Thursday, August 07, 2014

Proportionate Attacks on "Non-Combatant" Persons

By Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute

We are in the midst of a difficult struggle against a cruel enemy who wields a sword and who sanctifies death and a religion of blood. We have written in the past that the Divine providence has given us the task of being a "light to the nations" and to teach humanity, which desires life, how to fight against diabolical and cannibalistic terrorism. "They will even burn their sons and daughters for their gods" [Devarim 12:31]. Since as I write this article the security status is very fluid and the international situation is quite complex, causing our national spirit to be very unstable, I am not able to come to any clear conclusions about the current state of affairs. It will therefore suffice for me to discuss some marginal thoughts about the events of the past days.
The Lesson of the "Disengagement" – A lack of Trust
Exactly nine years have passed since the wretched "disengagement" on the Ninth of Av 5765 (2005). I have no interest in rehashing the past and in putting the blame on the megalomaniac Arik Sharon (who evidently had a change of heart under the influence of his children and business interests). I would much rather take a look at the future than look back at the past, since I fully identify with a motto that the Rambam coined: "A man should never set his thoughts on the past, since the eyes are in the front and not in the back" [from a letter to the wise men of the city Marshilia on the subject of luck and the Zodiac]. What lesson can the "disengagement" of the past teach us about the struggle in Azza in which we are now engaged? The following is my answer to this question.
First of all, we can assume that if the settlements had remained where they were in Azza and Gush Katif our international status would have been worse than it is now, and this might also be true for our security status. Our status in terms of nationalism and Zionism is another story, they would be much stronger. On the other hand, there is a very strong lesson to be learned – it consists of scorn and a slap in the face for all those who promised us "security and quiet for many years to come... military flexibility to fight against terrorist activity from Azza... appreciation by the nations of the world towards the steps we took, with appropriate international compensation," and other such vain balloons and lies. The lesson of the "disengagement" cries out to be heard: Don't believe! Not the government of Israel, not the minsters, not the advisors. If now we will act in a way that is "reasonable and rational," as it were, and give up on the idea of chocking out of Azza all ability to rearm itself and dig new tunnels all in return for political promises – history will repeat itself yet again. In a very short time, we will be witness not only to new tunnels but also to hundreds of drones guided by the Hamas and by Iran.
I accept with understanding and I even agree with the withdrawal of the IDF troops from the dens of the serpents, and the refusal to listen to the harsh war cry, "Retake Azza!" Such a move would not give us any benefit, certainly not in view of the high price we would be forced to pay in the number of lives lost, heaven forbid. We cannot expect any real practical meaning to be gained by fulfilling the foolish slogans that are being bandied about in the open markets: "We should go from house to house and eliminate all the terrorists... We will locate every single rocket launcher..." I also totally reject the hollow mantra, "We have destroyed thousands of elements of the Hamas infrastructure." For anything more than the destruction of the attack tunnels, this sounds to me like a vain boast meant mainly to calm our own nerves. Can anybody define just what the "Hamas infrastructure" is?
Therefore, the only alternative that remains is to declare a war based on "an eye for an eye" in the civilian realm. Every rocket, missile, and artillery shell that is fired toward Israel will immediately be met with two barrages (or airplane attacks) on the area from which the attack occurred. The severity of the reaction follows the line of "a double portion" [Shmuel I 1:5], which is a natural proportion in terms of "a reaction that fits the rule of "a punishment that fits the crime" and judicial equivalence in a threatening situation. Every shot fired will have a return address on it, which will include the exact time when the return rocket or missile will be fired. Can any reasonable person claim that this scheme is not balanced, to return two high-trajectory shells for every one that is fired towards us?
I can see all the raised eyebrows against this suggestion, claiming that it is immoral because it will cause injuries to non-combatants, as it were. My reply is based on separate reactions of King Shaul and the Holy One, Blessed be He. "And Shaul said to the Keinite, go away from the Amalakite, lest I destroy you together with them. But you showed kindness to all of the people of Yisrael when they left Egypt." [Shmuel I 15:6]. However, this concerns undesired damage not to participants and supporters of the enemy but to people who "showed kindness to Bnei Yisrael." And even so, they are told to "go away, lest I destroy you together with them.
We can learn directly from the Holy One, Blessed be He. "And I will set My face against that man (who sacrifices his son to the Molech) and his family" [Vayikra 20:5]. "If he sinned, what did his family do? This teaches you that there is no family which has a tax-collector who are not all tax-collectors at heart, and no family of thieves where they are not all thieves at heart, because they protect the guilty ones." [Shavuot 39a].
This "high-trajectory" equality is over and beyond the specific destruction of all the nests of terrorists and the surgical removal through personal attack of all of the political, religious, and ideological heads of the Hamas and not only their terrorist messengers.

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