, and comfort you enough, to help your ordeal… one more day.
(ש”ע) הצלחה, מזל, מזל טוב
Miss Olmer Goldman may have another and very important reason for not joining what is a mans army even if it means service to country and countrymen. The U.S army is full of incidences of rape and severe sexual harassment cases against female soldiers. I understand that Israel has had women in this form of service for more years than the American services, but the spectre of rape and violence against a certain number of them every year is a reality. I would not want to be a frail or slightly built beauty, and have to defend myself against a big sexist asshole with a hardon for me. Not that all the men think that way,but all it takes is for her to be caught alone with the wrong guy who doesn’t give a crap who she is,and she could be in serious trouble, mabey even end up dead. Do I have a point or not??
Richard Silverstein says
Not really. Why do you call her “frail?” I think the daughter of a Shin Bet senior official could hold her own in any situation.