Rabbi Shlomo Brody, author of Ethics of our Fighters, a play on words of Ethics of our Fathers [Pirkei Avot], about the ethics of war, spoke to Arutz Sheva - Israel National News about the relevance to what's going on today, but first of all why he put together this important book.

“All sorts of questions and dilemmas come up in war and those of us living in Israel of course have had to grapple with this for many years. We see also that there's a lot of criticism of Israel, partly because of the way we fight and how we fight and when we fight, but also there's this feeling that our religion, our Judaism, somehow is making us fight in ways that are unethical. I wanted to try to show in the book that the way Israel is fighting has a lot of ethics behind it and that religion, the Torah, actually contributes a lot to this moral behavior,” says Rabbi Brody.

Rabbi Brody explains that many quote passages from the Torah, but confuse the intention of the verses, “we even saw this in the Hague, that they were quoting passages about Amalek and thinking Judaism is monolithic and only has one value. What I try to show in the book is that if you look carefully at the Torah, look in the Talmud and other sources throughout the generations, you see there are many values. Part of what I'm trying to show in the book is that Judaism encompasses many values, including believing in the importance of destroying evil, which of course is very important, but also recognizing that all humans were created in the image of God. We care about the deaths of all human creatures, and we certainly don't want unnecessary deaths. So part of the argument of the book is to say there's a balance of values that Judaism brings to this conversation. I think the IDF, in practice, also brings morals to the battlefield, and that can teach something to the world.”

On human rights NGOs and other critics of Israel, Rabbi Brody says that people criticize Israel and say “'What right do you have to do actions that will incidentally, as collateral damage, cause damage or kill non-combatants?' Part of what I try to argue in the book is that we've always understood in the Western World in general, but certainly in Judaism, that there are other values, including destroying evil, including self-defense, which also brought into the conversation. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the Western criticism of Israel is based on the fact that they're just thinking about issues of Human Rights and not thinking also about the need to destroy evil.”

Rabbi Brody feels that Israel is affected by issues of diplomacy and the optic effect, the CNN effect, “sometimes Israel is very careful and there is a reason behind it. There's a logic to that, but what we don't want to have is a situation where we're being so careful, that we overly endanger our soldiers. That was a critique that certainly came up in some of our battles in 2006, 2008, and 2014 and that was a concern. So far it seems to me in this current war that Israel is really trying to strike a balance, but when push comes to shove, airing on the side of protecting our soldiers. I think that's very important. There's no doubt that we don't want to have collateral damage. We don't want to kill random Gazans, who aren't threats to us, but at the same time we have to do everything to protect our soldiers.”

Rabbi Brody wrote his book before the current war and feels that “it's very chilling to see how relevant it is. It's surreal in a lot of ways. Here in Israel, we all have family members and friends and neighbors who are serving, and I think that we understand now is that we're going to be fighting for a while, not just in Gaza, but with Lebanon and Iran. We have a lot of challenges right now and we need to build up what I call ‘our moral fortitude,’ meaning besides our physical strength, we also need our moral fortitude, to understand why we're fighting and how we're fighting and in that respect It's my hope and prayer that the book will contribute to strengthening our resolve to do what it takes to win this war.”

One of the stories that Rabbi Brody brings in his book is about Rabbi Goren 1982, “in 1982 when Israel entered Lebanon, which was the beginning of what we now call the first Lebanon War, and they lay a siege around Beirut with the goal of trying to eradicate the PLO and Yasser Arafat. Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who was the chief Rabbi of Israel at the time, publicly declared that according to Jewish Law, we have to leave a fourth side of Beirut open, we have to create an evacuation corridor, because halacha mandates even when we're trying to destroy our enemy, we have to have some mercy and try to minimize the number of casualties. It creates real debate. Rabbi Shaul Israeli, another great Rabbi, opposed him on this issue, but the IDF actually did create two evacuation corridors and about 100,000 people fled Beirut. Because of that Rabbi Goren later on declared this a great Kiddush Hashem, that we balanced it. Also, the time, which I don't think we'd see today, but at the time even outside observers, military historians, and even a member of the International Red Cross said ‘If you look at what Israel did versus what other nations do,’ Israel was tremendously praiseworthy, for the way we behaved in that war and accomplished things”

Rabbi Brody feels that it’s frustrating that many around the world don’t believe Israel or say that our claims are nonsense, “but I do think we should still try to explain to ourselves and to the world what we're doing and why we're doing it. But at the end of the day, we have to understand that we need to do what's right. Part of that is to develop for ourselves at least our understanding of the moral imperatives here, both to win and destroy evil, but also to balance with other values and to stick by those values and believe in them for ourselves. The fact that we're not going to convince the antisemites of the world, or NGOs or many others, who are by default just against us, is very frustrating, but it shouldn't impact us. We need to do what's right and good. So if the world is screaming and saying ‘what you're doing is wrong, disproportionate,’ all sorts of lies they tell about Israel, we should judge ourselves by our own moral standards and be able to stay strong against that type of criticism.”

Rabbi Brody believes that the double standard of the United States and other countries against Israel “is horrific and very frustrating. It's one of the things that was even discussed already in the 20s and 30s when the idea of international law was emerging. There were rabbis and other thinkers who were saying this was all going to become politicized. This isn't the great system and that is really frustrating, but at the same time you know we should still believe in our morals and stick with that.”

Rabbi Brody credits “the IDF with being the most moral army in the world and sometimes when we're making decisions with these fighter pilots, where we're not hitting a legitimate military target, in order to minimize collateral damage and not to kill these children. I should add though that there are times when we have no choice, when it's too significant of a target or the target is too great of a threat, or there's a clear and present danger, where we need to destroy that target, unfortunately, some non-combatants will die as collateral damage, but we should also recognize that responsibility for those deaths lies with Hamas. When you use your own people as human shields and now they're doing something unprecedented – they’re fighting under their people in these tunnels, it’s really outrageous. It's a moral outrage and the fact that the world doesn't recognize that, should be irrelevant to us and we should understand that there are times when we have to shoot and kill their fighters and unfortunately other people will die along with that but responsibility there lies with Hamas.”