Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Should the IDF ever lie to the public?

The IDF is a very trusted institution. No small feat in a region where lying is almost as common as breathing. (It’s not regarded as dishonesty but as defending your dignity.) The IDF is not so much trusted because it consists of pure saints only. Rather, because of conscription, both the left and the right serve. (Including Israeli antisemites who would tell after their military service with tears in their eyes of atrocities that they committed as IDF soldiers that were never committed.) So, no political spin can keep up any falsehood because some others will come with the facts if violated.

Also, the IDF rules of combat are the most moral in the world. They were written with some of the greatest rabbis alive. Every army in the world could take a leaf out of its moral code. Next to training to obey orders impeccably, soldiers’ personal needs are to be strictly supported as stipulated in detail. An Arab Muslim, a vegan, a super-religious Jews, a transgender, should all be able to serve safely and with dignity. And also the enemy is fully respected as soon as s/he’s does not consist of a danger anymore. Which doesn’t mean that mistakes are not made.

But all conscripts are trained to follow the highest moral standards. This comes on top of their idealism to sacrifice years of their young lives for the safety of everyone, at the danger of death even, Heaven forbid.

I don’t think that I reveal any state secrets if I write that the IDF is one big mess. Nothing works, and what works, works backward. (And I almost didn’t exaggerate.) People who say that we don’t need to pray for our safety and that Israel’s survival is guaranteed by its superior army don’t know what they are talking about. Being sloppy is the regional default too.

But as with any institution, it doesn’t like to wash its dirty laundry in public. So what gets out is generally a polished-up version of the truth.

For this reason, it often takes forever for the IDF to comment on what is going on. It needs to be the truth (which may need verification) but it shouldn’t make the IDF look bad (which needs editing and endless levels of superiors approving). So if there was a mishap, an inquiry is promised.

The delayed reactions in themselves are bad publicity. This makes that many times, terrorists and their enablers get their antisemitic lies out to the antisemitic world media and Haaretz and to the naive reader, hours before the IDF says what really happened. But such is bureaucracy. And then it’s already old news and no one cares to spread it. But such is bureaucracy — though I’m told, they’re working on this.

And the IDF spend much money, time, and effort on getting the truth out.

Still, major news organizations abroad may report that the IDF attacked targets in Gaza after failing to report that the junta there fired rockets at civilians in Israel first. But nowadays, the IDF then writes to them, Why do you leave out what we wrote about their aggression? With good results.

And then there is secrecy and voluntary censorship of the Israeli media. Israel has real and deadly enemies. Including international lawfare that tries to conquer us based on pure lies. Guarding our safety is no game of Monopoly. Not all could be revealed and some secrets stay under-cover forever. But that is for security, not for pretense or as a cover-up.


The above describes the day-to-day situation. Now about a recent instance when the IDF put out a blatant lie. In a fire exchange with Lebanon/Iran terrorists, Israeli soldiers got a full hit, it seems from pictures, and the IDF reported severe casualties. The terrorists were pleased and the situation calmed down. Then the IDF came out with a declaration that it had lied to deescalate the situation. No IDF soldier was hurt whatsoever!

Was this OK? A lengthy editorial made me aware that half a year later, the jury is still out on that one. Let me suggest what the rule should be.

The parallel is an excellent intimate relationship. Even the smallest lie or pretense diminishes the closeness. By default, one should never lie. But, if exceptionally, one did utter a variation on the truth, one should admit it ASAP. That’s all there is to it.

So, I’m not talking about people who started an extramarital affair without consent of their partner and pile lie on lie. That must be admitted as a major sin and if trust then can be rebuilt is doubtful and would take time.

No, I’m referring to throwing a surprise birthday party. Or making a joke where you put the listener on the wrong foot (to make it come out funny). In those cases, you had no ill intent. But you must say sorry for the lie fast.

As a Zionist, just after getting married, upon making aliyah, I volunteered for serving in the IDF (twice). Never mind that I was out of shape and old. They certainly could use some of what I was good at, no? They almost wetted their pants from laughter but just managed to keep a straight face and said: Thank you. We don’t need you but we’ll get your kids. And indeed, several of them did or do serve now. Very proud of them.

Happy Valentine’s day everyone!

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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