Thursday, October 22, 2015

An Attacking Terrorist should not Come out Alive!

By Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute

"The word of G-d came to Avram in a vision, saying, do not be afraid, Avram" [Bereishit 15:1]. "You will not be punished for having killed all of those people." [Rashi].

"Our patriarch Avraham was afraid, and he said: Perhaps among the people I killed there was at least one righteous man... This can be compared to a man who passed before the orchard of the king, where he saw a bunch of thorns, and he went down and took it. This king saw... and he said to him, Come and get a reward. And that is what the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Avram: The people you killed were thorns which were already mowed down."[Bereishit Rabba 44].

Temporary Neutralization?
In these days of suffering and knives, contrasting cries have been issued by different rabbis. On one hand we are told, "One is not allowed to harm terrorists if they no longer pose an immediate threat." And on the other hand, we are told "to put on trial anybody who does not eliminate a wounded terrorist." We have heard not only the opposing voices of rabbis but also the opinions of experts in rescue and medical services. On one hand, "One should treat a seriously injured terrorist before taking care of his victim, who was lightly injured" [Magen David Adom spokesman]. Contrast this with, "We will not treat injured terrorists before their victims" [Zaka/Hatzalah]. These statements stem from considerations of Torah and a world outlook, from an ethical and moral approach, and not from ideas based on revenge or political pragmatism. (One exception is what was published in the name of Rabbi Yaacov Ariel, weighing possible gain against a fear of blood revenge, putting Jews in the world in danger, and giving our enemies pictures of a sword raised in their hands.)

I will add my thoughts to this "panel" discussion, and with the following points:

First, I do not accept an approach that feels that in principle the blood of a Ben Noach – a non-Jew – is not worth as much as that of a Jew, such that killing a Gentile is a relatively simple matter. Such an approach can never be accepted in halachic terms, even if within the walls of the Beit Midrash it is possible to analyze the matter in depth and study various theoretical and hallucinatory borderline cases (as appears in the book "Torat Hamelech." "Do not commit murder" [Shemot 20:12] is an all-encompassing command... except for cases of active war, when the rules change and sometimes become blurred.

Second, we are indeed in a state of war with the murderers of the current wave of terrorism. Even if this has not been formally declared, for reasons having to do with international politics or economics (so as not to formally put the country in an emergency state), we are at war! And if there is a war, we must act accordingly! The overriding consideration must be that of the broad picture. A war does not take place between individuals or organizations, and not against unexpected knife-wielders. Rather, it must be waged against the Palestinian terrorism and those who support it. In this case, as opposed to "normal" war, those in the front lines are not the army, police, or security forces but rather the civilian population – men and women, young and old.

Third, the best way to fight against the motivation to carry out terrorism is through deterrence. First and foremost, this means to establish the following principle in no uncertain terms: "No terrorist will leave the area of his or her attack alive!" Exclamation point! (This goes along with other "disproportional" moves such as destroying homes, confiscating property, and sending families into exile.) The statement that "nobody comes out alive" should in principle be a governmental declaration. However, since our government has not received a "license" from the other nations to make such a declaration, and we have no permission from our anti-nationalistic legal advisors to do so, and no permission from the humanistic left who are forever looking beyond our own borders for approval – such a call must be made by current and past security experts. It will appear as sub-text and as aside remarks, and in various hints. We will all understand, and so will they: "Nobody comes out alive!"

Smash the Hands of the Evil People in the World
Fourth, I want to note that what I have written is based on a series of laws as ruled by the Rambam. A "kal vachomer" (logical inference) from the laws for dealing with an informer on financial matters: "It is permitted to kill an informer... and whoever kills him first merits the credit for the deed. However, if he managed to accomplish his desire it would seem that killing him is no longer permitted, unless he has been established as a repeated informer – in which case he should be killed. And it has been a practice in all the cities of the west to kill informers who are known to hand over money belonging to Yisrael." [Hilchot Chovel U'Mazik 8:10-11]. If this is true for a "financial informer" it is certainly true for a murderer. And, "If a person kills people without clear visual evidence... the King is allowed to kill him in order to improve the state of the world – whatever is needed for the existing conditions... in order to increase the fear in the world and to smash the hands of the other evil people." [Hilchot Melachim 3:10]. Finally, "With respect to all the murderers who cannot be punished directly by the courts: If a Jewish king wants to execute them based on the laws of the kingdom and to improve the state of the world, he is allowed to do so... in order to frighten and to threaten other evil people." [Hilchot Rotzeyach 2:4]. What all these quotes have in common is the element of deterrence before the evil act takes place – "to smash the hands of the other evil people," but not to impose a punishment after the deed has taken place.

Fifth, and most important, is a factor similar to what I wrote in the third paragraph above. This matter is not to be handed over to fanatics who are out of control or to random hotheads, or to trigger-happy citizens. It must be done through the "laws of the king." Applying this in practice in our "legalistic" era, this means to me to depend on those of our security forces who carry weapons, who should be given explicit permission to carry out such a task (and I am still waiting to hear such a declaration). But I have one warning: Do not take any pictures!

Sixth, and last, everything written above is clearly marked with a red warning flag: Only "bedi'eved," after the fact! Not all of life is to be led at a level of "lechatchila," as being a priori legitimate in all cases. And that is why "frightened Avraham" was in need of G-d's encouragement, to be told, "Do not be afraid," as quoted in the beginning of this article. So he was told, The people you killed were thorns which were already mowed down."

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