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Israeli War Ethics and Two Recommended Articles

by Rabbi John Rosove

July 12, 2014 | 8:50 pm

No other army in the world takes as many precautions before striking a target as does the Israeli Defense Forces. The IDF telephones the target, drops leaflets in the immediate vicinity of the target, or drops a non-destructive charge on a targeted building sixty seconds before actually destroying it all in order to give the occupants time to escape.

A friend who was a former IDF commander said to me before Shabbat this week, “Who else tells the target before the fact that it will be a target for destruction?” He said this with pride, and I concur with the sentiment.

Of course, Israel gets little credit for this because innocent people in Gaza are indeed getting killed and injured, though at a far lower rate relative to the number of targeted Hamas strikes than one would expect, precisely because of the precautions.

Here is but one example of how IDF soldiers backed away from destroying a legitimate Hamas target when they determined that children were present – the video is from The Times of Israel - http://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-footage-reveals-efforts-to-spare-civilians-in-gaza/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=237a28bbfd-2014_07_12&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-237a28bbfd-54740573

However you spin it, war is hell. It needs to be repeated, nevertheless, that Israel and Hamas treat the killing of the other very differently. As revealed by the recording of the cell phone call made by one of the Israeli teens just before he was murdered several weeks ago after he whispered, “Chatfu oti - They kidnapped me”(per JJ Goldberg’s piece below), the Hamas killers celebrated with Arabic singing.

The late Yitzhak Rabin once said, “We do not celebrate the death of our enemies,” a sentiment reflected in the midrash in which God rebuked the angels who sang praises as the Egyptians were drowning, “You shall not celebrate while my creatures perish!”

Much is being written about this conflict between Israel and Hamas. However, I recommend two very different but important articles that appeared this week:

A Damaging Distance For Israelis and Palestinians, Separation Is Dehumanizing
By ETHAN BRONNER - JULY 11, 2014 – New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/sunday-review/for-israelis-and-palestinians-separation-is-dehumanizing.html?contentCollection=world&action=click&module=NextInCollection&region=Footer&pgtype=article

Ethan Bronner of the NY Times reflects on the increasing polarization between Israelis and Palestinians since the Oslo period. He says that the separation fence built by Israel as a successful security measure to prevent suicide bombers from coming into Israeli cities and murdering Israelis, has also effectively divorced the two peoples who no longer have any human points of contact and no basis on which to build empathic relationships with one another.

How Politics and Lies Triggered an Unintended War in Gaza – Kidnap, Crackdown, Mutual Missteps and a Hail of Rockets
By J.J. Goldberg – Jewish Daily Forward
Published July 10, 2014, issue of July 18, 2014.

http://forward.com/articles/201764/how-politics-and-lies-triggered-an-unintended-war/?p=all

J.J. Goldberg reveals that Israeli authorities knew almost immediately after the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens that they had been murdered, but chose to keep this revelation quiet in order to justify cleaning out Hamas cells in the West Bank. That military action, he says, provoked Hamas bombing and rocket fire from Gaza into Israel after a nearly 2-year effective cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Goldberg also states that the kidnap-murder of the three Israeli teens was not ordered by Hamas officials either in Lebanon or Gaza, and was carried out by a Hebron terrorist cell. The kidnap-murderers were recorded from one of the teen’s phone calls indicating “I’ve been kidnapped” immediately shooting the teens followed by singing in celebration. Neither Israel nor Hamas intended for the current war to result from either the kidnapping/murders or the Israeli sweep of Hamas throughout the West Bank. That being said, war always brings unintended consequences, and we are all witness to that now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Rabbi John L. Rosove assumed his duties as Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood in November 1988. A native of Los Angeles, he earned a BA in Art History from UC Berkeley...

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