Autistic Soldiers Find Their Place in the IDF

While a diagnosis of autism generally leads to an exemption from military service, autistic Israelis are nonetheless welcome to join their country’s armed forces as volunteers. A program called Ro’im Raḥok (Seeing from a Distance) has since 2013 been providing specialized training to prepare people with autism for enlistment. Joshua Zitser reports:

Autistic volunteers are assigned to units where they are deemed to have a comparative advantage—usually military intelligence. Though military intelligence and analysis are vital to every modern army, Israel places a particularly high value on it. . . . In return for volunteering, recruits with autism are offered the skills and connections that could help ease them into an independent future working in civilian professions.

Military divisions in the UK, the U.S., and Singapore, as well as civilian industries in Israel, have shown interest in developing the model. . . . So far, more than 300 soldiers have been recruited from the program to the IDF and serve across 27 different units.

The first unit to recruit from the program was the classified Unit 9900—a prestigious visual-intelligence outfit. Unit 9900’s Major R., [whose full name has been withheld for security reasons], was approached a decade ago about including graduates of Ro’im Raḥok’s aerial-photo-analysis course. He said he agreed even though he didn’t really know what autism was at the time. His unit, he said, needed strong photo analyzers to support its secretive work.

Major R. said he noticed early on that many autistic soldiers seemed to have a natural aptitude for aerial-photo analysis. His neurotypical soldiers easily got distracted, he said, whereas the autistic soldiers seemed able to hyperfocus on the tasks at hand. “Most of them aren’t interested in their surroundings. They don’t want to talk to their friends; they want to sit and work,” Major R. said.

Read more at Business Insider

More about: IDF, Israeli society

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict