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In Defense of Israel

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Topic: Civilians Being Harmed by Military Actions

Joel Davidson from New Jersey wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

One is allowed to harm or even kill an attacker in self-defense if necessary. However, isn't it also true that under no circumstances may one harm an innocent to protect himself (for example, if a man has a gun to your head and tells you to kill an innocent by-stander, you must allow yourself to be killed rather than kill the innocent)? This being the case, it seems problematic to engage in bombing raids and other military means, no matter how justified by self-defense, when there is a significant chance of harming innocents. I am referring to bombings where civilians may be harmed when the IDF goes after Hizbollah or other terrorists. I would appreciate any insight you could offer. Shalom.

Dear Joel,

Unfortunately, there are groups and nations who base their fighters and military equipment in civilian areas. This deters attacks from their enemies, and allows them to gain world-wide sympathy if a civilian does get hurt, especially a woman or child.

We see this today. Before West Bank Arabs shoot their automatic weapons at us, they send children and teenagers up ahead to stone us and to throw fire-bombs. The sympathy they gain if a child dies is worth more to them than the life of the child.

Similarly, the Arabs are using civilian homes as bases to fire their rifles at us. As of this writing, this is being done to attack places like Psagot and Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood.

Israeli policy has always been to warn civilians prior to a strike. If Israel shells terrorists hiding in a residential area, warnings are delivered first by loud speaker, leaflets, radio, and by alerting the town authorities and giving them time to warn the residents so the residents may evacuate.

If there are civilians who, after the warning, choose to stay, then they knowing become obstacles to our ability, and our right, to defend ourselves. In that sense they can be considered accomplices.

A parting thought: One of my teachers in Yeshiva told me that, although Golda Meir may not have been a particularly religious lady, she said one thing which rings particularly true of Torah ideology: She said: "We may be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our children; but we can not forgive them for making us kill their children."

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