Tragedy is no crime

Why is it so hard for some to comprehend the nature of the enemy we're facing in Gaza?

gaza civilians 88 (photo credit: )
gaza civilians 88
(photo credit: )
You are a freshman university student on the first day of a philosophy course. Your professor poses this ethical dilemma: A devoutly religious man is shooting at you with an AK-47. He is determined to kill you and your family. Is it moral to shoot back? Before you answer; consider that he is shielded by his pregnant wife and three young children. Ordinary Israelis know what any undergraduate not suffering from a death-wish intuitively appreciates - namely, that human beings should not intentionally injure other human beings but may sometimes need to resort to violence to keep themselves and others from harm. We are sensitive to the heartrending loss of innocent life in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Arab and foreign press reports claim upwards of 1,300 Palestinians killed, including 300 children and 100 women. It will take Israeli experts time to accurately determine how many of the dead were truly non-combatants. For now, there are huge discrepancies. Of the 900 enemy dead that Israeli intelligence had reportedly identified by last Thursday, about 250 were said to be non-combatants. The blame for their deaths rests solely with Hamas. Hamas provoked this war, and then fought it from behind Palestinian men, women and children. Still, for some knee-jerk enemies of Israel like the 78-year-old British MP Gerald Kaufman, even the killing of "militants" is inexcusable. He's implied that Israel's shooting of a Hamas gunman is akin to the Nazis' murder of his grandmother during the Holocaust. We can have no common language with someone whose moral compass is so warped. Kaufman, like the mullahs in Iran, has convinced himself that Israel is exploiting the "continuing guilt from Gentiles" over the Holocaust "as justification for their murder of Palestinians." That broken record won't play. Presumably, Kaufman means the "gentiles" who control the United Nations. But how sympathetic are they to Israel's right of self-defense? Or perhaps he means the "gentiles" in the international media? How convincing is it to suggest that they side with Israel in their Gaza coverage? Even Kaufman's notoriety as a "Jewish critic" of Israel has lost its cachet - such critics are hardly a rare species. And anyway, Kaufman has been siding with the Palestinians since 1988, when he endorsed the first intifada. The Kaufmans of the world apart, Israel can also do no right in the eyes of those critics who believe that our existence here is an "original sin"; that since there were 600,000 Jews here in 1948 and, arguably, twice that number of Arabs, any partition of Palestine was inherently "theft." We have no claims on the hearts of those who embrace the Arab narrative so utterly. BUT WE'VE also been let down by those who profess to believe that the Jewish people do have the right to a homeland. Why is it so hard for them to comprehend the nature of the enemy we're facing in Gaza? After all, the theology that motivates Hamas is analogous to the fanaticism that brought down the World Trade Center, exploded London's transport system, and continues to spill innocent blood from Bali to Mumbai. Israelis are told that no matter the provocation, we are "too quick" to resort to force. As if negotiations with Hamas were an option; as if eight years was too quick. And if we've acted so "disproportionately" in our brutal march to triumph, how come the enemy is still standing and declaring victory? To the morally obscene charge that we've committed "genocide" in Gaza - does anyone seriously doubt that were genocide our goal, heaven forbid, there would be 500,000 dead Palestinians, and not 1,000? What other army drops warning leaflets and makes automated warning calls prior to attacking? Why is it ethical for Hamas to fire from a mosque or over the walls of a UN facility, but unethical for our citizen-soldiers to save themselves by responding with heavy weapons? The truth is that no Western country faced with a similar set of circumstances - fighting an enemy that principally targets non-combatants while hiding behind its own civilians - would comport itself with higher moral standards than the IDF. Sophomoric ideals about wartime morality are barely tolerable in Philosophy 101. When mouthed by leaders and pundits who should know better, they reflect intellectual laziness and dishonesty.