Thursday, January 1, 2009

How do I explain the war in Gaza?

Question of the Week:

I am the only Jew in my office so I face a daily barrage of questions about Israel's actions in Gaza. I don't know who appointed me as Israel's spokesman and I am not armed with the answers. Can you help?


Answer:

At times like this, each one of us becomes an ambassador for Israel. Even if you don't agree with everything Israel does, any decent person must stand up for Israel's right to self-defense.

We can leave the military and political issues to the experts, but we should all be clear on the moral questions raised by this war. Let's look at a few of the most commonly asked questions.

Q: How can Israel justify killing civilians if their intent is to crush Hamas?

A: The death of innocents is a tragic inevitability of war. Our hearts go out to all those caught in the middle. The sad fact is that the Palestinian people are being held hostage by Hamas. Just as it is clear that Hamas is morally culpable for any harm done to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli hostage that they hold, so too are they culpable for the fate of Palestinian innocents amongst whom they hide. A civilian who is killed while being used by a terrorist as a human shield is a victim of the terrorist, not the Israeli army, who does not target innocent civilians.

Q: Isn't Israel's response a bit disproportionate?

A: If Israel were merely taking revenge, then it would need to be proportionate. But Israel is waging a defensive war. Since when is war proportionate? In war, you don't measure your response to the enemy by what they have done to you in the past, but rather by what needs to be done to stop them attacking in the future. Israel must destroy Hamas' capability to continue shooting rockets at Israeli cities. Israel's actions are proportionate to the present and future threat, not just the damage done in the past.

Q: Doesn't Israel understand that they are just creating more terrorists? The anger and fury at Israel as a result of bombing Gaza will only make more people want to join Hamas.

A: Feelings of frustration, anger, fear and rage do not make you into a terrorist. A culture of death and an education of hate does. Israel doesn't need to do anything to create terrorists - Islamic extremism does that - but Israel must act to destroy those who threaten its people.

Q: Hamas indeed has a militant wing, but it also does a lot of good. They are responsible for social programs, educational projects and humanitarian work in Gaza. By destroying Hamas, Israel also destroys all the good they do. Isn't that demonising a group that is not all bad?

A: If a serial killer also happens to volunteer for his local hospital, has donated money to an orphanage, and looks after his ailing grandmother, he is still a serial killer, and should be treated as such. The danger he poses far outweighs the concern for any good he may do.

Q: By using violence, how is Israel any better than its terrorist enemies?

A: That is as ridiculous as saying that a woman who fights off an attacker is no better than her attacker. Israel would not touch Hamas if Hamas would stop sending rockets and suicide bombers into Israel. Israel seeks to live in peace with its neighbours; Hamas and its allies seek to destroy Israel, no matter what Israel does.

For Hamas, war is holy. For Israel, war can never be holy. War may be necessary, like when your citizens are being attacked unprovoked; war may be moral, like when innocent lives are being threatened; but even then, war is never holy.

There is a world of difference between a moral war and a holy war. A moral soldier fights reluctantly, while holy warriors glory in the fight. A moral soldier is burdened by the obligation, while holy warriors delight in the pain inflicted on the enemy. A moral soldier fights when there is no other option; a holy warrior seeks violence as a way of life. A moral soldier takes measures to limit innocent casualties; a holy warrior seeks to maximise them.

A holy warrior fears times of peace, because then he has no purpose. A moral soldier dreams of a time when peace will reign. Then, the Israel Defense Force will be made joyously redundant, as "one nation will not lift a sword against another nation, and they will no longer learn to wage war".

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