Discover more from Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis
The pilot's letter
An IAF pilot responds to Minister Galit Distel, who labeled the pilots who said they would not report for training with the judicial revolution under way, "a pathetic bunch of deserters"
President Herzog is more than hinting that a compromise on Judicial Reform is close. Some of us believe him, some don’t—no one believes that there’s anything nefarious going on with him, but it might just be a tactic to keep the pot from boiling over. We shall see.
In the meantime, though, the latest sub-storm has to do with soldiers, and especially with pilots, who say they’re not showing up for duty, missions or training (depending on the group). This is a country where, for most, calling someone a “leftist” is very nasty. To call someone a “deserter” is even worse.
Are these pilots deserters? Have they just given up on the state? I share the following letter that was posted on Facebook yesterday to illustrate that no matter where you may stand on many of these debates, there are principled Zionists among these people being called “deserters.” They don’t have the platform that government spokespeople do—so their words also deserve to be heard.
Nachman Shai, a long-time and much-respected public servant in Israel, and until last year, Minister of Diaspora Affairs, published on his Facebook page yesterday (March 5), the following letter from an IAF pilot. The letter was written and made public after Information Minister Galit Distel called the pilots who said that they would not report for training because of the continuing governmental crisis “a pathetic bunch of deserters.”
Here is what the pilot had to say:
You, who were appointed as a minister thanks to your proclivity for lying and gossip, ought to read the following carefully:
“A pathetic bunch of deserters,” you called them. They are the people thanks to whom you can get into bed at night. While you continue to search for more sick ways of spreading your lies, “they” fly at night on stealth missions around the Middle East.
You don’t have the tools, intelligence, or ability to understand what it’s like to climb into the cockpit in the dead of night, take off with a plane loaded with fuel and bombs and fly to an enemy country.
Try to get this into your head—one engine, hundreds of kilometers of flight in enemy territory to reach the target, missiles are fired at you, and you can find yourself, in seconds, dangling from your parachute on your way to captivity.
You, Distel, will never understand what it is to love the country for which you are willing to sacrifice your life, and you do not have the tools to understand the devoted friendship on the part of that helicopter pilot who is willing to risk his life at an absurd altitude, in order to rescue a group from Sayeret Matkal [an elite commando unit], wounded Golani soldiers or a fallen pilot.
Those very same “treasonous leftists” and the “pathetic group of deserters” are the ones who destroyed the air forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan in 1967, saved (yes, saved) the State of Israel from destruction, defended its borders in 1973, brought the troops to Entebbe, brought Ethiopian Jews to Israel, destroyed the nuclear reactors in Baghdad in 1981 and in Syria in 2007, and continue steadily and unceasingly in their secret work every day.
Thirteen young men from my [pilots’] course have fallen in their roles as pilot—and you will not tarnish their memory.
Go, Distel, speak with the sickening government of which you are a part, a government that relies on draft dodgers, crooks, liars and thieves, and explain to them that here in this country there will be democracy, and that we will fight for it—at any cost.
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