Judaism: Jewish Laws of War
Rabbi Eliezer MelamedThe writer is Head of Yeshivat Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish...
Prayer for Our Soldiers
We are all praying for the success of our soldiers who are fighting bravely for the defense "of our people and the cities of our God" (The Book of Maccabees) . The appropriate chapter of Tehillim (Psalms) to be recited for our situation would be Chapter 83, for it contains a prayer for victory and vengeance on the wicked enemies of God who have "raised their heads, are full of craftiness, and plot against Your people." They say, “And let us wipe out Israel as a nation—we will destroy the very memory of her existence.” They said, “Let us seize for our own use these pasture lands of God!”
And we pray: “O God, don’t sit idly by, silent and inactive when we pray. Do to them as once you did to Midian, or as you did to Sisera and Yavin at the river Kishon, and as you did to your enemies at Ein-dor, whose decaying corpses fertilized the soil. O my God, blow them away like dust; like chaff before the wind— as a forest fire that roars across a mountain. Chase them with your fiery storms, tempests, and tornados. Utterly disgrace them until they recognize your power and name, O Lord. Make them failures in everything they do; let them be ashamed and terrified until they learn that you alone, Hashem, are the God above all gods in supreme charge of all the earth.”
The Virtue of the Soldiers
The enormous virtue of the soldiers who sacrifice their lives for the sake of their nation and homeland is inconceivable. Going out to battle with self-sacrifice for the clal (the whole of Israel), they rise to the supreme level of the holiness of clal Yisrael. Now, they have to fix the mistakes of all the governments since Oslo.
We Told You So
- We said that as a result of the Oslo Accords missiles would be fired on us, and they mocked us, claiming we were terrifying the public.
- We warned that retreating from Gush Katif would strengthen our enemies, but government and defense officials responded arrogantly, saying that, on the contrary – withdrawal would increase security.
- We cautioned that without Israeli control over the Gaza Strip it would be stockpiled with weapons and missiles directed at us, and they said there were agreements with the Palestinians and Egyptians that only rifles for the purpose of policing would enter the Gaza Strip.
- We warned that withdrawal would weaken our right to the Land and the world’s claims against us would increase, and they, in their dreams, painted a rosy future according to which, after the recognition of the P.L.O. and the withdrawals, the entire world would recognize our right to exist in Israel. Currently, our international status is far worse – even the U.S. government makes demands on us that they never would have dreamed of in the past and incitement and anti-Semitism has grown immeasurably throughout the entire world, and also within the State of Israel (just listen to the Arab MK's).
- We said that withdrawing from Gaza would bring Hamas to power and that when we would have to fight them after the withdrawal, the war would be much more difficult. They claimed that, on the contrary, if after withdrawal the Arabs open fire on us, we will then be free to strike them relentlessly.
- We asked: “But they will shoot missiles from civilian homes?” Condescendingly, they snapped: “First of all, they don’t have missiles. Secondly, if they do fire a missile, we’ll destroy the houses from which they are fired, with all their inhabitants.”
And now they are shooting missiles, but we do not respond immediately by bombing them out of fear that maybe civilian inhabitants will be injured, and as a result, put our soldiers in danger of death.
All these misguided and misleading people – leaders, experts, and pundits – must now ask forgiveness from the Jewish nation, and leave the public scene for people more competent than themselves.
Hopes for Improving Leadership
In a gradual and exhaustive process, the supporters of Oslo and the Disengagement are finally leaving the stage. They aren’t apologizing, but at least, to our relief, they are vacating the arena. The Knesset Speaker and the incoming President are already people who opposed the Oslo Accords and the destruction of Gush Katif. The Minister of Defense objected to the destruction of Gush Katif. Many Likud and Yisrael Beyteinu ministers opposed the Oslo Accords and the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
On the other hand, the Prime Minister did indeed object to Oslo, and in the final stage he also opposed the destruction of Gush Katif, but in recent years, he announced his support for a softer version of a Palestinian state. In this manner he endangers the State of Israel, and hinders the potential of explaining our right to the Land of Israel.
Minister of Justice Livni proudly led the destruction of Gush Katif, and to this day, has not apologized and asked for forgiveness.
Most likely, these two individuals, Netanyahu and Livni, will also be leaving the scene in the coming years, but it is taking a long time. The ‘Yesh Atid’ Party, which has revealed itself to be much further left than it tried to present before the elections, will presumably also lose its popularity, but for now we are stuck with them.
Still, the question remains – who will replace them? Will their replacements repeat all the same mistakes? Or perhaps there’s still a chance the Prime Minister will repent, draw conclusions, and lead the people of Israel in the expansion of settlement throughout the entire country, in the deepening of Jewish identity, and by putting the Arab population in its place? Halevy (How I wish it were so!)!
