Avi Bieber was a grade school kid when he was our neighbor in Efrat only a few years back, just before his family moved to Tekoa.

Now we see his face flash on the TV screen over the past 48 hours, wearing his army uniform, with his simple, clear statement to his commander that he would not obey an order to beat up Jews. His statement that “It is simply not just and not right” was quite clear, as he laid down his weapon and was promptly arrested and jailed for refusing an order.

All day long, the next day, Avi’s father was on the air, saying clearly that his son acted on his conscience and that he would be supportive of his son, even if his son was thrown in jail for a long prison term.

Now our children ask what they should do. We have four older children and two younger children. We have two two boys — 23 and 19. One has just finished the army and the other is about to go in. And we have two big girls — 22 and 17, one who has finished her national service and one who is about to go in, and we have two little girls — 11 and 6, and they all ask us each in their own way, including our little ones, what is right to do at this moment in time.

Every parent in Israel now experiences this moral dilemma.

Speaking from personal experience, I have been through some of this before, when the Vietnam conflict was raging, when it seemed like fighting in that war was the wrong thing to do.

Despite intense patriotism for America, it hurt to come to the conclusion that I could no longer live or fight for my country. In good faith, I could not call myself a conscientious objector, since there was a nation that I could fight for — Israel.

There were heartrending talks that I had with my father, who fought for America in the South Pacific in World War II, and an even more difficult dialogue with my grandfather, who fought for America in France in World War I and went on be a proud leader in the American Legion.

Yet they both saw the injustice in Vietnam, and supported the tough decision to leave America rather than to fight for an unjust cause.

What reinforced my decision to choose Israel as a land to live and fight for was what I had learned in high school from a teacher who had been an Israeli army officer who taught us about the Israeli army’s code of conscience, which requires an Israeli soldier to disobey an order which the soldier believes is immoral.

Our teacher taught us about the Kfar Kassam case in 1956, when Israeli soldiers opened fire on a truck of Arab workers returning home after curfew, and how every single soldier was convicted for obeying an illegal order to fire and kill unarmed workers.

Unlike Lieutenant Calley and his troops who walked free after their trial for conducting the Mylai massacre in Vietnam, every Israeli soldier at Kfar Kassam paid a heavy price for following what the Israeli court determined to be an immoral order.

Israel is perhaps the only nation to apply the principle of the Nuremberg Trials that you cannot say that “I was only following orders”. Indeed, the principles of the Nuremberg Trials have been integrated into the moral code of the Israeli soldier.

And what I do say to my children, speaking as a social worker, a journalist and a father, is that there can be no moral justification to follow an orders issued under the current Israeli government, which again arms a PLO security force that is at war with the state and people of Israel, which cedes key strategic positions to threaten the entire western Negev and coastal plain of Israel, and which forcibly expels thousands of citizens from their private homes and farms.

We as parents must now bear the burden of supporting our children in prison rather than asking them to bear responsibility to follow an immoral order.

When I pondered the possibility of resisting Vietnam 35 years ago, I made a pilgrimage to Walden Pond in Massachusetts, and read the principles of civil disobedience, articulated in the 19th century by Henry David Thoreau, who would not participate in supporting the American war against Mexico.

And when Thoreau was finally imprisoned, the famed American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson came to see his friend in prison.

Emerson then asked his incarcerated friend, “What are you doing in there”, to which Thoreau responded, “As a man of conscience, what are you doing out there”?

Avi Bieber and many IDF troops will now suffer the indignity of long jail sentences for refusing an immoral order.

They will be vindicated in their conviction.


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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.