How Israel Deals with Ethics of War

(New York Jewish Week) Gary Rosenblatt - * Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, began his lecture last week on "The Ethical Dilemmas of Warfare" by showing a brief video of young Israeli soldiers in a paratrooper brigade discussing the army's moral imperative to show restraint, even when combatants feel emotionally distraught over the enemy's depraved tactics. * It was only at the end of his speech, which emphasized the difficulties of thwarting terrorism while maintaining a value for human life, that Ya'alon shared a powerful footnote to the film he had shown: Soon after the video was filmed, one of the young men shown was killed. The incident took place near Tulkarem, a Palestinian city, when the soldier's squad, unsure if several Palestinians they encountered were armed, held its fire. As a result, the Israelis were fired on, with the first bullet killing the young soldier. * Ya'alon said that whenever Israel has given the enemy "the benefit of the doubt, we have suffered." He cited also the Palestinians' use of ambulances, women, and diplomats to transport or detonate explosives. * He noted that every soldier faces moral dilemmas ranging between two very different biblical commandments: "Thou shalt not kill" and "Whoever comes to kill you, kill him first." "The choices we make either preserve or erode our moral standards." He said the terrorists want to force the Israeli army to use disproportionate force against the Palestinian civilian population. "The terrorist's goal is to turn others against us, cause us to lose our moral superiority, and split our own society." * The strategy, then, is to be proactive by striking at the terrorists' hierarchy and using "surgical, pinpoint strikes," knowing that the terrorists seek to surround themselves amid civilian populations. He said the overall goal is "winning and being right [morally]," which is difficult because it means "fighting with one hand tied behind our back." * "Victory at any price is not in the spirit of the IDF," the general emphasized. He said the IDF responds to accusations, punishes those who have erred, and continues to revise and tighten its ethical codes, seeking respect from Israeli society and the international community.

2005-12-02 00:00:00

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