NOTE: This post originally hosted an image by Gideon Rimmer, an Israeli student at Israel’s Bezalel Academy. I saw his powerful image featuring suicide notes of IDF victims at Eishton’s blog. He has taken issue with my interpretation of his image and demanded that I remove the image. This is the second time an Israeli has demanded that I remove such images for political reasons. This again seems to be part of Israelis’ limited conception of artistic and political freedoms.
An 18 year-old IDF recruit with outstanding educational credentials was assigned (Hebrew) to a top-secret air force training program. During the course, instructors warned the students that they must guard the secret materials they were studying, not lose them, not divulge their contents to anyone. If they did, they were threatened with prison and warned with specific examples of previous students who were imprisoned for their indiscretions. One of those certainly might’ve been Anat Kamm, the women who leaked top-secret documents from the Central Command to Uri Blau, who is now serving a 3 1/2 year prison sentence for her trouble.
The female draftee, who had no previous record of mental trauma or dysfunction, suffered tremendous anxiety, could not sleep, and even took to searching through trash cans on the base to ensure none of her secret materials had gone missing. Eventually, she suffered a breakdown and was discharged from the army. She protested that she wished to complete her service, and she was allowed to enroll in a unit which had not access to secret documents.
The soldier eventually turned to lawyers who applied for her to be considered disabled due to her military service. The defense ministry objected, claiming that none of the other recruits suffered a similar disability and that the woman had not reported her troubles to anyone during the course. Her application was denied. But then her lawyers appealed to a judge, who agreed that the woman had been in perfect health before she joined the IDF and that the training had induced obsessive-compulsive disorder and a nervous breakdown. This will make her eligible for special health services available for those soldiers wounded in combat or otherwise disabled.
There may be some (and even I tended to believe this) who will argue that she must’ve harbored some proclivity or sensitivity to the stress that she faced in the IDF. This sensitivity would’ve preceded her service and made her more apt to have a breakdown. There are indeed conditions like schizophrenia which do not develop until young people reach the age of 18-21 and leave home for the first time to go either to college (in the U.S.) or the army (in Israel).
But when I read the judge’s opinion that she’d been in perfect health before she joined the army, I had to concede that it must’ve been the extreme stress under which her instructors put her when they threw the fear of God into her about compromising the secret material they entrusted to her.
I have in the past written here about Israelis who are sacrificed on the altar of the national security state. This young woman, who entered her air-force training course with a sterling academic reputation, and was capable of making a great contribution to the nation–had this squandered when she was thrown into the maw of the security machine. It grinds up the young people are thrown to it. It turns some of them into zombies patrolling the streets of Hebron looking for Palestinians to harass, beat or even kill. It turns others like our soldier here into basket cases when they can’t hack the pressure. Finally, it even turns some like Ben Zygier into the ultimate sacrificial victim.
Our soldier is by no means the only one who suffers such breakdowns. Israeli blogger, Ishton, got into a major donnybrook with the ministry of defense because it refused to acknowledge that over 100 soldiers had committed suicide during military service. These too are victims on this altar.