web analytics
April 27, 2015 / 8 Iyar, 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.

Realize further that if a newly belligerent Moscow dropped a nuclear bomb on Washington tomorrow, America would unhesitatingly retaliate by dropping a nuclear bomb on Moscow even though the average Moscow resident harbors no hatred for the United States.

Finally, know that when Arab terrorists murdered hundreds of Jews in Palestine in the late 1930s, the underground Irgun organization retaliated by killing innocent Arabs. Many Jews supported the Irgun and just recently Jewish Americans gushed with pride when they discovered that the father of Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, belonged to that organization.

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Irgun’s head, hesitated before permitting these retaliatory attacks. But ultimately he could not tolerate a situation “in which everything is forbidden the Jew and everything permitted the Arab, a situation in which the Jew can be compared to a terrified mouse, while the Arab feels at home everywhere.”

Jabotinsky then asked a question that still resonates all these decades later: “Is this a moral situation?”

Israel cannot and will not win its future wars unless it kills many innocent civilians. This may sound horribly cruel, but war has already famously been described as hell. Either innocent Arabs will die or innocent Israelis will die. No third option exists.

The biblical commentator Ramban wrote, “Because of the mercy of fools, all justice is lost.” Let us not be fools.

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
This is what is left of the bus that was firebombed Saturday night.
Shhhhhhh! Police Now Say Bus was Firebombed Saturday Night
Latest Indepth Stories
World Zionist Congress elections end April 30.

Groups promoting anti-Israel/anti-Jewish BDS right on their websites are running in the WZC election

Former New York Governor George Pataki

Pataki is the last Republican Governor to win a majority of Jewish votes.

President Obama

Obama’s desire to be “fair” enables Iran to get nuclear weapons which will threaten global security

israeli-american flags

All GOP candidates will continue seeking – and praying – for Jewish money with greater success.

The one reason to make Aliyah outweighs all the arguments not to move to Israel.

“We returned to this Land not in order to be murdered, or uprooted. We came here to be replanted!”

I don’t fear for the future of our people because I believe Yeshiva University has created an “Iron Dome” of Jewish leadership

Poland’s great Jewish cities where Jewish life had once flourished and thrived, were now desolate

Chief rabbi, Rav Dovid Lau, stated that the Torah community’s turnout in the WZO election is vital.

Iran has at its core the same ideology as that of ISIS but, inaccurately, is thought a lesser threat

An early Yom Ha’atzmaut gathering for Israel’s 67th birthday with Pres. Rivlin of Israel and guests

Israel’s Memorial Day shouldn’t be a day of mourning, it’s a day to honor, not another Holocaust Day

God’s 3 part promise for Israel: to the Avot; a plentiful land; the eventual return home by all Jews

A committed Religious Zionist, he was a sought-after adviser on Zionist affairs around the world.

More important, Mr. Obama is simply acceding to Iran’s position on the timing of the lifting of sanctions.

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Dr. Mitchell Bard

Mitchell Bard is nothing if not prolific. He has written and edited 23 books, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East” and “The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East.” Bard, who has a Ph.D. in political science from UCLA, is also the executive director of both the […]

Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich

You have to understand that Ukraine was really a very, very Jewish place for many years.

What I think is going on here is the Midrash is making a comment about Rut’s love for Naomi being some sort of reflection of how we have to love God.

HarperCollins’s omission was especially egregious because it is a major general and educational publisher.

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.

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: