Is Gaza a Just War?


Rabbi Jack Moline is the rabbi at Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, Virginia:

There is an old joke about a group of tourists taken prisoner by a guerilla group in a distant country. The leader of the gang tells them they will be executed one by one, but they will each be granted a last request. An Israeli member of the group volunteers to go first, and as his last request asks to be kicked in the rear end. The kidnappers are mystified, but after a little back and forth agree to the request and one of them plants a swift boot on the Israeli’s back side. At that point, the Israeli spins around and, with a combination of fists and guns, disables all the guerillas.

Qassam rocket destroys home of an elderly woman in Sderot. Courtesy of The Israel Project.

Stunned, the survivors turn to him and one of them asks, “Why did you ask for a kick in the rear before you did that?” The Israeli answered, “Because otherwise the headlines would read ‘Tourists Rescued After Unprovoked Israeli Attack.’”

War is very bad business. No one with an ounce of compassion wants to cause suffering to innocents, heartbreak to parents or terror to civilians. But when those without that ounce of compassion promote suffering, heartbreak or terror, then the only inappropriate response is no response at all.

“Just war” theory is a philosophical term, and I am not a philosopher. This war is a necessary war because all other efforts to end the rain of missiles on undisputed Israeli territory by Hamas operatives from Gaza have been unsuccessful. Those efforts have come from within and without Palestinian quarters, Arab society, the Muslim world and Israel itself. Arguments about proportionality, cycles of violence and broad concepts of justice overlook the unwillingness of Hamas to respond to any appeal or pressure to end the immediate cause of danger to civilians in Israel and in Gaza. Absent from all of the protests about Israeli military action is “proportionate” protest over the past years against the terrorizing of Israeli children and their parents by Hamas. The only reason Israeli civilian casualties are fewer is because Hamas is bad at aiming those missiles, not because they are more compassionate.

I am persuaded that Israel’s military is doing its utmost to minimize casualties among non-combatants. With cynicism and cruelty, Hamas has used human shields and compromised religious and humanitarian institutions to stage its own operations.  “Collateral damage” seems part of their plan. And when innocent life is lost, there is no rejoicing in the Israeli press, the Israeli streets or the Israeli military. Israel knows that there are two losses it cannot endure: the loss of this war and the loss of its humanity. The vigorous debates among Israelis and the long-time supporters of Israel about the conduct of this operation are an indication that both priorities are being pursued.

There are larger questions about justice in the region that are relevant to address when a dependable cease-fire takes place.  But at the moment, only willful ignorance of the circumstances that provoked Israel’s current operation would lead an individual to question this sovereign government’s responsibility to protect its citizens.

Israel has endured close to 7000 kicks in the back side. Somehow, for some folks, that wasn’t enough.

Kevin Carnahan is Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas:

Family members watch a loved one being taken to hospital after being wounded in the violence. Photo: Fady Adwan, Freelancer Gaza.

I was in Jerusalem when the current Israeli military action began. As usual, the region was divided not only by the lines of battle, but also by the stories people were telling about the ongoing violence. Even as Israeli public opinion swung in favor of the action to defend their fellow citizens against rockets fired by Palestinian militants, a friend from East Jerusalem challenged me to explain how it could be that Israel might escape international sanction for targeting noncombatants. There are no easy judgments in a time of war, and there is little common ground for moral dialogue in Israel/Palestine.

Still, the current conflict raises important just war questions. In terms of proximate cause, it is clear that Israel was justified in taking military action. There is no moral justification for shooting rockets at civilian centers in a neighboring territory. Doing so invites military response. But there are questions about moral responsibilities in the longer term relationship between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 allowed it to set aside its responsibilities as an occupying force while maintaining strict limits on Gaza’s borders, and thus its social and economic potential. The fact that the withdrawal was a unilateral action weakened the Fatah party in Gaza. Hamas could now claim that its aggression had succeeded where Fatah’s political efforts had failed. This set the stage for Hamas’s later electoral victory and its success in the ensuing civil-military conflict with Fatah in Gaza. Israel’s reaction to the political rise of Hamas (supported by many Western powers) was to clamp down all the more on the flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza. In the face of worsening humanitarian conditions and a politically hobbled Hamas regime, Israel has maintained that it bears no responsibility for any supposed injustices in the Gaza Strip.

