With a Shield or Upon It – Impressions from the Spartan State

Sometimes I toy with he idea of suing my government in international court. If you take a good look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, you reach a firm conclusion that, inherently, conscription is in fact illegal (I skip articles 1, 2, 28, 29 and 30, as they are unavoidably violated if any of the others are):



  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. [Art. 3]
  • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude [Art. 4 - a conscripted soldier earns the equivalent of $0.026 an hour (the army does provide certain services at the time of service, but I'll leave it to you to refute this as slavery)]
  • No one shall be subjected to… degrading treatment… [Art. 5]
  • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement… within the borders of each state.
    (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own… [Art. 13 - a conscripted soldier must be at base at designated times, otherwise considered "absentee", which is an offense punishable by prison time]

This is Sparta

The sterility of the law isn’t enough to explain how such violations of human rights become the norm in a society. The Zionist mythos tells of Joseph Trumpeldor, the one armed man who grew up on an unhealthy diet of Russian militarism, who said:

"It is good to die for our country."

Never mind that this statement was apparently misinterpreted, the myth-starving Zionism will assimilate any statement that may serve its cause. True to form, I was raised on this ideal and many Ashkenazis have this stranger’s portrait in their home.

The problem faced by the average Israeli, striving to be an ethical human being, is that you must fight a system of education that prevails in public schools and as such at homes. Chilling statements, like Ehud Barak’s, come naturally to an Israeli mouth (limited by my translation):

"One of the students asked Barak if the state can promise, today, to return him, in the possible event of him falling captive. The Minister of Defense supplied the student with a straight forward answer: "The state can’t ensure your safety, your life, or that you won’t fall captive as a soldier. You enlist in the army to fight. We don’t live in Europe, he who doesn’t flinch in the face of Kasams and abductions-survives… The state can’t even ensure your life, when you’re in the army. The state of Israel exists in a region where there is no grace towards the weak. And a society that won’t know to stand and be able to risk life when there is necessity for it, even when risking life isn’t desirable – won’t stand and won’t survive."

Reut – 21st Century Spartanism
How do you coincide the Trumpeldorian myth with the capitalist ideals that reign supreme in Israel? You start a non-profit organization! Confused yet? Meet Reut. The Reut non-profit organization ("think tank") is well embedded in the Israeli government. In fact, if the website doesn’t exaggerate, then Reut has it’s hands deep in the mud that is Israeli policy:


"Reut is an innovative policy group designed to provide… strategic decision-support to Israeli leaders and decision-makers… Reut’s current focus areas are National Security and ISRAEL 15: Socio-Economics. In the future we plan to expand into content areas concerning the Jewish world and decision-making processes."


Armed to the teeth with military and capitalist strategy jargon, it’s founder, Gidi Grinstein, proudly explains his private connections to the policy makers, at none other than the Jerusalem Post, who were delighted to feature him, I’m sure:

"In July 1999, one of these experts – Attorney Gilead Sher – was appointed as the Chief Negotiator of the Prime Minister and offered me a position as Secretary of the Delegation. The files we prepared during these three years later served as the basis for the negotiations.

My work in the Bureau of the Prime Minister exposed me to the reality of Israel’s decision-making capacities at the highest levels."

Just so we don’t get confused with all this sterile-speak, let’s take a look at one of the strategies Reut is ever-so-non-partisanly examining:

"The Dahiyah Doctrine developed out of the realization that the IDF was fighting against a new type of enemy which required new tactics. In this context, the heavy bombardment inflicted on the South-Beirut Dahiyah neighborhood during the Second Lebanon war seen as a relevant model for fighting against non-state terror or guerilla organizations.

According to the Doctrine, the targets against which the IDF should focus disproportionate force may vary between villages from which rockets are fired, the political, social or religious strongholds of the Resistance Network, or the civilian infrastructure of the political entity within which the Resistance Network operates."

Sound familiar? It was used in Gaza. So while the Reut organization is contemplating war crimes as viable strategy, let’s take a look at it’s non-partisan connections.

Spartan Academia

While Reut uses neutral language, which leads me to speculate it is only contemplating shameful, illegal atrocities, one of Reut’s featured writers, Colonel Gabriel Siboni (reserves) of the Institute for National Security Studies, is in fact an avid supporter of the Dahiyah Doctrine:

"…a disproportionate strike at the heart of the enemy’s weak spot, in which efforts to hurt launch capability are secondary. As soon as the conflict breaks out, the IDF will have to operate in a rapid, determined, powerful and disproportionate way against the enemy’s actions…

This strike has to be carried out as quickly as possible, through prioritizing strikes at its assets, rather than chasing after launch sites. Such a response is likely to be remembered by decision makers in Syria and Lebanon for many years, thus deepening deterrence"

Colonel Siboni isn’t a one time slip up of crazed militarism. The Institute for National Security Studies, of which he is a resident expert (here the good Colonel assumes the title of doctor), is an "academic institute" (for all you academic boycott fans: "an external institute of Tel Aviv University"). INSS describes itself as "non-partisan, independent, and autonomous", and in the same paragraph "it has a strong association with the political and military establishment." (In any case, I don’t know how non-partisan you can be when Dan Meridor, longtime active member of Likud, is on your board of directors. [click View the INSS brochure] )

Similar to Reut, the mission is to:

"…contribute to the public debate and governmental deliberation of leading strategic issues and offer policy analysis and recommendations to decision makers and public leaders, policy analysts, and theoreticians, both in Israel and abroad."

Between the most decorated soldier in Israeli history in our schools, encouraging children to make the ultimate sacrifice, to the inevitable constriction, it’s not hard to see how a society would slip from the Trumpeldor tradition to the Dahiya Doctrine. As a terribly rediculous film once said: 

"This is madness. This is Sparta" 


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