Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why I'm Not Neutral

With the onset again of open warfare in the Middle East I've been told that the moral position is to remain neutral between the Palestinians and the Israelis and have been challenged to explain my reasons for thinking that neutrality is neither wise nor moral. Here are ten reasons why I think that anyone who believes morality matters and that we should support those who strive to do the right thing should support the Israelis:

The Israelis
  • Did not initiate hostilities.
  • Do not vow to exterminate the Palestinians.
  • Do not teach their children in school to hate the Palestinians.
  • Do not deliberately target civilians with their munitions.
  • Do not send rockets on a daily basis into Palestine.
  • Do not try to cross the border to murder Palestinian children.
  • Do not act like savages toward those who support and abet Hamas.
  • Do not use their civilians as human shields behind which they hide themselves and their weapons.
  • Do not strap bombs to their children and send them off to blow themselves and other children to bits.
  • Would never say something as perverse as "they [the Israelis]love life, we love death."
The Palestinians, mutatis mutandis, have done all these things.

Israel is a nation founded on principles of freedom and democracy. It's a tiny life raft of human achievement fighting for survival in a sea of frothing hatreds, savagery, and dysfunction.

But what of the Israeli blockades, the wall, the closed borders? Don't the Palestinians have a legitimate grievance because of the hardships these place on the people? Perhaps, but why have the Israelis adopted these measures? Is it realistic to think that the Israelis would undertake this expense and be willing to suffer the censure of the world just to punish the Palestinians for the sake of punishing them? Is it not more plausible to think that such measures are the only way to stop the importation of weapons and to prevent suicide bombers from committing mayhem among the civilian population of Israel? None of these impositions would exist were it not for the fact that they've been made necessary by the fanatical hatred of the Palestinian Arabs who will exploit any opportunity to kill Israelis.

The Israelis have been criticized because their response to Palestinian terror seems "disproportionate." Far more Palestinians are killed by Israeli bombs, people say, than Israelis are killed by Palestinian rockets. As much as I admire the principles of Just War theory, the principle of proportionality in Jus in Bello, at least as some interpret it, is an anachronism.

It entails that if your enemy fires at you with a pistol you must return fire only with a weapon of comparable firepower. According to the interpretation some give the concept, the use of anything more powerful, like an automatic rifle, would be immoral. In the present case the fact that over a hundred Palestinians have died but "only" three Israelis have been killed is cited as proof that the Israelis have responded "disproportionately."

This is nonsense. If followed to its logical conclusion it would mean that the victor in every war has acted immorally, even if he was acting in self-defense, since his success is disproportionate to that of the loser, since he has probably killed more of the enemy than he has lost to the enemy, and since he has employed superior manpower, firepower, and/or tactics.

What the proportionality criterion should mean is that no more damage be inflicted upon the foe than is necessary to subdue him and to gain his defeat. Gratuitous killing and destruction is to be condemned. It's not at all clear, however, that anything the Israelis have done is in any way gratuitous. They have the right to live in peace and if the Palestinians refuse to let them, if the Palestinians persist in trying to kill them, then the Israelis have the right, the duty even, to do what's necessary to stop them and the Palestinians must bear the consequences of their hatreds and of the leadership they have elected.

I feel deeply sorry for those among the Palestinian people who do want peace and who have suffered grievously because those to whom they have handed power are filled with so much hatred. But while I sympathize with and pray for those people I do not wish to see Hamas prevail. It would be a catastrophe for the people of Israel and for civilization in general.