None of this is to suggest that Israel is simply a malign protagonist in the story. Hamas has not withdrawn its constitutional aim of eliminating the state of Israel. Israel is right to attempt to maintain its own security in the face of a de facto authority that has declared itself in a state of war with Israel. Further, Hamas is either unable to prevent rocket fire into Israel, in which case the Gaza Strip is something like a failed state, or Hamas is actively allowing or supporting rocket attacks, in which case it is undertaking unjust forms of aggression. The point to take away is that something like “just cause” is usually more complex in the real world than the designation of a single act. In most cases, like this one, multiple actors share responsibility for the outbreak of a particular conflict.

More serious are concerns about the ends of the current conflict. As often happens in this ongoing small war, it is unclear what constitutes victory for either side, and it is unlikely that the aims of either side are realistically realizable. Given the political climate, is doubtful Hamas could bring the firing of rockets to a complete halt (even Israel was not able to stop rockets or prevent smuggling when it occupied the Gaza Strip prior to disengagement in 2005), and there is little political incentive for Hamas to participate in a sustained peace agreement so long as it is sidelined from real political power by Israeli and international pressure. It is doubtful Israel is willing to allow Hamas the place at the political table that would be necessary to see to what extent they could rein in other militant movements in the Gaza Strip. Another option for ending rocket fire would be a sustained reoccupation of Gaza by Israeli forces. This, however, is unlikely to be something for which either the Israeli or the Palestinian populace has a stomach.

So what is Israel’s end game? It is hard to know. Domestic and international political contingencies, however, may have played more of a role than the particular situation on the ground. In the light of an impending election, it seems likely that the need to appear tough on national security may have been a factor in the decision-making process for the incumbent coalition (which is likely soon to be out of power). There may also have been a wish to push for the conflict and resolution prior to the new American presidential administration, which is widely perceived as less friendly to Israel’s cause. Such concerns are hard to fit into the boxes of the just war criteria, but who can doubt that they play a significant role in the process of real-time statecraft?

My Arab friend in East Jerusalem raised the question of noncombatant immunity, which is a perennial concern of just war theorists with a deontological bent. Certainly, Israel’s attempts to provide telephone calls alerting the residents of buildings suspected of housing weapons caches of impending strikes is a positive sign of its will to avoid noncombatants. But Israeli actions have not been unquestionably just in this regard. One of Israel’s first targets in the conflict was a police graduation in Gaza. Not only does this target raise questions about the appropriate effort to avoid collateral damage, it also raises questions about the very definition of combat in an irregular situation like the Gaza Strip. Is the police force of Gaza a proper military target? Doubtless many police members saw themselves not as functionaries of Hamas but as common civil servants attempting to maintain a relatively orderly society in unfortunate circumstances. Does reticence in preventing militant groups from firing rockets into Israel render the entire police force of Gaza a viable military target? If the police force is not a viable target, what does constitute a viable military target? Situations like Gaza remind us that even the most ethical of criteria depend on prudence in application and are thus imperfect at best.

More questions should be asked about the proportionality of Israel’s current military actions. In a simple tally of lives, there is no proportionality to be found here. Rockets from the Gaza Strip, though backed with lethal intent, are vaguely aimed and rarely bring about casualties. Israel’s military force is unparalleled in the region and has brought about more destruction in a number of days than rockets fired at the rates prior to the incursion would in years. As such, one should wonder if a set of targeted reprisals would have been more suitable to the task at hand. Still, proportionality is measured not only retrospectively but also in terms of future possibilities. Here again there is the problem of determining what the end game might look like for Israel. No matter what it might be, I have problems justifying the destruction thus far.

In this conflict, absolute statements are rarely of much use for purposes other than inflaming further conflict and obscuring muddy realities on the ground. There is all too much blame to go around and all too little realism about one’s own relative injustices and the relative justice of the opponent. In the midst of this, one thing is clear. It is time for the United States again to take an active interest in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and to attempt to overcome the oversimplifications that have reigned in its absence. In the meantime, I will pray for my friends in Jerusalem.

Paula Cooey is the Margaret W. Harmon Professor of Christian Theology and Culture at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota:

Grad Missile Attack on Ashkelon in the South of Israel. Edi Israel photography.

One of the difficulties with just war theory is that the criteria are subject to interpretation and vary depending on circumstances. So, for example, some ethicists recently argued that the doctrine of preemptive strike fell within the criteria governing just war; likewise the definition of “terrorism.”

