In a Facebook musing, Israeli-British philosopher Samuel Lebens argues that the current war with Hamas is justified, but ponders how the State of Israel can walk the very fine line between a totally just war – that it must win decisively – and something ill-defined and ultimately unjust.
What I’m about to say might make me sound more Dovish than I am. So let me start with the Hawkish things I believe, before I say what’s on my mind.
We have come to a point of no return with the evil barbarians of Hamas. We must use the full force of the IDF to remove them from power entirely. I think this can only be done with a full ground invasion, and in fact, a re-occupation of Gaza. The people of Gaza have been living under the tyranny of Hamas for too long and the people of Israel cannot suffer the pain they have inflicted on our innocent civilians. This must be the end for Hamas.
This war is justified, and it shouldn’t be abandoned until we have installed some other sort of government in that territory. Such an offensive will be costly, and I can’t bear to think of my friends on the front, marching into the face of such mortal danger. I am awed by their courage and pray that God will bring them back home both safe and victorious. Our cause, after all, is just. And I’m in awe of the people of Israel and how they’ve responded, with unity and love, in a time of need and pain.
But here are the things that are worrying me. Maimonides rules that an army should never besiege an enemy without also providing some means for those under siege to escape (on his ruling this even applied to the seven ancient nations we were commanded to conquer in the land of Israel. It would certainly apply now). But any innocent civilians in Gaza have no means of escape. We can’t tell them to go to Egypt if we know that the crossing is closed to them.
By cutting the water supply to Gaza we are engaging in collective punishment. I know that many Gazans support Hamas and celebrated their heinous crimes. But what about the opponents of Hamas who have been living in fear? Or the children?
I’ve heard people saying that Hamas had no compassion on non-combatants, so neither should we. But we are not Hamas. We are better than that. We must always continue to care about the innocent people caught up in a mess that was not of their choosing. We must be thinking about what we can do, within reason, to keep them safe and allow them to escape. That is one of the many crucial things that make us different to Hamas.
Our government talks about restoring deterrence. But we know that nothing deters Hamas. We must be stronger than that. We must be aiming to remove them all together. If this is just about deterrence, it isn’t worth the huge price in human life.
Our government also speaks about “retaliation.” Against whom? The leaders of Hamas living in exile with their billions of dollars?
Frankly, I don’t trust our government. They bear responsibility for the failures of security upon which Hamas seized. I don’t trust them to articulate clear and achievable war aims. And I don’t trust them to navigate the very fine line between a totally just war, that we must win decisively, and something ill-defined and ultimately unjust.
May the strength of our resolve and our moral fibre lead us to a just and total victory over the forces of evil.