1. We do not seek to harm innocents; we seek only to protect ourselves. We have no interest in attacking Gaza unless they attack us. This doesn’t mean however that we will act only in response to an attack against us; our sages teach us an important moral principle: “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.”

The charter states that Hamas is one of the branches of the Muslim Brotherhood (and of the global Jihad) and quotes Hassan al-Banna, the Egyptian founder of the movement: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” Hamas sees itself as “one of the battalions of Jihad” standing up to the Zionist invasion. It quotes from the Hadith (the Muslim oral tradition) to express their aspiration: “The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: 0 Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!”

Here are the two guiding principles of our enemies in Gaza: total commitment to the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews wherever they may be. In my appearances in the Italian Senate, I stated that I only know of one similar document written in the past century, and it was in German. If the heads of the serpent hide behind women and children as human shields, we shall reach them even at the cost of collateral damage to their surroundings. The equation is either our families or theirs.


2. In one of the most fascinating debates in the Talmud, our sages asked (Bava Metzia 62): If two people were walking on a desolate path and there was a jug of water in the possession of one of them, and the situation was such that if both drink from the jug, both will die, as there is not enough water, but if only one of them drinks, he will reach a settled area. The Talmud asks, what is the ruling?  Ben Petora argued: It is preferable that both of them drink and die, and let neither one of them see the death of the other. This was the accepted opinion until Rabbi Akiva came and taught that the verse states: “And your brother shall live with you,” indicating that your life takes precedence over the life of the other. This verse is found in the Torah portion we read last Shabbat ( Leviticus 25), and Rabbi Akiva derived a fundamental principle from it: It is important that your brother lives, but with you, not in your place. This is also how the Halachah was interpreted in Hebrew law.

I assume that the hypothetical question posed by our sages was intended to teach that, of all people, Rabbi Akiva, who emphasized the importance of the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself” (“This is a great principle of the Torah!”), taught that the moral attitude towards others depends first and foremost on one’s moral attitude towards oneself. There is no responsibility towards the other if I am not first and foremost responsible for myself. In other words, love of the neighbor, love of the other, requires elucidation if one does not love oneself.

The above also pertains to the national level, in relation to the War of Independence and the mendaciousness of the “Nakba:” What was at stake was the cruel question “us or them.” When they didn’t want to compromise but rather sought to annihilate the “surviving remnant” (the Holocaust survivors) who had sought refuge here, the answer was: Our lives take precedence. This is why we sought to return home to our homeland to establish sovereign and independent lives, with the ability to protect ourselves and our future.

3. I say this in view of the self-righteous headlines during the recent operation about the “killing of innocents” – this in the heat of the battle as our soldiers risked their lives facing terrorists who launched missiles to target our families. Several media outlets directly or indirectly linked the actions of our soldiers to the “killing of innocents.” Perhaps it would have been better to endure and endanger our families, just to make sure we don’t witness the deaths of women and children in the enemy camp. On the face of it, this would be in line with Ben Petora’s reasoning, but the Tannaic sage was discussing two friends and not a war between us and a jihadist enemy whose raison d’être is the murder of the Jewish people.

These headlines were quoted extensively in Arab media outlets worldwide as proof and testimony right from the enemy’s mouth of the immoral cruelty of the Jews. The verse that came to mind for me was one used by the overseers of the Israelites against Moses and Aaron when we were enslaved in Egypt: “May God look upon you and punish you for making us loathsome to Pharaoh and his courtiers—putting a sword in their hands to slay us” (Exodus 5:21). The context is different, as are the speakers, but the objective is similar: such headlines provide the enemy with justification to harm Jews everywhere.

4. I don’t recall in past similar debates on mainstream media channels during wartime. In several instances, Natan Alterman was employed as a sage in support of this false morality. The national poet would have dismantled and dismissed these demoralizing narratives, the attempt to engage in moralizing at the expense of the justness of our cause in the war against terrorist organizations. Describing the fateful battles of 1948, he wrote: “Like the face of a city being built, the face of the slaughter field / In the deployment of the camp which was condemned/ To be shedding the blood of man and protecting him.” And in 1941 in the Second World War, when the Nazis seemed to be sweeping to victory, he wrote: “Brethren! this once in a thousand years/ for our death there is morning’s light!”

Indeed, Alterman dealt with the question of morality during wartime, when power and sovereignty were in our hands, and we harmed innocents. The poem “About This” addresses the backlash over the events in the village of Dawamiya in late October 1948, when it became known that war prisoners and civilians who threatened no one had been killed. But this has nothing to do with when our enemies seek to commit genocide against us. In those cases, Alterman left no room for pseudo-moral equivocations that claimed a false symmetry between us and them. In his collection of poems “The Ten Plagues of Egypt” (1944), when addressing the deaths of innocents in the battle with the Nazi enemy as the Allies destroyed German cities, he wrote: “For the dagger is righteous in its judgment/ but in its wake/ always leaves, like a taste of salt/ the tears of the innocent.” Despite the tears of the innocent, Alterman justified the judgment.

Alterman’s poetic testament of the kind of headlines I described above was: “Thus Satan said: This besieged one (i.e. The Jewish State) – how can I overcome him?/…And he said: I will not take away his power/ And I shall not curb him with bit and bridle/ And I will not bring him to cowardice/ And I shall not weaken his hands as in days of yore/ Only this shall I do: I will dull his mind/ And cause him to forget/ The justice of his cause.”

{Reposted from IsraelHayom}

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Dror Eydar has been appointed Israeli ambassador to Italy.