Ethicists have also argued that intentions distinguish the violence done to civilian life such that collateral damage, while inevitable and regrettable, does not fall under the category of terrorism, unlike killing civilians with bombs strapped to their bodies. Taken together and coupled with the argument of self-defense, the criterion of preemptive strike and the definition of terrorism justify Israel’s response to Hamas in Gaza. By contrast, those ethicists of the 1970s and 1980s who theorized “just revolution” in South and Central America based on just war theory would arguably defend the actions of Hamas.

Either way, civilians suffer the primary burden of death and wounding, not to mention displacement, terrifying fear, and all the other exigencies of destabilization wrought by the continued violence. Why are we not theorizing an ethical advocacy for civilians? What has happened to the criteria of minimizing civilian contact, proportionality, and the rejection of total annihilation of material resources, central to just war theory (some of which trace their origins to Torah and to the rules governing jihad developed by medieval Muslim jurists)? What has happened to the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Accords?

Instead of trying to figure out whether Gaza is just, we need to put more effort into stopping the violence in a lasting fashion.

Anthony F. Lang Jr. is Senior Lecturer at the School of International Relations, University of St Andrews:

Photo: Palestinian Red Crescent Society

The just war tradition is not a checklist that can give policy makers a “justification” for what they can and cannot do in certain situations. Rather, it is a set of categories that can provide a framework for public debate on the use of military force. The three key elements of the tradition as they relate to Gaza are just cause, authority, and proportionality. Others may be relevant for some, but these strike me as key.

Authority: The authority of both Israel and Hamas deserves critical scrutiny in this conflict. Importantly, authority can be understood in different ways, both internally and externally.    Israel’s actions suggest its leaders understand their authority in two ways: First, they are being attacked and have an authority in relation to the citizens of Israel. Second, and not stated but implied by their actions, they are acting as the authority within the Gaza Strip by seeking to coerce the population as a whole. In terms of the latter form of authority, Israel is not justified to act in the way they have. It is a sovereign state, which would seem to give it an obvious authority. But the people of Gaza contest their sovereignty, and Israel officially renounced its claims on Gaza some time back. Moreover, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website states clearly that the Israelis do not want to govern Palestinians.

The just war tradition, however, does give a community the responsibility to protect its own citizens from attack. This authority Israel clearly does have, for they have been subject to rocket attacks by Hamas. Such authority would justify a response that takes out the rocket sites and those manning them, but not a full-scale response designed to destroy the economy and polity. This means the use of “coercive diplomacy” to force the larger Palestinian population in the territory to turn on Hamas is unjust as a tactic. In other words, the Israeli authority to respond with military force to Hamas does exist, but the Israelis overextended it by effectively coercing a whole population.

The authority of Hamas must also be subject to criticism. While they may have been elected, their behavior does not correspond to a just authority, either in the way they treat their own population (using them as shields, hiding from Israeli power in Damascus) or in their failure to act as a responsible member of the international community. This undermines their claims to govern the Palestinians. As I note below, if the authority of Hamas is not just, then their claim to be representing the just cause of the Palestinian people as a whole should be called into question.

Both Israel and Hamas have abused their authority. Any outcome of this conflict must address the underlying status of the Palestinian territories and the Israeli settlements on those territories. This problem cannot be resolved with just a ceasefire. It needs a final decision about who has the proper authority in what areas. In fact, it needs to be resolved on two levels—the internal Palestinian situation and the relationship between Palestine and Israel as two sovereign communities.

Just Cause: In the long term, this situation results from Israel’s unjust treatment of the Palestinians. Since the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, the predominant view among Israeli public and political opinion (with limited, albeit vigorous examples of dissent among Israelis) has been that the Palestinians do not “deserve” the land as much as the Israelis do. This is manifestly unjust. No matter what the religious claims of the Israelis are to the land, they do not justify their treatment of a population that had been resident there. The West Bank and Gaza Strip should be considered “occupied territories,” illegally occupied in my view. The overall cause of resisting Israeli oppression seems to rest with the Palestinian people.

Yet the Palestinian people are not represented by Hamas, and the short-term responsibility of this particular outbreak falls squarely on them. In other words, Hamas does not have a just cause (although the Palestinian people may). Their refusal to deal with the Israelis honestly and openly, their anti-Semitic rhetoric, and their use of short-range missiles to terrorize Israeli citizens demanded a military response. This may appear to contradict the first just cause point, but I don’t think it does. There may be a justified Palestinian anger at the Israelis, but the Palestinians have been dealing with the Israelis for the last 20 years, so for one group—Hamas—to disrupt those relations has caused a huge problem for both sides.

