web analytics
July 26, 2014 / 28 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



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.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
John Kerry
Entire Israeli Cabinet Rejects Kerry’s Proposed Ceasefire, Talks Continue
Latest Indepth Stories
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett

Because let’s face it: Hamas obviously can’t defeat the IDF in the field, soldier against soldier

Shimon Peres meets with the family of fallen IDF soldier Max Steinberg.

As Peres retires, Israel fights sour legacy: Insistence on setting policy in line with hopes, rather than with reality.

Keeping-Jerusalem

Our capital was not arbitrarily chosen, as capitals of some other nations were.

UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillay accuses the IDF of possible war crimes in Gaza again, cutting slack to Hamas.

There is much I can write you about what is going here, but I am wondering what I should not write. I will start by imagining that I am you, sitting at home in the Los Angeles area and flipping back and forth between the weather, traffic reports, the Ukraine, Mexican illegals and Gaza. No […]

Should Jews in Europe take more responsibility in self-defense of community and property?

It is time for a total military siege on Gaza; Nothing should enter the Gaza Strip.

Germany’s The Jewish Faith newspaper ominously noted, “We Jews are in for a war after the war.”

The truth is we seldom explore with kids what prayer is supposed to be about.

Almost as one, Jews around the world are acknowledging the day-to-day peril facing ordinary Jews in Israel and the extraordinary service of the IDF in protecting them.

So on the one hand Secretary Kerry makes no bones about who is at fault for the current hostilities: he clearly blames Hamas.

King Solomon said it long ago: “Cast your bread upon the waters” because you don’t know when you’ll hit something. Our job is to do.

The anti-Israel camp does not need to win America fully to its side. Merely to neutralize it would radically alter the balance of power and put Israel in great jeopardy.

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Rabbi Berel Wein

King Solomon said it long ago: “Cast your bread upon the waters” because you don’t know when you’ll hit something. Our job is to do.

Allen Fagin

Formerly an attorney at the prestigious law firm Proskauer Rose for 40 years – six of those years as its chairman – Fagin holds degrees from both Columbia and Harvard Universities. He retired in 2013 to devote more time to the Jewish community.

The message is that Zionism, which used to be great, is today very institutionalized and [consists of a] bunch of people who are just squabbling over titles and budgets.

For Steinsaltz, the Rebbe was no less than “the greatest man I have ever met,” as he writes in the preface to his book.

If a child is seldom required to yield his desires and needs to those of others, surely doing so as an adult will not come naturally to him.

Wherever I was invited around the world, I always met with people and let them know that I wanted to hear great stories.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

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: