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Comments on the Suspension of Voluntary Military Reserve Service


Brothers in Arm Protest Israel
Photograph by Gaby Danziger, Shatil Stock

Many today are considering and discussing with others the possibility of suspending their voluntary military reserve service in an act of resistance to the judicial overhaul perpetrated by the Israeli government and its backers.


Here are some clarifications and suggestions to assist the soldiers and officers dealing with this unusual possibility:


Clarification: The difference between a military decision and a civilian decision:

A civilian decision is a decision that a person makes, as a civilian, while that person is not acting within the military. A military decision is a decision that a person makes while they are acting within the military.


The decision to continue or to suspend voluntary military reserve service is a civil one. The decision to obey or disobey an order given by a commanding officer is a military one The decision to disobey a lawful and unambiguous order is a military one. The decision to refuse to serve is a military one.


Claims that there is no difference, or no significant difference, between suspending voluntary reserve service and refusing to serve are mistaken conceptually, professionally, and morally. These claims are best not raised.


The decision to suspend voluntary reserve service is a civilian one and as such it is not made within a military unit but by each solider or officer individually. Reservists may, of course, consult each other on the question of suspending their voluntary service, but they are not permitted to present any decision as if it represents all soldiers in any given military unit.


The decision whether to suspend voluntary military reserve service must, from a military ethics and moral principles perspective, be a responsible, thoughtful decision. In order to make this decision one must consider proportionality and act according to it.

A proportionality consideration places on one side of the scale the positive value of the action in question, and on the other side the potential harm that may result from that action, and compare the two.


A decision over the proportionality consideration is personal.

What is the positive value of suspending voluntary service? Each reservist will assess according to their own evaluation of their action within all other acts of resistance to the judicial overhaul.


The potential harm that may be caused by the decision to suspend voluntary service should be fully determined, as much as possible, through a conversation between the officers or soldier and their commanding officer. Before notifying the commanding officer of the suspension, it is appropriate to hold a professional, operational, and ethical conversation with them regarding the overall implications of the suspension of service.


A thoughtful and responsible decision, even if it stands the test of proportionality, and is made after a discussion with the commanding officers, must include a deliberate effort to minimize the potential harm that may be caused by the suspension.


I trust that the commanding officers and the numerous reservists can undertake thoughtful, responsible, ethical and moral procedures relating to the common wish of reservists to suspend their voluntary service.


A change to the basic civil order of the State in the form of a judicial overhaul carries the risk of a necessary change in the identity of the IDF and in the level of trust that can be placed on the IDF’s ability to function according to the ethical and moral principles inherent in the spirit of the IDF. It also carries potential risks from international judicial institutions to those who serve in the army of a non-democratic state.


 

Asa Kasher is a Prof Emeritus of Professional Ethics and Philosophy, Tel Aviv University

Editor in Chief, Hebrew Enc., 2nd ed.


Contributed by Prof. Asa Kasher to USA for Israeli Democracy


Translated from Hebrew by: Niva Kaspi


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April 28, 2024

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