This point reinforces the overall thrust of the just war tradition—that just cause cannot be understood outside of just authority. There may be a just cause, but if an unjust authority takes it up, this vitiates the justice of the action. The Palestinians may have a just cause in resisting Israeli occupation, but the fact that Hamas took up this issue undercuts its justice. The larger just cause may rest with the Palestinians, but the immediate just cause my rest with the Israelis.

Proportionality: The Israeli economic and military response has been profoundly disproportionate on three levels. Their initial economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, which is run by Hamas, has created huge economic hardships. Economic sanctions, as we saw in Iraq, punish entire communities. Perhaps in some cases entire communities deserve punishment, but this seems rare, and I cannot imagine one, so this first step was disproportionate.

Second, the air campaign, by the very nature of such campaigns, has been indiscriminate. While modern air forces claim they have become capable of increasing precision in targeting, and while the Israeli Air Force has been impressive in some cases, strikes from the air will remain indiscriminate when targeting heavily populated areas.

Third, the ground campaign had the potential to be more discriminating than the air campaign. This is because when soldiers confront actual people they can sometimes make judgments based on morality and law. Unfortunately, perhaps as a result of Israeli public discourse about Hamas and the Palestinians, some of that moral sensibility has been undermined. As a result, the Israeli ground campaign has been less discriminate than it could be, but more discriminate than the air campaign.

A further point to keep in mind is that both sides are defining the category of “civilian” differently. For Israelis, any young man who wears the green of Hamas is a “terrorist” and thus a legitimate target. For the Palestinians, most of those young men are just young men. It is difficult to judge this, however, because the definition of civilians who are resisting an occupation is complicated, both in morality and law. Overall, I would say the Israelis are abusing the term “terrorist,” while the Palestinians are abusing the term “civilian.”

Proportionality is not simply an added point that rests under the authority and cause issues. While Israel may have had a short-term just cause, their disproportionate response has undermined the justness of their response.

It is important to commend those trying to resolve the crisis, including the Egyptians, French, and UN officials. Of these, I find the response of the Egyptians to be the most impressive. Egypt is the only Arab government that has any real respect in Israel, and it borders Gaza. Its tradition of using diplomacy to resolve conflicts in the past 30 years has clearly been evident here. This is not to say Egypt is an ideal state, especially internally, and it may have ulterior motives, but that does not undermine its efforts, which the international community should applaud.

As far as short-term immediate responses, Israel needs to lift the entire blockade of Gaza, and Hamas needs to commit to ending its rocket attacks. These are the two primary issues. After this, Israel needs to remove all its settlements from both the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Next, Palestine needs to be declared an official state, by all parties, with a single government and with some contiguity between the territories. These points have already been largely agreed upon, so they are not really long-term impossibilities. Both sides need to stick to their agreements and stop violating the accords.

A long-term ideal solution would be twofold: Jerusalem needs to be no one’s capital but an international city. This condition is highly unlikely, but it is my firm view of what is best. Second, the only real solution would be a single state in which all religious and ethnic groups can live together under a democracy. This is highly unlikely, but it is what I would hope for.

What can the US do? First, it needs to stop supporting Israel so uncritically in the UN and other public forums. Second, while it has already cut back its funding to Israel, it needs to use the funds it does give to pressure Israel into adopting the tactics suggested above. Third, the US needs to pressure the two main Palestinian parties to agree on a single democratic regime, again using its power of the purse. I don’t think US military troops should be involved at all in the region, although perhaps as part of a UN ceasefire force they may be of some help.

  • samramada

    Let’s assume you live inside your own small house along with your own “family”, and you are the head of the household in your family (oh and by the way by their own choosing and free will); “I” first demand that your family kicks you out of the house so that “I” bring them another head of household who “I” know will submit to my will to take care of them with accordance to my own rules of continuous impoverishments and poor economic conditions so that in time “I” can kick them out and claim Gaza as “My” property.

    Now your “family” refuses to kick you out and you stand your ground as the Righteous Household Caregiver. So “I” get angry with you and it becomes “my” right to surround your house, cut-off your ability to get food, disallow you to get electricity or medical attention, or even go to work and earn an honest living, and “I” feel righteous to continue to do so until you decide to submit fully to my will against your free will.

