'If the State doesn't defend me, I must defend myself'

Dr. Jodi Broder of the Ono Academic Institute relates to the ethics of self-defense in the wake of the Beit Elazri shooting incident.

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Shimon Cohen,

Let us defend ourselves. Illustration.
Let us defend ourselves. Illustration.
Photo: Tamar Nauberg/Flash 90

Dr. Jodi Broder, Head of the Clinical Social Law program at the Academic Institute of Ono in Kiryat Ono, addressed the question looming recently of the ethics of putting a farmer on trial for shooting a burglar, in the wake of an incident at the farming settlement of Beit Elazri, where a Jewish farmer killed one of three Arabs trying to steal his car after they had threatened him with a metal bar.

Dr. Broder explained why, in his view, proactive self-defense is justified: "We, as citizens, gave the State all the rights over our defense and our property, under the assumption that it would uphold those values, but what happens when the State doesn't defend its citizens?" he asked. In such a reality, he asserts, the right of a citizen to defend himself and his property returns to him.

Broder qualifies this assertion, however, noting, "not under every circumstance, but within the parameters of self-defense. You are allowed to defend yourself when there is an immediate danger to your life or property. In such a reality, when nobody else is around to defend you and you react in a proportional manner, not in order to punish but only to defend; when the burglar is endangering me or another or our property, I am allowed to defend as long as immediate action is required and the State is not present to supply this defense."

In response to the question of whether there is an ethical problem with the fact that the same State that does not supply defense for citizens also limits citizens' ability to defend themselves, Broder replied, "It is impossible to live in a situation in which there are no rules and each man is his own lawmaker. A burglar also has rights which we, as a state, choose to uphold. You may defend, but not punish.

"One of the problems in the State is that the government does not supply adequate defense of property in certain communities, and people feel existential danger and danger to their property; we may see reactions that seem disproportionate at first glance, but when you consider that the Police are probably not coming, and there's nobody who's going to help, and it's my property and my life, the picture changes."

Dr. Broder explained that a change of understanding in such cases started after the implementation of the Dromi Law [which defines opposition to intruders on agricultural facilities as self-defense], "because here, the Knesset demanded that the situation in which a man finds himself needs to be seriously taken into account." Indeed, he said, although "self-defense was mandated even before the occurrence of [Shai] Dromi [a farmer who shot an intruder, spurring the passing of the law named after him], the case was a reminder of this mandate, an official nod to the importance of the right to self-defense."

Dr. Broder emphasized that he was talking on a matter of principle, without specific relation to the details of the incident in Beit Elazari, since that incident is still under investigation.