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Force Alone Cannot Win This Battle

Former Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir was once asked if she could ever forgive the Arabs for seeking Israel’s destruction. She replied by saying that she could forgive them for killing her sons, but she couldn’t forgive them for forcing her to kill their sons.

I like this quote because it reflects the pain a moral individual feels about the human cost of self-defense. This is part of the Jewish psyche. It is why we dip our fingers to withdraw some wine from our glasses at the recitation of each plague at the Passover seder, for we should not rejoice at the death even of enemies who seek our destruction.

Israel always finds itself in a moral dilemma when faced with how to respond to terrorist attacks. Jewish law requires that we defend ourselves and others, for we are not to stand idly by the blood of our brothers. To not respond at all invites more attacks.

The issue is not one of proving that Jewish life is no longer cheap (though it was treated as such throughout centuries of anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic violence when Jews were powerless to protect themselves) but of defending oneself and others against a rodef (literally a pursuer, someone presenting a threat to life or limb). This requires even preventive measures if a threat seems imminent. Nevertheless, Jewish law also requires that we use the least amount of force necessary to immobilize or eliminate the threat.

That is why I am confused by the timing of Israel’s incursion into Gaza and about why the government did not give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a few more days to try to find the two young Israeli men who were kidnapped by Hamas militants.

It is true that more than 500 Qassam rocket attacks have struck towns within Israel, particularly Sderot, killing 15 Israeli citizens and foreign workers. No sovereign nation would stand passively by under such an attack. Israel has responded with targeted strikes. The most recent took out a car carrying Islamic Jihad terrorists transporting a Katyusha rocket that has an even longer delivery range than a Qassam. Some Palestinians were killed in these counter-attacks.

Does that mean Israel should not defend itself?

On one hand, we should be proud of the efforts the Israeli army takes to minimize danger to civilians, often at great cost of danger to Israeli soldiers. Where the army makes mistakes or makes decisions that protect Israeli soldiers at the expense of Palestinian civilians, we should be proud of Israel’s independent Supreme Court and Israeli Jewish human rights groups, which serve as watchdogs in this area. (If the Palestinians showed as much concern for Jewish life, they would have had a viable, thriving state decades ago.)

However, even with the best of efforts and intentions, even when the army may not mean to take life, innocents are killed. In military parlance, such loss of life is chalked up to “collateral damage.”

For Jews, every life, even of our enemies, is precious. That is why Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently expressed his regret over the death of Palestinian civilians even as he explained why the Army had to do what it was doing to stop the rocket attacks that were being launched from inside Gaza against Israel.

One could argue that for the mourning family, any death is a tragedy, regardless of its cause. However, I would suggest that if the Palestinians were as dismayed about taking innocent Jewish lives as the Israelis are of taking Palestinians’ lives, the conflict between our two peoples would have been resolved decades ago.

Now two young Israelis have been kidnapped.

Self-defense is a moral obligation. Israel is in the unenviable position of trying to defend itself from enemies who intentionally hide among civilians. Perhaps it is up to those civilians to say they no longer want rockets being shot from their front yards into ours.

Is Israel’s overwhelming show of force counterproductive? I don’t know. This is the dilemma Israel faces: how to be strong and wise in the face of an intractable enemy dedicated to its destruction. What worries me is that force alone cannot win this battle.



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eastcoastlady

posted June 29, 2006 at 2:59 pm


I agree 100% with this post. However, a problem exists with others who will say, “Well, should the militants live in a separate area with a sign that says, ‘Terrorists live here’”? It’s a snide and disingenuous position, but that’s what they will say.



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Chana Silverman

posted June 29, 2006 at 7:51 pm


Of course the Palestinians cannot be trusted. It seems to me they are like little children who still engage in “magical thinking” and are stuck in a unrealistic, unhealthy mindset. It is sad to see a people so self destructive, but considering the danger they impose, no amount of pity can justify their choices.



