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The Cross of Bethlehem

The Cross of Bethlehem II

Just Walk Away!

Obeying illegal orders is a crime



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Hyam Ayash

Hyam Ayash | Assassinated by the IDF On July 3, 2009 in the Deir al-Balah Refugee Camp


The idea is scaring. We are taught that we need a lot of things to live. Instead of a clear conscience, we seek material comfort. The last is perceived as physical security, which we want to insure. We want insurance against insurance companies that won't pay. A job that will provide a safe pension. Any elder could tell you a thing or two about that illusion. We need a mortgage, and better if it is refinanced from time to time. We need usurious credit cards, and comfortable payments for the latest gadget. We need that twenty-ton refrigerator to keep the ten gallon bottle of milk fresh. We need health insurance against a possible accident on the way to the shopping mall; but when it comes time to get coverage, some survivors will tell tearful stories of broken promises.

The development of such a system was gradual. I don't think the first bankers could imagine credit cards and frequent flier miles earned while buying bubble gum. But it happened. We let it happen. However, it has become a system designed to make us more dependent; comfortably numb waiting for our next Coca-Coma. It transforms us into collaborators.

In a certain sense, there is nothing wrong with this. In a democratic regime, all citizens share responsibility. They have elected the government and thus they are responsible - to a certain extent - for its actions. But to what extent? Many people in my country believe their responsibility ends at the exact moment they drop their vote into a ballot box every few years. I don't think in such a way. However, in the same country - Israel - I was taught that all Germans shared responsibility for the Nazi atrocities.

We are daily responsible for monitoring the actions of our government, and, at the exact moment they violate their mandate, we should say so loud and clear. Otherwise we share responsibility for the crimes committed in our name. We begin buying insurance, but we end up criminals.

Sometimes even speaking out is not enough. An immoral government may decide to bomb children across the border to hide its inability to solve internal social problems. It may violate basic Human Rights in such a way that normal life is no longer possible. The government strategy to avoid a revolt under such conditions is to play upon citizens' basic fear of losing imaginary benefits. The fear of losing luxury privileges or not getting any buys complacence. "With every bottle of milk you buy for your children you are committing a crime" I told several Israeli friends, and lost them. The price of milk includes a tax that empowers a criminal government.

There are no excuses. If one pays taxes, it implies acceptance of the government's behavior and you share in its responsibilities. We were instructed by the Teacher to give Caesar that which belongs to him. But sometimes, to pay taxes means to collaborate with hideous crimes. Not paying taxes would mean to break the law. Transforming ourselves into criminals while trying to fight a criminal government is a moral error. In the long run, no matter how small the transgression, it would corrupt us. Instead, we must make every legal effort to avoid paying taxes or otherwise empowering criminality.

Am I walking in logical circles? No. We have the right and the responsibility to choose morally. We can always say "No!" and just walk away. Does this sound strange, frightening? I did that more than four years ago, and you can too. I left the borders of my ghetto-wall country; without thinking about pensions, insurance, mortgages or ultra-gadgets. Although there are of course grey areas on this subject, if each of us would take care of our own garden, we would live in a better world.

As a former captain in the Israeli Defense Forces I am also calling on all Israeli soldiers to drop their weapons wherever they are, to take off their uniform and just walk away.

I did that seven years ago and survived. Don't worry, no one will harm you for acting decently. Except, of course, the West.

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