Try to find, on Israel’s public radio station ‘Kol Yisrael’, an interviewer who asks Oslo supporters tough questions – or those who trust in the religion of peace, and the advocates of “two states for two peoples.” Try to hear them at least ask an innocent question – how did we get into this situation? How, within the span of twenty-five years, did we go from a situation where Jewish mothers, along with their children, could buy vegetables in the marketplaces of Gaza, Schem, and Qalqiliya, to having these areas turned into nests of murder, terror, and anti-Semitic propaganda, unparalleled since the Nazis?
You will not hear the interviewers at ‘Kol Yisrael’ ask questions to the point. All their chutzpa is directed towards people who believe in Greater Israel, rabbis, and those who support family values and the Shabbat; on the other hand, for the peace worshippers, who have entangled the State of Israel up to its neck, they have no questions.
‘Kol Yisrael’ should have been closed down a long time ago. Even when they talk about our righteous soldiers who fell in their battle for the defense of the people and the country, they are unable to hide their views.
The time has come to close Arutz 10 (Channel 10) as well. Their debts have been waived countless times. If they are obliged to express leftist positions – let them do it at their own expense. It’s time to close down ‘Galei Tzahal’ (Army radio) as well. Incidentally, without German financing, the ‘Haaretz’ newspaper would have been closed down long ago.
Criticism of those who endanger the lives of our soldiers
Unfortunately, in this war as well, we have heard leaders and commanders boasting that pilots and soldiers have refrained from attacking terrorists situated in the vicinity of civilians. True, we no longer hear a Machat (Brigade Commander) say publicly that he would prefer his soldiers got killed so as not to harm the women of the enemy, as was the case in Operation Defensive Shield in the Jenin refugee camp (where 13 of our fighters were killed, and the officer was not suspended).
Nevertheless, we are still far from acting appropriately from a Jewish, ethical standpoint, and as needed to achieve victory. Therefore, it is imperative to criticize those leaders and commanders who have mercy for the lives of our enemies’ civilians, and endanger the lives of our soldiers. Expressing this position is tantamount to pikuach nefesh, saving the lives of our soldiers.
The correct moral position is that in time of war, the enemy is hit together with the civilians beside him. War is not created by individuals. The ability to accumulate weapons, coordinate an army, and seize power requires broad public mobilization. Therefore, the public that brought Hamas to power with a huge majority bears full responsibility for its actions, and especially since they are so jubilant about every one of our soldiers who is killed or kidnapped.
This was also agreed upon by the U.N. in the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), namely, that when fighters are hiding among civilians, and there is no other option, it is permitted to hit them together with the civilians surrounding them.
How to Win the War
It’s difficult to beat Hamas. As long as they remain in power – they win, even if we kill thousands of combatants and destroy thousands of homes. The worse the situation is in Gaza, the more they gain. Arab and Western countries will provide financial assistance to rehabilitate the houses, of which a significant part will unquestionably go to additional ammunition, and another large part of the money will slip into the pockets of the leaders of the organization. So what’s wrong with hiding in the meantime, they must be saying? Every day that passes, the more they gain.
There is no doubt that in the Oslo Accords and withdrawal from Gaza we complicated our situation to a point where it is way above our heads – internationally, legally and politically. There is only one way out of this serious complication: the re-conquest of the entire Gaza, the imposition of full military rule, eliminating all the terrorists, and dismantling all terrorist organizations. In terms of the Egyptian position, this is the appropriate time.
In order for the solution to be complete, it will be necessary to return all the Jewish settlements to their original locations, and enlarge them several times over. At the same time, we should work vigorously to rehabilitate all the Jewish sites in Gaza, including the synagogue located in the center of Gaza City.
The Difficult Problem
The problem is that the current Israeli government is incapable of doing this. It is trapped in worldviews that don’t allow doing what is necessary. Only if Hamas continues to attack relentlessly, might the government be forced, for lack of any other option, to conquer the entire Gaza Strip. And even then, the government won’t know what to do next.
This is not only a problem of leadership. This is a much more difficult and deeper problem. It is a problem which lies in the ideological foundation of the Jewish society’s elite, in all its components. The State of Israel should be based on the vision of the Return to Zion, but the Jewish elite flees this grand vision.
At this point, a reader may ask: I’m just one, small person. What can I do?
First, one should be aware that alienation to the vision of the Return to Zion is the root of the problem. Or as the old saying goes: The question of a wise person is half the answer. Understanding the problem is the beginning of the solution. The clearer the Jewish vision becomes, so will the way of dealing with the problems become clearer, and fewer errors will be made. Ultimately, all the problems we are facing today were created by the mistakes of the Israeli leadership.
Secondly, whenever a person is given an opportunity to act and take a stand, he should do so. And even when the overall vision cannot be realized, one should always choose the position that further promotes the vision of the Return to Zion – whether it is in elections, or any public educational or informational activity.
Not to mention, of course, working as vigorously as possible to strengthen the settlements in Judea and Samaria, encouraging aliyah, having children, and giving them a genuine Jewish education.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.