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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Just War Theory: Is it relevant to Israel?

DovBear quotes a long screedessay by Michael Walzer about Just War Theory and how Israel should abide by it.

This is absolutely wrong for 1 simple reason, Just War Theory contradicts the Torah's view of war.

Rabbi J. David Bleich writes (Contemporary Halakhic Problems, Volume 3, Preemptive War in Jewish Law, p. 277):

Not only does one search in vain for a ruling prohibiting military activity likely to result in the death of civilians, but, to this writer's knowledge, there exists no discussion in classical rabbinic sources that takes cognizance of the likelihood of causing civilian casualties in the course of hostilities legitimately undertaken as posing a halakhic or moral problem.

The Maharal in Vayishlach discussing the action of Shimon and Levi regarding Shechem writes:

It seems to me that there is really no question. [A conflict between individuals or groups is] not comparable to strife between two national groups, like the Israelites and the Canaanites. For this reason, it was permitted for Yaakov’s sons to wage war, comparable to that of any nation waging war on another. Although our Torah commands us (Deuteronomy 20:10) “When you approach a city to wage war against it, you shall call out to it for peace,” this [obligation to first sue for peace] does not apply if the enemy has already acted against us. Where they have acted against us in some manner – as in the incident at had where they opened a breach against them by their vile act – we are permitted to avenge ourselves [through war] against the entire nation even when only a single individual was guilty of the infraction, since that individual is a member of the national group.

We see 1 thing very clearly.

Causing civilian casualties in the course of hostilities legitimately undertaken does not pose a halakhic or moral problem. This is in direct contradiction to Just War Theory.

DovBear then came up with the following inane response:

I'm machmir on this I guess. The Hasidim are machmir on sitting in the sukka when it rain; the yeshivish people are machmir on eating the exact precise amount of marror, and I'm machmir on preserving innocent human life.

This answer simply does not hold water for a number of reasons:
1. This so called "chumra" directly impacts the lives of other people. Are you allowed to put other peoples lives in danger so that you can be machmir? By worrying about civilian casualties you are putting Jewish soldiers lives in danger. Who are you to decide that those civilians blood is redder then our soldiers! Last Wednesday we saw the tragic results of this.
2. A chumra is defined as a kiyum of some shita in halacha. The halacha is like A but since B disagrees we can be machmir to be choshesh for that shita. Just war theory has no basis in Torah and therefore cannot be considered a chumra. What kiyum in halacha is there?

Just War theory is another attempt to replace the ethics and morality of the Torah with the morality of modern Western society.

12 Comments:

At 10:07 PM, Blogger DovBear said...

DovBear has a long screed about Just War Theory and how Israel should abide by it.


It's not a screed, and it isn't mine. I posted a very cool-heaed and well argued essay by Michael Waltzer, one of our great public intellectuals. Not one word of it was my own.

Please change the first sentance of this post to reflect the truth.

 
At 10:09 PM, Blogger DovBear said...

Causing civilian casualties in the course of hostilities legitimately undertaken does not pose a halakhic or moral problem. This is in direct contradiction to Just War Theory.

This is NOT in ANY WAY a contradiction to Just War Theory, because JWT IN NO SHAPE OR FORM rules out killing civilians. It acknowledges that it is, at times, necessary and/or inevitable.

 
At 10:14 PM, Blogger DovBear said...

you to decide that those civilians blood is redder then our soldiers! Last Wednesday we saw the tragic results of this.

Completely false.

First, the ambush in Bint Jbail, was on Tuesday. Second, the 8 soldiers weren't killed because the IDF was too concerned about civilians- the town was abandoned!

Here's how the Times described it:

Bint Jbail, which means “daughter of the mountain” in Arabic, had already been softened up with artillery and two days of fighting by the Seventh Armored Brigade on Monday and Tuesday. An engineering brigade had cleared away bunkers and mines and other explosive devices, and a brigade of paratroopers had already killed many Hezbollah fighters in the town. The infantry was meant to secure the territory and expand the offensive, officers said.

“The Golani Brigade’s mission was to go in and hold those areas,” explained a major, who was not authorized to be quoted by name. He said the army expected it to take time because the planned mission involved a house-to-house hunt for Hezbollah fighters through the mostly deserted town, which normally holds a population of 20,000.

 
At 10:52 PM, Blogger bluke said...

And why bother with a house to house hunt when you could just eliminate them from the air? Because they were that their were still civilians there.

 
At 10:55 PM, Blogger bluke said...

Just War Theory states

There cannot be any direct attacks on civilian targets
...
Israeli soldiers are required to aim as precisely as they can at the militants, to take risks in order to do that, and to call off counterattacks that would kill large numbers of civilians. That last requirement means that, sometimes, the Palestinian use of civilian shields, though it is a cruel and immoral way of fighting, is also an effective way of fighting.


This means that according to Just War Theory killing civilains is a moral problem.

 
At 10:56 PM, Blogger bluke said...

You said so yourself in the comments to your blog that according Just War Theory killing civilians was a moral problem. That is why you said you were "machmir".

 
At 11:02 PM, Blogger bluke said...

Here is a quote from an army spokesman about why they went house to house and didn't just bomb from the air:

גורם צבאי הסביר כי לאור העובדה שבבינת ג'ביל נמצאים עדיין כמה מאות אזרחים לבנונים, לא ניתן לפגוע בכפר מהאוויר ולכן יש צורך בכניסת כוחות קרקעיי

An army spokesman stated that since in Bint J'bal there still several hundred Lebanese civilians it was not possible to bomb the town from the air. Therefore it was necessary to insert ground troops

 
At 11:27 PM, Blogger DovBear said...

They had been bombing the town for three days previous, so I am not sure I understand your quote? Why did they stop?

And, yes killing civilians is a moral problem, but that doesn't mean it is always and forever proscribed. Israel needs to aim precisly. Israel needs to call off counterattacks. Israel needs to continue being as meticulous as it appears they have been.

If Israel is truly being as careful as they say they are, they are fighting a "Just War" - though some civilians are dying.

 
At 2:53 AM, Anonymous sechel said...

Bluke:
What do you expect fom an unkosher animal.

 
At 6:28 AM, Blogger bluke said...

And, yes killing civilians is a moral problem

Here is where you are dead wrong, as R' Bleich wrote:

Causing civilian casualties in the course of hostilities legitimately undertaken does not pose a halakhic or moral problem.

I am still waiting for a Torah source.

so I am not sure I understand your quote? Why did they stop?

First, the bottom line is that the Army spokesman confirmed exactly what I said, and explicitly contradicted your thesis as he said they sent in ground troops because they were worried about civilian casualties.

I don't understand your question, they realized that they reached a point where the airstrikes that were needed would possibly endanger civilians.

 
At 7:51 PM, Anonymous aaron said...

This whole argument is besides the point. I reject the labeling that they are 'innocent civilians'. They are at best enablers, maybe you can call them accomplices. They have been willingly living and enabling Hezbollah all these years to build uo their strength.

 
At 7:52 PM, Anonymous aaron said...

should be 'willingly living with and enabling...'

 

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