National Guardsman Refuses Deployment To Patrol Border

By Joshua Yaffa

Published May 26, 2006, issue of May 26, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

While the Senate expressed its approval Monday of a Bush administration plan to deploy the Natinoal Guard along the American-Mexican border, a Jewish member of the Pennsylvania force is publicly refusing to accept such an order.

Brian Kresge, a seven-year veteran of the armed forces, first articulated his position on his personal blog last week. “I cannot point a gun at folks crossing a border when I am a scion of the same thing,” he wrote. “Life was hard in the Pale of Settlement, and though today’s illegals aren’t necessarily fleeing pogroms, they likely have the same fears.”

In a conversation with the Forward, Kresge elaborated on his initial statement. “The president’s speech [last week on immigration] got me thinking about my own ancestry,” he explained. “My family came to this country in the bottom of a ship — without papers, without records.”

“I can’t conscience being a hypocrite,” he added, reflecting on the difficulties faced by his great-great-grandfather Louis Feldser, who achieved American citizenship for himself and his wife by falsely claiming that the documents they needed had been lost in a fire.

Under the plan first proposed by President Bush during his prime-time May 17 speech, up to 6,000 National Guard troops would be sent to the southern United States to support ongoing Border Patrol operations. By an 83-10 vote this week, senators approved a measure to position the Guard along the border, while setting parameters on the limits of its involvement.

Rabbi David Lapp, director of the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, is not convinced by Kresge’s arguments. “Once he joins any military force, he swears to do what the commander in chief orders,” he told the Forward when informed of Kresge’s stance. “If everyone in his own mind were to judge where to serve and where not to serve, we would not have an Army.”

Both sides in the nascent debate cite lessons from the Jewish theological canon, albeit with far different implications. “What would the Torah do? When you live in that country and they ask you to serve, you have to serve,” Lapp said.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia countered by pointing to the “thirty-some times the Torah says that you shall treat the foreigner with respect and equality.”

“Remember that at one time,” Waskow continued, “the Jewish community in the Lower East Side of New York was looked upon with great contempt and disgust by most of the country.”

Rabbi Philip Bentley, honorary president of the Jewish Peace Fellowship, suggested that his organization would be willing to help Kresge should he encounter future legal trouble. “That is what we exist to do,” Bentley said, adding that “for Jews, the closing of borders has a very powerful resonance.”

“In 1924,” he said, “they shut the borders of the U.S. for European Jews — this current measure should be something that disturbs us greatly.”

Kresge said that he is not keen to make his initial statement into a larger issue, especially considering the recent comments of Pennsylvania’s Jewish governor, Ed Rendell, who expressed opposition to a long deployment of the state’s National Guardsmen to the border. The guardsman insisted that he was very eager to serve his country.

“Refuseniks can get painted as malcontents and people who don’t want to serve, but that’s not the case here,” Kresge said. “I’m a proud soldier — but I have to answer to my faith, as well.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.