As the Gaza war winds down, and as the extent of the death and destruction becomes evident, many critics of Israel are charging that Israel was wrong to attack the Hamas regime at all. It is important to distinguish between the conduct of the war and the circumstances that made Israeli action inevitable and necessary, even in the eyes of many Israelis who believe that this war was conducted longer and more violently than was needed in order to achieve its goals.
The statement below was written by Yoel Kretzmer-Raziel. Kretzmer-Raziel is a teacher and Torah scholar who lives at Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, near the border of the Gaza Strip. It is currently circulating by e-mail and I have translated it with his permission.–HW
The Cast Lead operation has been underway for nearly three weeks in the Gaza Strip. The moral justification for launching this operation is clear to us. Over the course of the three years following Israel’s evacuation of Gaza, Palestinian society faced a choice of which path to choose. The Palestinian leadership in Gaza chose to continue firing into Israeli territory and even to intensify its attacks, and to work to the detriment of the welfare of the Gaza Strip’s population. Had this society wished to do so, it could have created a new and entirely different situation. Israel has no interest in continuing the blockade of Gaza Strip and, had the Palestinian leadership not chosen to fire into Israel, an entirely different set of regional circumstances would have come into being.
The logic of defense requires that pressure be applied to prevent attacks on our citizens. We take no position here on which is the correct defense strategy for achieving this goal, nor do we address the diplomatic outcomes produced by the military operation. Rather, the moral issue is our concern. Clearly, however, successful diplomacy requires that the other side understand our willingness to use force.
We support the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces in their war—our war—and pray for their well-being.
As citizens whose knowledge comes from the news media, we do not know exactly what is happening within the Gaza Strip’s borders. We see, on the one hand, depictions of an IDF utterly indifferent to human life, and on the other reports about the IDF’s efforts to avoid loss of life. And we see that more and more civilians are being killed—children, old people, women, and men. Again and again we see that schools, mosques, hospitals and, especially, homes are being targeted.
The public has been using the expression “we’ve lost our cool” as a way of explaining why, at this time, it might even be best for us to inflict as much death and destruction on the enemy as we can, including civilians. The same sentiment has been used by some Israeli leaders. We reject this attitude utterly. Obviously, in a war like this some civilians will be hurt, given the way Hamas works. But we cannot in any way support this contempt for human life, and certainly not deliberate attacks on civilians, simply for the purpose of making an impression on Gaza’s inhabitants.
There must be lines that we do not cross, even at a time like this. In war one does not always shoot, certainly not when you face a densely-populated area. We must make every effort to minimize the injury of civilians, and prohibit any deliberate and intentional harm to civilians.
We call on the IDF’s soldiers and officers, and Israel’s leaders, to act only within the bounds of human morality, international law, and Israeli law.
We protest the expressions of joy and enthusiasm voiced by some civilian and military leaders during this operation. “Do not rejoice in the fall of your enemies,” King Solomon says in his proverbs. We are not a people who take pleasure in the suffering of others.
When this operation ends, Israeli society will have to look itself in the face. We need to be able to say then that we have acted consistently with our belief that every human being is made in the image of God.