Ex-UK diplomat: Proportional warfare is ‘not Jewish’
Peter Jenkins says proportionality "seems to be a Christian notion and not a Jewish notion"; UK intellectuals slam comments.
Former British ambassador Peter Jenkins [file] Photo: Herwig Prammer / Reuters
LONDON – A former British diplomat has claimed that the idea of proportionality
in war is “not a Jewish notion” because Israel does not practice an eye for an
eye but “10 eyes for an eye.”
In a video released last week on a debate
about Iran’s nuclear program at Warwick University, Peter Jenkins – a former
ambassador to the International Atomic Agency and to the US – said he did not
rate the risk of Hezbollah attacking Israeli population centers.
implied that both Iran and Hezbollah would be deterred from attacking Israel as
they would fear the response.
“There is also of course the risk of
Hezbollah in Lebanon who are said to have 40,000 rockets attacking population
centers in Israel, but personally I don’t rate that very high because the
Iranians and Hezbollah know that these days, the Israelis don’t practice an eye
for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, they practice 10 eyes for an eye and 10
teeth for a tooth,” he said.
He added: “The idea that a just war requires
the use of force to be proportionate seems to be a Christian notion and not a
The Board of Deputies of British Jews called his comments
“offensive and palpable nonsense.”
“Mr. Jenkins’ comments rather give him
away. Apart from the view that Israel’s response to attacks on its citizens is
disproportionate, which shows a lack of understanding of the existential threat
facing Israelis, he clearly sees Jews as having different moral compass that is
irreconcilable with the Christian West. This is grossly offensive and palpable
nonsense,” said Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of
“I cannot understand how anyone with access to even the most
basic information – never mind a distinguished diplomat – would say the things
he says to exonerate Iran,” said Davis Lewin, political director of the
London-based think tank Henry Jackson Society, who was opposing the motion –
that a nuclear-armed Iran is preferable to war. “From the [British] prime
minister, the foreign secretary and the defense secretary down, our entire
formidable diplomatic apparatus is focused on preventing the calamitous
nightmare a nuclear Iran would pose.”
“It was deeply disturbing and I
hope the students saw him for what he was – deeply wrong and very unpleasant,”
The president of the Warwick Debating Society, Richard
Hopps, said the student society “neither endorses nor supports any position
taken by any of the speakers in our public debates.
“We would especially
not support remarks of an anti-Semitic or racist nature or remarks that could
be perceived as such,” he added.
Hopps said that he spoke to Jenkins who
assured him that his remarks were not intended to appear as anti-Semitic in any
Jenkins said his comments had been severely misinterpreted and that
he had no intention of offending anyone.