Fighting Fair: The Ethics of Warfare

(New York Jewish Week) Gary Rosenblatt - Moshe Halbertal, a professor at New York University Law School and professor of Jewish thought and philosophy at the Hebrew University, and a co-author of the Israel Defense Force's code on war ethics, asserts that the Palestinian combatants' goal is to erase the distinction between civilians and soldiers, making every Israeli a target, anywhere and at any time. Speaking recently on "Morality on the Battlefield," he said an army has "an obligation to defend its own citizens," and Israel has a military code of ethics because it wants its army to be victorious and its soldiers to "feel they behaved properly as human beings." The Israel Defense Forces considers itself, and is viewed by many, as the most moral army in the world. In his critique of the Goldstone Report on the 2009 Gaza war, Halbertal asserted that the report, in refusing to admit that Gaza fighters wore civilian clothes and hid among the population, failed to deal with the pressing dilemma of how any moral army should respond to asymmetrical warfare. In the 2002 battle of Jenin, during the second intifada, Israel sought to root out Palestinian terrorists from the refugee camp and chose not to bomb it out of concern for civilians there. Instead, it sent its forces in on the ground, resulting in 23 IDF soldiers killed. The most effective and ethical form of warfare is targeted killing, Halbertal said, going after the enemy's leadership and combatants at minimal risk to civilians, often through the use of drones. In an allusion to the deaths of scientists involved in Iran's nuclear efforts, he said that "those making the bomb are agents of threat and can be classified as combatants." Halbertal's sober assessment of Israel's ethical standards of war left me proud of the seriousness with which Israel takes its responsibility in the ongoing struggle to maintain a moral stance against immoral enemies.

2012-02-24 00:00:00

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