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.

October 31, 2012 03:24
2 minute read.
Former British ambassador Peter Jenkins [file]

Former British ambassador Peter Jenkins 370 (R). (photo credit: Herwig Prammer / Reuters)


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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.

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He 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 Jewish notion.”

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 Deputies.

“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,” Lewin added.

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 way.

Jenkins said his comments had been severely misinterpreted and that he had no intention of offending anyone.

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