    But no, “you” are too free-loving to submit and so in a desperate move “you” start throwing the dishes and the kitchen sink at “me”, and all that you have, at “me” in hopes that “I” stop this “Just” blockade of mine. Now “I” feel more justified and “I” start to bomb your house and kill your wife and children, again, oh by the way NOW “I” AM DEFENDING MYSELF… and “You” are to be considered unjust if “you” try to retaliate, just because now “I” began to kill your children and wife and hey “YOU” are responsible for that, you have become a Terrorist (the new word for Justified Resistance), not “I”. “I” warned you that you should just submit and leave your children and family for “me” to torture slowly, you should forget living honorably and free, but “you” and your family decided not too… it is your fault that your family died, did “you” not know that you should not have basic human rights!!! and only “I” on earth should be afforded those rights as all other subjects are just meant to be our servants and they do not have any rights.

    Now “YOU” are Hamas – the democratically voted Head of Household by and for the Palestinian people in Gaza – your “Family” is the Palestinian People, and “I” is short for Israel. Now tell me again that this is a JUST war for Israel?

    I ask readers who are angry with Israel to relief some of that anger on a site I recently stumbled upon

  • R

    The country of Israel has the absolute right to defend itself….it is only common sense…people are just making this more complicated than it is. America would do the same if Canada was shelling the US.

  • Brien Kinkel

    Rabbi Moline is persuaded that “Israel’s military is doing its utmost to minimize casualties among non-combatants.” While the distinction between combatants and noncombatants among stateless refugees can be blurred, the number of Palestinians killed in the recent conflict approaches 800, while the number of Israelis killed, 3 by friendly fire, remains in the teens. This disparity suggests a certain lack of forbearing on the part of the Israei military.

    Among those sharing my view are the editors of the Jesuit magazine America, who state [1/19/09] “A fresh beginning requires that Israel acknowledge that in any negotiation it holds most of the cards and therefore must make most of the concessions. Palestinian resistance continues because Israel has repeatedly refused to allow its whip-hand to go slack. In every cycle of peacemaking, it has retained control of commerce, of security, of tax receipts, of water. Resistance—and with it Hamas—will wither only when Israel is ready to make a peace that relinquishes the upper hand over Palestinian life.

  • Richard Thompson

    Thank you Rabbi Moline. A very thoughtful, cogent, and balanced piece.

  • H.J.Yost

    Just war? There isn’t any such thing! If you are attacked, you either fight back or surrender. It’s that simple.

  • george

    “Instead of trying to figure out whether Gaza is just, we need to put more effort into stopping the violence in a lasting fashion.”

    Very True Rabbi. How about starting by reminding the Jewish people that Moses told them God COMMANDS THOU SHALT NOT KILL and then insisting that they OBEY GOD and stop murdering the people of GAZA?

  • L Moskowitz

    Brien Kinkel wrote:

    > “While the distinction between combatants and noncombatants among stateless refugees can be blurred, the number of Palestinians killed in the recent conflict approaches 800, while the number of Israelis killed, 3 by friendly fire, remains in the teens. This disparity suggests a certain lack of forbearing on the part of the Israei military.”

    When Palestinian noncombatant deaths are due to Hamas’s tactical strategy of locating their bunkers and battle positions in civilian areas, no matter how large the number of noncombatant deaths, the responsibility for their deaths lies with Hamas. You can’t use civilians as shields and then blame the enemy for their deaths.

    Hamas’s primary headquarters in Gaza lies in a bunker under a hospital building. What does that tell you about their dedication to defending their citizenry?

  • ben

    Hey, if someone hit me, I would hit back. How long must Israel suffer before they hit back? And, isn’t against International Law to fire rockets from homes, hospitals or mosques?

  • Chad

    “…the responsibility for their deaths lies with Hamas.”

    No, not fully. Responsibility is not an either/or in this situation, but both/and. If one knowingly and willingly attacks a locale with civilians located there, that is a voluntary act done with full knowledge. For that, one is responsible.

  • hyderabadi

    at first israel denied the existence of Palestinian people. so they had to deal with PLO. then they tried to sabotage PLO by helping the creation of HAMAS. and no they are trying to destroy HAMAS, they will get Al Qaeda.

    they bluster about HAMAS rockets, but decieve people about the assassinations, confiscation of Palestinian land, the blockade of GAZA and expansion of the settlements. Nobody since Goebbels was this good at the Big Lie!

