Mutiny call a sign of growing rift in Israeli society


On 25 May, a video surfaced on Israeli social networks in which an armed and masked man in an Israeli army uniform stood in front of a camera and threatened mutiny.

In a message directed to Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the reserve soldier said Gallant should resign, warned that 100,000 reservists in Gaza are not willing to “hand over the keys of Gaza to any Palestinian Authority” or other “Arab entity,” and said these soldiers would only take orders from Netanyahu.

Among the many that shared the video was Yair Netanyahu, son of the Israeli prime minister, who later deleted it following the resulting controversy.

Despite being masked, the rifle in the video appears to carry the name “Luzon,” which helped eventually identify the man a few days later as Ofir Luzon, a right-wing activist from Herzliya, a town north of Tel Aviv, and a supporter of the local Likud party, which is also the party of Netanyahu.

Luzon is a reserve soldier serving in Gaza, but the video probably wasn’t shot in Gaza but rather in an abandoned building in the Tel Aviv area. He was likely acting alone.

Israeli media have since published many of his social media posts in which he expresses right-wing views, is seen alongside Likud ministers and city council members in Herzliya, threatens leftists and Israeli protesters against the judicial overhaul, opposes Gallant, and expresses enthusiasm about the approaching attack on Rafah.

Day after

The immediate context of the video was a recent ultimatum issued by Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet, to Netanyahu, in which Gantz demanded that his concerns over the management of Israel’s assault on Gaza and its aftermath be answered by 8 June, threatening to resign from government if they aren’t.

The “day-after” scenario is a heated subject of debate within the war cabinet. Gantz wants clarity around a “governing alternative” to Hamas to rule over Gaza, envisaging an international, Arab and Palestinian administration to handle civilian affairs in Gaza.

Netanyahu, however, is insisting there be no discussion of post-war scenarios or who should govern Gaza, arguing that as long as Hamas is not defeated, such discussions are “meaningless.”

Netanyahu has expressed strong opposition to the Palestinian Authority taking over, and maintains that Israel must keep “security control over the entire territory to the west of Jordan,” meaning Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or all the area from the river to the sea.

This is in direct contrast to Gallant, who is pressuring Netanyahu to declare that Israel will not take over civil rule or maintain a military occupation in Gaza.

Disintegrating army

The wider context, however, is a bit different, and has to do with dynamics that some Israeli analysts describe as part of the “disintegration” of the military.

Luzon’s video may be the first time that an open expression of mutiny has been voiced from within the ranks of the Israeli military, but Israeli reservists in Gaza during the current genocide have regularly disobeyed orders right from the outset in October.

The Israeli military has admitted to disciplinary problems and difficulty in controlling the rank and file. So far, these issues have been seen on social media, especially TikTok, where soldiers have filmed themselves giving political speeches, trashing homes, vandalizing shops, blowing up universities and committing other war crimes.

These disciplinary problems have also surfaced over nationalist graffiti on houses and properties in Gaza, some calling for revenge and some for the rebuilding of Jewish settlements in the territory.

The military has not investigated most of these incidents, perhaps out of fear of pressure from right-wing politicians or protest from within the military, borne out of experience.

In November, an order to soldiers in Gaza to erase their own graffiti led to a public outcry from right-wing politicians, including from minister of national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who called on Gallant to rescind the order.

Some soldiers openly refused to obey the order.

Chain of command

In addition to disciplinary issues with reservists, problems in the chain of command have also been exposed, notably between the chief of staff and division commanders on the ground.

Infamous, of course, is Barak Hiram, who gave orders to bomb an Israeli settlement near Gaza during the 7 October attack, and also gave the order to bomb a university in Gaza, without, the army says, prior approval.

Brigadier General Dan Goldfuss, meanwhile, was reprimanded following a statement to the media in which he said that national leaders must be “worthy of the soldiers.”

Whether from division commanders or rank and file reserve soldiers, it is clear that the Israeli military has a growing problem with discipline.

It is a problem that stems not only from deepening political divisions within Israeli society, but also from class and identity conflicts. Many reservists and regular soldiers are traditionally drawn from marginalized areas, and are often from religious and right-wing backgrounds.

It’s difficult to predict whether 100,000 soldiers will actually disobey orders to withdraw from Gaza, should such an order eventually come down.

But Luzon’s video does not come in a vacuum. It is rather the latest expression of a growing rift within the Israeli military, and in Israeli society more generally.

Mati Yanikov is a Haifa-based anti-colonial activist.


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