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eastcoastlady

posted June 29, 2006 at 9:42 pm


Why, no matter what the Pal militants due to Israel, does so much of the world side with the Pal’s? Why do they say, “Well, it’s wrong for Israel to shut off water and it’s wrong for Israel to erect the fence/wall and it’s wrong for Israel to make a land grab and most of the Pals’ problems are caused by Israel”? Why, for the rest of the world, is Israel the demon? Can someone give me an honest answer?



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Shawn

posted June 29, 2006 at 10:38 pm


The world sides with the palestinians because they have no power and are not allowed to have any, in their own land, while the israelis have all the power and abuse it. all the while israelis have also made peace initiaves that the palestinians did not accept, and vice-versa. there is no justice on either side. the israelis deserve to have a share in the land since it is so meaningful for them, as well as all followers of Abraham. the real root of the whole problem i feel is because both sides claim they are the victim. the palestinians claim victimization from the oppressive actions of the israeli government, while the israelis claim victimization from their resistance. i feel both sides are either right or wrong, but the question goes back to, “whose responsibility should it be then, to remedy all of this?” if its not the ones in power who take the initiative how can you expect the weak to do anything about it? with power comes responsibility. the israelis have all the power, the palestinians have none. so if a father cannot help his wild teenage son from becoming evil, in the end, who does the world point the finger at? its a matter of perspective.



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Chaya Long

posted June 29, 2006 at 10:51 pm


I think all this could have been averted, or at least mitigated, if Israel had taken a firm stance against “Land for Peace” in the very beginning. The Land was given by G-d. Israel assured the Palestinians that they were to be treated as citizens as long as they obeyed the law of the land. But no, politicians caved in, and we continue to have debacle after debacle.



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HASH(0x216259bc)

posted June 29, 2006 at 11:33 pm


Sorry, Shawn, but to point the finger of blame squarely at Israel is just wrong and unfair.



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KHAIRUDDIN BIN HUSAIN

posted June 30, 2006 at 12:53 am


Israel likes to potray that it is always the victim by harping on factoids of history. Everyone else can do the same to explain their actions. But only Israel can get away with unhuman actions, with its political clout and military might and with American support. A good mix of high handed, hard headed ideology.



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HASH(0x216260a0)

posted June 30, 2006 at 3:51 am


Now that is truly a laugh. “Only Israel can get away with unhuman actions”? Puleeeze.



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noname

posted June 30, 2006 at 3:52 am


factoids! plo, hamas,etc blow up innocents without being provoked, they have no power only because the powers in iran, saudi arabia, etc make sure they have no education, tell lies, and pay $$ to send children in as homicide bombers. any arab would pick an israeli hospital if hurt, and know he would be cared for with compassion, but no israel can feel safe, let alone cared for, in an arab medical setting. until the outside arab countries came in and created the terrorist state, israelis and arabs lived together, worked together and even played together. the “palestinians” (a made-up term) created the problems with the encouragement of men who wouldn’t do the acts themselves, let alone send their sons and daughters



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sinsonte

posted June 30, 2006 at 6:13 am


“Palestinian” is a made-up term, as is “Israeli.”



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Noam benDavid

posted June 30, 2006 at 6:17 am


To paraphrase the American novelist Tom Clancy, when he wrote the book “The Sum of All Fears,” in reference to what should be Israel’s position vis-a-vis its Arab enemies: when your avowed enemy threatens you with phy- sical extermination day and night, no defensive measure is extreme. Well said Mr. Clancy



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eastcoastlady

posted June 30, 2006 at 2:54 pm


“Palestinian” is made up; “Israeli” is not. Noam and noname, good posts.



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Bill

posted June 30, 2006 at 10:05 pm


I would wager that if Israel went into Palestinian area, and wiped out every adult in a military manner (no shooting prisoners), no Arab or Muslem country would do anything in public but whine. Privately they would probably be glad someone else did the dirty work. Frankly, the laws of war make every Palestinian over the age of 16 a valid military target unless they are naked with their hands up. That is the legacy of terrorism.