  • Jean

    How long must a group of people be suppressed
    before they fight back? Israel has suppressed and
    revoked Palastinian rights since its first settlements. The apartheid of South Africa was
    condemned by the world, similar actions by the
    Israli’s are overlooked and even praised by the world.

  • L Moskowitz

    Chad says:

    > “If one knowingly and willingly attacks a locale with civilians located there, that is a voluntary act done with full knowledge. For that, one is responsible.”

    The alternative is to allow your civilian population to die at the hands of terrorists who hide behind their civilians.

    In this case, the Gazans have elected a terrorist government that chooses, as a war tactic, to use them as shields. And they allow it. So the Gazans themselves are culpable for their own deaths and injuries.

    Jean says:

    > “Israel has suppressed and
    revoked Palastinian rights since its first settlements. The apartheid of South Africa was
    condemned by the world, similar actions by the
    Israli’s are overlooked and even praised by the world.”

    It’s amazing that a country the size of New Jersey having less than six million Jews can be seen as an suppressor, when Arab/Moslem countries have more than a hundred times the population and many hundreds of times the land area, and more wealth and resources than almost anyone.

    If anyone is suppressing the Gazans, it’s their own terrorist government and their fellow Arabs in other countries.

    In Israel, Arab Moslems sit in the Knesset (Parliament), and Israeli Arabs have the vote. In Israel, Moslem women have civil rights; there are no honor killings of women in Israel.

    Israel sends humanitarian aid to the Gazans. Could you imagine Hamas or Hizbullah sending aid to the parents of the Israeli children it wantonly kills?

    Could a Jew even live in Gaza or in any Arab Moslem country? How many Jews had to leave Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran? Dhimmis are not citizens with equal rights, and they never will be.

    Could you imagine Jews not helping other Jews to resettle when political realities resulted in intolerable conditions? Arab Moslem have refused to aid and resettle the Palestinians from the squalor of Gaza, to keep their flames of hatred and resentment alive. The Saudis, the Emirates, and the Iranians are filthy wealthy with oil money, while the Palestinians live in abject poverty. Why? Because it’s intolerable for the Moslem fundamentalists to allow Jews to reign in a tiny sliver of land that was once under Moslem control. And so they sacrifice their children.

    Dar el Kharb indeed.

  • Leadiya

    “In Israel, Arab Moslems sit in the Knesset (Parliament), and Israeli Arabs have the vote. In Israel, Moslem women have civil rights; there are no honor killings of women in Israel.

    Israel sends humanitarian aid to the Gazans. Could you imagine Hamas or Hizbullah sending aid to the parents of the Israeli children it wantonly kills?

    Could a Jew even live in Gaza or in any Arab Moslem country? How many Jews had to leave Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran? Dhimmis are not citizens with equal rights, and they never will be.”
    “How long must Israel suffer before they hit back? And, isn’t against International Law to fire rockets from homes, hospitals or mosques?” –

  • Gilmary Speirs IHM

    Was well-worth my time to skim this topic! Thank you for providing it.

  • george

    “…stopping the violence in a lasting fashion”

    “Thou shalt NOT kill” remember that Rabbi? When will the Rabbis teach that COMMANDMENT to their people?

  • A. Cisneros

    >”Jean Says:

    How long must a group of people be suppressed
    before they fight back? Israel has suppressed and
    revoked Palastinian rights since its first settlements. The apartheid of South Africa was
    condemned by the world, similar actions by the
    Israli’s are overlooked and even praised by the world.”

    Jean if I came to your home every morning and hurled large rocks at your children as they left for school hoping to kill or severly harm them you would be well within your rights to defend them…as well you should. If you choose not to you defend them, you would be an unfit parent – unworthy of the children you have now or in the children you would have future.

    Israel – A SOVREIGN NATION – has EVERY RIGHT to defend it’s citizens when it is attacked by ANY NATION.

    Why is it that when Israel is being attacked no one cares but when Israel chooses to defend itself against unprovocated attacks by an extremist nation everyone cries out to Heaven.

    Jean that song is getting old. WAKE UP!!!

  • george

    This will be the last time I bother trying promise. I’m just curious Rabbi is it wrong in Judaism to massacre children and unarmed people?

  • Todd

    “Just War” philosophy was a creation of the early Catholic Church to rationalize Roman violence. It has no place in any truly ethical philosophy. If one does support the premise, however, Israel’s attack on Gaza probably does meet the tenets of “jus ad bellum” (the right to go to war). It certainly fails in “jus in bello” (conduct in war, including principles of proportionality). But the real question now is that of “jus post bellum” – justice after the war. What does Israel intend to do to establish lasting justice – which never existed before the war – in Gaza?

