web analytics
August 1, 2015 / 16 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Israel, War, And Innocent Civilians


“We won,” Prime Minister Olmert declared after the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza six weeks ago. Hamas was “surprised and badly beaten,” he boasted. And many Israelis believed him.

But as rockets continue to land on Israel’s southern cities, more and more people are beginning to ask, “Is this victory?” Although the IDF fought valiantly, Hamas appears far from crippled. “What happened?” many are wondering.

I propose a simple answer, the core of which is two words: innocent civilians. I submit that ever since the invention of planes and missiles, a country cannot possibly achieve victory in war unless its leaders are willing to kill innocent civilians – lots of them. Because Israel shied from doing so, it lost in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2009.

Many people feel uncomfortable with the idea of killing innocent civilians. This discomfort is understandable and, from a certain perspective, laudable. But in the long run, those who desist from killing innocents are causing the deaths of their own countrymen.

Furthermore, those who object to killing innocents forget that wars are fought between collective entities, not individuals. Individual Americans did not declare war on individual Germans in 1941. Rather, America, the country, declared war on Germany, the country. And when a collective entity makes a decision, for better or for worse, all the members of that entity suffer the consequences.

Indeed, God often judges the world in this manner. For example, ancient Egypt almost certainly contained citizens who disapproved of Pharaoh’s Jewish policy. And yet God did not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty when he afflicted Egypt with ten plagues. The nation suffered as one.

In the Book of Genesis, Levi and Shimon famously engage in collective punishment when they massacre the men of Shechem in reaction to their sister’s rape.

Their father Jacob castigated them, but he did so on utilitarian, not moral, grounds. And on his deathbed Jacob cursed their anger, not their deed. In fact, according to one Midrash, a depiction of Shechem adorned the flag of Shimon’s tribe in the desert, which implies God’s – or at least Moses’s – approval.

Commentators offer various explanations to justify this slaughter of innocents. The Maharal of Prague, however, offers the simplest answer. He writes,

 

Even though only one man sinned, he belonged to a larger nation … and therefore Levi and Shimon were permitted to take vengeance against all of them. The same is true in similar circumstances. For instance [God told Moses], ‘Vex the Midianites and smite them’ (Numbers 25:17). It is immaterial that many individual Midianites did not harm Israel. The nation they belonged to did…. And such is the case for all wars.

 

This logic also explains why God gave Samson strength, in his final act on earth, to kill thousands of Philistines, including many women, by toppling a building on top of them. It also clarifies why Mordechai in the Book of Esther drafts a letter for King Achashverosh which permits the Jews of the Persian Empire “to destroy, kill and annihilate every armed force of any people or province that would assault them, along with their children and women.”

Taking revenge on innocent civilians may strike some as cruel, but, in truth, most civilians are far from innocent. Civilians comprise the home front. Many of them provide material aid (food, clothing, ammunition etc.), and just as important, they provide moral support. Very few soldiers would fight if they knew their wives, children, and fellow citizens back home weren’t supporting them.

If ordinary civilians, then, are not generally innocent, how much less so are the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank. In fact, one can hardly point to a less innocent population in history. Among how many other innocent populations in history were little children taught to say the equivalent of, “When I grow up I want to be a suicide bomber?” In how many other innocent populations did mothers and teachers regale in such declarations?

Readers still concerned about the killing of civilians generally regarded as innocent should note that the United States and England killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Germans and Japanese during World War II. Those killed by the atom bomb, which ended the war and was applauded by America’s Greatest Generation, were almost exclusively civilians.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Israel, War, And Innocent Civilians”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Rocket that hit a field in the Eshkol region on July 3, 2015
Gaza Launches Rocket Attack, Israelis Not Warned
Latest Indepth Stories
Silhouette of "hilltop settler."

“Yesha” and Binyamin Regional Council leaders said the attack “is not the path of Jews in Judea and Samaria.”

Schwartz-073115

The occasion? The rarely performed mitzvah of pidyon peter chamor: Redemption of a firstborn donkey.

Rabbi YY Rubinstein

American leftists have a pathological self-inflicted blindness to the dangers of political Islam

Tobin-073115

Hillary should THANK Trump; By dominating the news he’s overshadowed the implosion of her campaign

Hard to remember when Jewish youth were so hostile to their heritage as they are on campuses today.

Names of the enablers of Iran’s Nuclear weapons will be added next to Hitler’s on the list of infamy

By most accounts, the one person with the political muscle to swing enough Democratic votes to override a veto is Sen. Schumer.

The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante.

In Israel, the judiciary has established itself as superior to ALL other branches of the government.

The Fifteenth Day of the month of Av became a day of national rejoicing. The moment that had seemed hopeless became the moment of Redemption.

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable, but Huckabee’s analogy was very appropriate.

Pollard was a Jewish-head-on-a-pike for all American Jews to see and to learn the explicit lesson.

If the Iran deal passes, Obama’s WH becomes world’s leading financier of terrorism against Americans

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Harvey Rachlin

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Marc Shapiro

In his day, Rav Kook was the greatest writer of haskamot and pretty much everyone in the Lithuanian Torah world wanted his approbation.

But on the human level, public protest played a very central role. And that’s not my position – it’s the position of historians who are experts in this area.

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

My best book is one that hasn’t been published yet.

Israel is not the only issue that has drawn Jews closer to conservative Christians in recent decades. The culture wars have played a significant role as well.

What books might people be surprised to find on your bookshelves?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/israel-war-and-innocent-civilians/2009/03/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: