Righteous Israelis (Resisters [Torah])

by Mark Chmiel

Stephen Langfur was born in the U.S. and was a Conscientious Objector during the American war of destruction in Vietnam. When he moved to Israel, he joined the Israel Defense Forces but later refused to serve in the West Bank during the first Palestinian intifada. He faced three weeks of detention for his objection. The following is part of his reckoning for why he did what he did:

The basic moral law here is the Torah, as stated by the Jewish sage of antiquity, Hillel: “What is hateful to you, do not do unto others.” Its principle: another person’s life is as important to him as mine is to me. Insofar as I owe my own being to other persons, that law is basic to being human. We are stuck with it. When we violate it, we feel guilt. There is, however, a way to oppress others and not feel guilt. The moral law applies to persons, so one can avoid feeling guilt by persuading oneself that the oppressed are subhuman. The doctrine of the sub-humanity of the Arabs is in full swing among us (“grasshoppers”, “cockroaches”, “one thousandth of a Jew”, “animals”, “the dirtiest people on earth”). But then, instead of guilt, one feels dread of their ultimate revenge. And because one has pushed their humanity into the unconscious, the oppressed seem not only like animals, but like animals with demoniacal properties. So one feels threatened and beats them harder, and then there is more guilt to avoid, so one de-humanises them more, and on and on: it is the spiral of evil. One cannot sit upon another people without de-humanising them. This is my green line. I refuse to de-humanise the Arabs.