  • Arthur G Broadhurst

    The writer says: “I am persuaded that Israel’s military is doing its utmost to minimize casualties among non-combatants. With cynicism and cruelty, Hamas has used human shields and compromised religious and humanitarian institutions to stage its own operations.” But that is precisely the point at issue. This is not a defense of Hamas. I agree that Israel has the right to defend itself. But this particular intrusion went way beyond legitimate self-defense to the utter destruction of the innocent. IDF can say all they want about not targeting innocent civilians, but the evidence is pretty clear. They were in a very compact and dense civilian population. Witnesses say they shot at civilians and children–the proof is in the morgues. They bombed and destroyed UN shelters with women and children seeking refuge–and admitted they did so. They destroyed the stocks of food and medical supplies. They prevented ambulances from reaching the injured. They shot knowing there were citizens in the line of fire. They shot up a UN relief column during the cease fire. Basically they took the position by thir actions that an Israeli life was worth more than a Palestinian life. They deliberately did this savage attack in the hope of creating fear and terror among the civilian population to discourage them from supporting Hamas. They have blocked funds for food, supplies, rebuilding. They blocked fuel for electricity. They have become like the enemy they fight. Israel acted irresponsibly. I am not anti-Israel, but when our country does wrong it needs to be called to account, and when Israel acts wrongly, it too needs to be held to account. I am tired of US policy supporting Israel regardless of their behavior in provoking conflict, and yes they are provoking conflict rather than avoiding it–that is the effect of building settlements in territory they occupy wrongfully. Yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization. Israel is better than that–or at least it used to be.

  • L. Moskowitz

    George says:

    > ““Thou shalt NOT kill” remember that Rabbi? When will the Rabbis teach that COMMANDMENT to their people?”

    You’ve mistranslated the commandment. It properly translates as “don’t murder”.

    Israel is defending itself against an enemy that attacks its civilians. That’s clearly not murder.

  • Grant Bakewell

    Why is it “terrorism” when Hamas fires rockets into Israel out of a mistaken (and unjust) attempt to violently resist the continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and blockade of Gaza, but it is “Israel’s inherent right to self defense” to repeatedly bomb hospitals, mosques, UN compounds, and other innocent civilians? Why do we in the US continue to support such aggression, and unjust Israeli occupation, with military and foreign aid, yet insist that Hamas must “give up all violence” in order for any US support for peace to continue? If violence and terror, as well as continued occupation of another people’s land, are ALL unjust–as measured by International Law and virtually ANY religious faith, why then doesn’t President Obama call upon the UN to ban and boycott ALL military aid to ANY party in this conflict, at least until a just peace is achieved? It seems if we as Americans are truly interested in peace, the least we could do is stop fueling the constant, virtually demonic cycles of unjust occupation, violence, and retaliation which so tragically continue to grip the Israeli and Palestinian people. Once we all agree to stop sending or selling arms to any party in the conflict, then we might more clearly, and in good conscience, begin to facilitate a just and lasting peace.

  • Fadi

    First and foremost is to know that the root of the problem is Occupation. As for the war Israel violated the 6 months cease fire 190 times and did not end the blockade of Gaza according to agreement, they could have renew the cease fire but they refused too. The palestainians fullfilled thier part by not launching rockets during he cease fire.

  • aj

    Does Dr. Carnahan ever overtly take a side on an issue? Or does simply prefer to act as a mediator to mask his real convictions?

  • George Kurian

    I am Christian from India.I have four or five jewish friends simply because I live here and these are the only Jews that I have met.However whenever I state my opinion on Israel in the course of discussions on the net, I am called “anti semetic”. Unlike the ordinary Westerner I do not carry any guilt for having forebears who tortured and stigmatised Jews and so these magic words are ineffective in stopping me from telling my accusers on the net the bare truth.
    I am clear from my vantage point of not being one of the peoples involved in this conflict that the State of Israel was imposed illegitimately on the people of Palestine by Western powers. Some say that it was to ensure a safe base for themselves in a oil rich area. The others suggest that a guilt ridden and manipulative West did this to get the Jews out of their own backyards. I think that there is probably an element of both of these.There was a genuine reqest for a homeland but Zionists could have been given a homeland in Texas or in Germany. Nevertheless, the Palestinians were not asked their opinion. It was initially stated that the Jews lived where there were no Palestinians before which is a lie. Palestinians were forced from their homes and driven out.
    The Palestinians are reacting to this occupation. Israel survives because of support from the West.This attack on Gaza has not stopped the rockets and they never will till Israel stops its policies of Apartheid. Even Martin Buber:(from Wikipedia) A cultural Zionist, Buber was active in the Jewish and educational communities of Germany and Israel. He was also a staunch supporter of a binational solution in Palestine, instead of a two-state solution, and after the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, of a regional federation of Israel and Arab states.
    I am amazed that the Rabbi – a man of God – still believes that grabbing land from other people and later killing them when they protest is quite in keeping with the ways of God.

