A Just War

A war that could have been fought differently.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch

Judaism Aryeh Hirsch
Aryeh Hirsch

“The only excuse for going to war is that we may live in peace unharmed ” (Cicero).

Operation Protective Edge has just finished, and already the debate is on whether Israel fought a just and moral war. Our government is in a fight with the UN and the nations of the world, as the Prime Minister and others fear that the Arabs will drag him and other Israelis to the World Court, and lynch them as was done to Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic.

That is why I believe that the time has arrived to come clean and admit the truth: the IDF should never have fought this last war, never should have raised a finger against Hamas in Gaza.

In explanation, I would like to cite Rav Kook:” This prophecy of the future blotting out of the memory of the Nation of Amalek is man’s looking forward to his progress toward the bliss of Peace (Shalom) and the Eden of Love”. Rav Tzvi Tau explains: “ This not only does not contradict our wars, but this is the noble purpose that stands at the base of those wars, with all the brutality and cruelty with which war must be conducted….which is to remove via war all that blocks the appearance of the Light of G-d (Or Hashem) in this world, thereby removing from Creation the lowly,  base necessity for the existence of war, eliminating evil and cruelty from the heart of humanity” (Emunat Iteinu, volume 4, pages 17-18).

The fly in the ointment is civilian casualties, the collateral damage of trying to eliminate Hamas terrorists who cynically hide behind “innocent” civilians. The hooker in the argument is that from Deir Yassin in 1948 to Jenin 2002, and including recent Gaza wars, the Arabs falsely portray their every defeat as a “massacre” and war crime. Moreover, the definition of “innocent” in this case is in dispute; a recent poll showed that 90% of Gazans feel it’s legitimate to kill Israeli civilians with Hamas rockets. Also, Gaza’s Arabs did vote Hamas into power. Thus it’s a stretch to label these Gazans “innocents”.

On this subject, Rav Tau (ibid, page 16) cites the case of Abraham after his war against the four kings of Canaan (Genesis,chapter 14). Avraham Avinu feared that perhaps he had killed one righteous man in that first world war. G-d answered him: “Do not fear” (Gen. 15; 1).Our Rabbis explained (Midrash Rabbah, 44; 4) that this is likened to a citizen who came upon the king’s vineyard, and found it overridden with thorns. As he was spending days cleaning out the vineyard, the king happened by, and the citizen fled in fear of his life for his trespass. The king calmed the man: ‘How many men would I have had to hire to do the work that you did! Now come, and receive your reward’. Thus Hashem comforted Avraham, telling him that the men he killed were thorns in G-d’s vineyard”, men who G-d put there because they were or would be a danger to the Nation of Abraham, and to the appearance of KiddushV’Or  Hashem( the holiness and light of the Lord) in Creation.

Interestingly enough, there are those who say that Protective Edge was merely a warmup for future events, and that we will have to do this “cleanup” every 2-3 years, not uprooting the thorns but “mowing the grass”(leaving Hamas’ roots). Of course, this involves taking Israeli soldier casualties in the process, again and again. More on this later.

Rav Tau also cites the Maharal ( Gur Aryeh, Genesis 34, d’h Hakatuv omer)on how the sons of Jacob were allowed to make war on an entire city, when only one of its citizens, Shechem, had wronged them by kidnapping( and raping) their sister Dinah: “ The Torah allows justified war between nations…and although it was Shechem alone who had made the crime, since he is one of the Klal ha’am(the general public), and he had started the process with the affront, it was allowed to take vengeance from them all. For even though many in the city were not involved in Prince Shechem’s crime, and in the plan to subvert the Jewish nation(Gen. 34; 20-23), it makes no difference. For as members of the nation that had done them wrong, it was allowed (mutar) to make war on them all. That is the nature of war”.

It is notable that on that episode, the Or HaChayim quotes Chazal that all the inhabitants of Shechem had gathered round to protect their king and his son Shechem (d’h kol zachar v’et Shechem). Thus, they all deserved to die. In our war today ,it is, of course, impossible to say how many of these Gazans are willingly huddling around terrorists to protect them, but it is known that when warned of an impending hit on a terrorist, Arabs do come running to protect the intended victim as “innocent” shields.