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Cheryl

posted July 1, 2006 at 7:25 am


The rabbi mentioned that over 500 rocket attacks have been made on northern Israel. Although she doesn’t mention the time period, it’s too bad this figure didn’t make the news along with the news of Israel’s attack on Gaza. I still think they are hurting way too many innocent people.



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Samee X

posted July 1, 2006 at 8:11 pm


Shameful! Every power has justified its overwhelming disproportionate violence on the right of self defence while refusing to understand that the other side perceives them as an occupying force. What is the difference? killing is still killing – whether undertaken by cowardly brainwashed teenagers or trained men in uniform. If you read history – you will know how close a parallel there is between Israel in the Middle East and Europeans in American West in the 19th century and the sad story of Native Americans. But denial and ignorance is not an Israeli trait either – the Palestenians are ignorant of history as well. There is proof enough through Gandhi, Mandela, and Martin Luther King – that the only way to win – against an overwhelming violent power with unjust laws – is that of non-violence. Absolute non-violence. The Only Way! Non-violence.



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HASH(0x2162bbd4)

posted July 2, 2006 at 12:20 am


Man, Samee, I wish people would listen to you. A lot more could be said and done while not fighting!



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windbender

posted July 2, 2006 at 3:31 am


“…the only way to win – against an overwhelming violent power with unjust laws – is that of non-violence.” The Jews of Eastern Europe found that somewhat lacking in the last century, as did those who found every Arab nation in the region poised on Israel’s borders as the British withdrew and the partition fell. Not everyone can be shamed into playing well with others. Were that the case, the return of Gaza would not have been met with such treachery.



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Sheryl McGuire

posted July 2, 2006 at 11:17 am


Nothing has been publicized about the 500 rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza. All that we are told in the papers is that one Israli soldier has been captured. This looks llike Isreael is enormously in the wrong and grotesquely overreacting to the situation, which may endanger the country because of the overrespnse to the life of one soldier. The 500 rockkets that were released against Israle need to become publicized and highlllighted as most of the reason to arrest the new poppulary elected democratic government and hold them accountable for the lives of the Isralis, not just the one soldier, but those the 500 rockets were aimed at. Also, Judeo Christians have a jealous god who overdestroys all other gods, Islaamics have one god, Allah, He is the Lord of Creation and the Sustainer of all the Worlds. Daniel might be the best place tob egin. Also the War of the Roses. Thewe wars have been goooing on since the time of King Nebachadnezar and King Zedekiah. The two kingdoms have never been able to reconcile. Can they now? Daniel?? sheryl



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Sheryl McGuire

posted July 2, 2006 at 11:17 am


Nothing has been publicized about the 500 rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza. All that we are told in the papers is that one Israli soldier has been captured. This looks llike Isreael is enormously in the wrong and grotesquely overreacting to the situation, which may endanger the country because of the overrespnse to the life of one soldier. The 500 rockkets that were released against Israle need to become publicized and highlllighted as most of the reason to arrest the new poppulary elected democratic government and hold them accountable for the lives of the Isralis, not just the one soldier, but those the 500 rockets were aimed at. Also, Judeo Christians have a jealous god who overdestroys all other gods, Islaamics have one god, Allah, He is the Lord of Creation and the Sustainer of all the Worlds. Daniel might be the best place tob egin. Also the War of the Roses. Thewe wars have been goooing on since the time of King Nebachadnezar and King Zedekiah. The two kingdoms have never been able to reconcile. Can they now? Daniel?? sheryl