  • T. Esa

    To sum it up: Israel is a Jewish colony established and founded on Palestenian land with Jewish settlersfrom around the world flocking to the Muslim Middle East.
    Thank You,
    this is the Truth of the matter as clear as can be anyone contest this assertion (Israeli Supporters) is lying to themselves, there is no other way around this.

  • Len M.

    There never was a country called “Palestine”. It was a territory administered by the British, and before that, the Ottoman Empire.

    Before 1948, the Jews who lived there were called “Palestinians”. Who owned the land? Whoever bought it and lived there, for there was no country called Palestine with its own government.

    Check the population statistics for Jerusalem. You’ll see that Jews have been the majority there for as far back as there are reliable records.

    What happened to the Jewish Palestinians? Ask the Jewish Palestinians who were massacred in Hebron and in Gush Etzion.

    How did Jordan, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and many other countries come into being? Have they existed for hundreds of years? Check your history and you’ll see that all of them are recent products of Western political action.

    If you don’t like how Israel was created, you might as well not like how the rest of them were created too. I don’t hear you complaining about Jordan — why is that?

    How many Jews live in Jordon today? Why is that? Shouldn’t Jews be able to be equal citizens in Arab countries? Shouldn’t Judaism be equal to Islam in Saudi Arabia? Why isn’t it? Why aren’t there any Jewish members of the government in Syria? Don’t you find it sobering that Israel’s government has Arab/Moslem members in the Knesset? Doesn’t that tell you something about Arab/Moslem prejudice?

  • Len M.

    It’s also interesting to note that the British solution to the partition of Palestine was a two-state solution, with one being Jewish and the other Arab/Moslem. Indeed, two states were created: Israel and Jordan.

    Don’t you wonder why Jordan doesn’t want the West Bank back under their sovereignty? Do you remember Black September when the Jordanian army killed the Palestinian Arab terrorists living in Jordan who were threatening their sovereignty? Isn’t it interesting how we don’t hear anything about that incident lately?

  • YJ Draiman

    End the Unjust Arab Occupation of Jewish Land

    NO PALESTINIAN STATE – No land concessions R7.

    Imagine that the various people who settled in the United States for the past 300 years decided one day that they one to parcel the United States into an independent State just for them, would the American public go for it. The Answer is absolutely NO. …

  • YJ Draiman

    An interesting questionnaire for Palestinian Advocates

    If you are so sure “Palestine, the country, goes back through most of recorded history,” I expect you to be able to answer a basic questions about that country of Palestine:
    1. When was it founded and by whom?
    2. What were its borders?
    3. What was its capital?
    4. What were its major cities?
    5. What constituted the basis of its economy?
    6. What was its form of government?
    7. Can you name at least one Palestinian leader before Arafat?
    8. Was Palestine ever recognized by a country whose existence, at that time or now, leaves no room for interpretation?
    9. What was the language of the country of Palestine ?
    10. What was the prevalent religion of the country of Palestine ?
    11. What was the name of its currency? Choose any date in history and tell what was the approximate exchange rate of the Palestinian monetary unit against the US dollar, German mark, GB pound, Japanese yen, or Chinese Yuan on that date.
    12. And, finally, since there is no such country today, what caused its demise and when did it occur?
    You are lamenting the “low sinking” of a “once proud” nation.
    Please tell me, when exactly was that “nation” proud and what was it so proud of?

    ???? Do the Palestinian Arabs knot that their Koran states in The Qur’an 17:104 – states the land belongs to the Jewish people – “And thereafter we [Allah] said to the Children of Israel: ‘Dwell securely in the Promised Land.”

    Here is the least sarcastic question of all: If the people that are mistakenly called “Palestinians” are anything but generic Arabs collected from all over