So with all this evidence saying that making war on Gaza in order to eliminate Hamas is just, why do I insist that the IDF never should have done so? The answer is from last week’s Parsha, Shoftim, 20; 10-13):

“When you come to make war against a city, you must (first) call upon it to make peace. And if its answer is for peace, and it opens its doors to you, then all the inhabitants shall be yours for tax and service. But if the city refuses your offer of peace, and goes to war against you, then (your first step; Torah Temimah, note 46 in explanation of the Sifri) shall be to besiege the city”. The Sifri explains that the siege includes cutting off food , water and medical supplies and aide.

This is why the IDF never should have fought:  for Israel controls Gaza’s water and electricity (as well as food and medical supplies to a large extent). For the last 21 years, since Israel signed the foolish and deadly Oslo Accords with the PLO, Israel has supplied all of Gazas’ water, and nearly all its electricity. Worse, these deadly parasitic thorns have not paid ONE CENT for all this: they refuse to pay the water and electricity bills owed to the Israel Electric Company and to Mekorot, our water company. The debt is in the billions, after 21 years. Israel, even beyond the rules of just war, is perfectly justified to simply pull the plug and turn off the flow.

That our government did not do this is a crime against the Israel populace. Why did the IDF enter Gaza and suffer even one casualty, when all we had to do was stop Gaza’s water and electricity? Note, I am note advocating shooting all Gazans. Even that has precedent, by the way: where was “proportionality”, a nonsense policy, when President Truman decided not to take any casualties, when weighing a predicted million US casualties vs. killing 100,000 Japanese with two atomic bombs? Truman thereby sufferred  ZERO American casualties.

Perhaps our prime minister, other politicians, and general staff ought to attend a lecture by Professor Michael Walzer, professor at Princeton University’s Institute  for Advanced Study(no less than Albert Einstein has been professor there) and author of Just and Unjust War(1977). To sum up his philosophy, I quote from the book Politics, put out by a team from the London School of Economics (p. 324-5):” The ethics of warfare have come under pressure due to the changing nature of conflict, such as guerilla warfare and especially nuclear weapons. To cope with these changes, the concept of a just war must be reappraised. Such reappraisal shows that war remains necessary in certain circumstances, but subject to restraints. However, those restraints cannot be absolute. War is so hellish by its nature that ANY RESTRAINT MAY BE BROKEN if it hastens the end of the war...if the killing of civilians is judged likely to hasten the end of the war, it might be justified”.

I therefore would propose the following:

1) pressure on the government, in the form of, but not limited to, protests, to demand the turning off of Gaza’s water and electricity the moment the next rocket is fired, which it will be;

2) pressure on our Rabbis . Twenty years ago, with Peres and Company in full Oslo swing, Chief Rabbi Shapiro frequently gathered a forum of Rabbis, issuing edicts that attacked the fatal foolishness of the accords with terrorists. We need such a forum, probably headed by Rav Chaim Drukman and others, to declare the legitimacy of such a policy of siege against terrorist Gaza;

3) pressure on the media, with its far Left bent. This should include, among other measures, demanding that the government immediately rescind all bans on free speech, which included the criminal closure of Arutz 7 in 2004. The politicians know how to undo the legal trickery which shut up the mouth of the Right.

If anyone thinks that turning off the taps in Gaza is wrong, or is afraid it will be condemned, he should know that the world thinks that we do it already, and condemn us for it. The London Underground is not the Jerusalem Light Rail, with its one little line. The Underground crisscrosses huge London with some twenty lines, running both north and south, and east-west (and one line in a circle). Every station in the Tube has half a dozen signs to support Gaza; moreover, every car in every train has at least two, and sometimes four, such signs. Each sign has a picture of a crying four-year-old in front of a destroyed house.

And the text reads:
“Help little Ahmed in Gaza. He needs WATER, food, medical supplies, etc, etc. etc.”.

The world already says that we do it. It’s time we stopped talking about today’s, and the future’s, dead Israeli soldiers and civilians, and time to use wisdom and retake the initiative in the fight against barbarians.