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Samee X

posted July 3, 2006 at 10:53 am


For Windbender – Just as you believe the Jews of Eastern Europe found the way of non-violence lacking – the Palestenians – rightly or wrongly – perceive Israel as an overwhelmingly violent entity. If one wants peace – it is necessary for us to see how the other sees us – not how we think they should see us. Unfortunately and sadly – Palestenians – fixed in their determination and belief that they are fighting an unjust occupation – see parallels in Israel’s overwhelming and disproportionate responses to Palestenian aggression (read resistance)- in which innocent Palestenians almost always get killed (never mind the standard spin of targeted killings) – and the indiscriminate killing of civiliians in WW2 by Germans of French / Belgian villagers if a German soldier was sniped at or if there was an attack against their soldiers. Don’t you see the sad situation? Gandhi once said – an eye for an eye will make everyone go blind! Israel is more worried about winning the hearts and minds of everyone else except the Palestentians!



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MysticSaint

posted July 3, 2006 at 4:37 pm


What would Moses do?



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Alicia

posted July 3, 2006 at 7:13 pm


Samee X, If the Palestinians had used non-violence, they would have a viable state by now, and a genuine friend in Israel. Too bad maintaining the conflict was so useful to countries like Saudi/Wahabi Arabia.



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Marta

posted July 4, 2006 at 9:52 am


From the humble perspective of a Latin American woman who is not a Jewish: I am very concerned with the current situation of the world and the Middle East, and I fear the survival of all of us and our children is at stake. Isn’t it possible for the people of Israel and their government to give a clear step forward to resolve this infinite war? Perhaps to give a “good will” public message to the people in Palestine, clear to everybody in the world? If the Israeli government would say something to the Palestinians like: “We are willing to forgive all your past wrongdoing against us. Let’s come together and solve this. We will also ask for your forgiveness if we did something wrong to you. Let’s start all over, and save the world for the future and sake of our children and the children of many others, who are also innocent in this struggle”. Many years ago, a dear Jewish friend of mine died. I went to see his Rabbi (who kindly accepted to meet with me after the funeral). I felt ashamed in front of the Rabbi that I didn’t know how the Jewish people honors the souls of someone who just passed, and I cried bitterly for my ignorance because I wanted to help my friend’s soul to reach Paradise. This Rabbi was the kindest soul, and was willing to spend his time comforting a non Jewish and ignorant person like me. I will never forget him for his kindness. More of this kind of gestures are needed. Only one person can change a world.



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Schlomo

posted July 4, 2006 at 5:23 pm


Since the gas chambers worked so well for the Germans, and we already have the towel heads in camps, maybe we should take the next step.



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LA

posted July 8, 2006 at 4:36 pm


A good start would be Christians who know that Jews have been murdered by Muslims prior to Israel being a country and occupation has nothing to do with the Muslim wish to exterminate Jews (PLO founded in 1964.) What we need is the world being fed up with cultures that teach their children hate, cultures that don’t accept the right of other cultures to exist and the courage of Christians to stand up for right rather than accepting propaganda wholesale.



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Yael Pedhatzur

posted July 9, 2006 at 3:49 am


No. Force alone cannot win this battle. What will win this war is a firm belief and support form world Jewry. Unequivocally stating (and believing), that Israel IS the land of the Jews, that the Jewish people have very much a right like any other nation to define themselves as they see fit in their own piece of “real estate”. That this right is as inalienable as the rights of Americans to America, the French to France etc. By acknowledging that Israel may make some practical errors in governance or legislation once in a while is legit. By living in Israel & joining the local political process one might even bring about some change. But both the Israeli left, the ultra orthodox, the centrists, the Jews all over the world, must agree that Israel is not always wrong and that its right to exist in a sustainable country is an absolute right. Once this happens there will be no need of force. A united front is stronger. That is what the Arabs have. That is why they are gaining on us. But they will never really win, because morally we are in the right.



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Samee X

posted July 10, 2006 at 3:25 pm


Yael – that is precisely the point – the complete ignorance on your part of how the Palestenians see Israel. This classifications of Arabs as “they” and how they are morally in the worng – and you are morally in the right. The enemy gaining on you. Seems people like you will never get it. I feel so sorry for you and for those Palestenians who dont get it either.



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