Sunday, July 20, 2014

Israel's 'Moral Army'? – Haaretz via Forward Thinking –

It has been a very disturbing week.  The distress brought on by the failure of Iraq was compounded by the Israeli attacks on Gaza; then a missile in the hands of some undisciplined tribal army brought down an airliner any one of us could have taken. - gwc
Israel's 'Moral Army'? – Forward Thinking –
by Michael Mitchell*//Haaretz

In Israel’s case, having an army worthy of the “moral” title really would serve its security interests; the possible short-term reduction in hit targets would be justified by long-term gains in the trust and respect of the international community. As international protests against Operation Protective Edge should remind us, Israel’s military operations have a major impact on how it is perceived by its neighbors, allies, and enemies. Moral military conduct could defuse the dangers posed by widespread international distrust of Israel’s behavior, not the least of which is the anger aroused by the deaths of innocent Palestinians at Israeli hands. That anger is relevant to Israel’s security; it imperils Israelis from the West Bank to around the globe.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demands during this year’s peace negotiations indicate, Israel also has a major interest in global acceptance of its own identity narrative. If Israel wants to be understood as a beleaguered Jewish democracy in a hostile region doing what it must to defend itself, its military cannot afford to act unjustly.

Deliberately firing rockets at civilians, as Hamas does, is deeply wrong. However far we can go in understanding Hamas’s actions as expressions of resistance, we cannot condone them: they are crimes. However, if Israel is not careful to respond justly, with due respect for all human life, Israel may compound Hamas’ unjust actions with its own. To its credit, the IDF is trying to avoid killing civilians, but when it comes to life and death, trying is not enough. Being relatively “more moral” than neighboring armies isn’t enough either.

For the sake of those who now live under rocket fire and (even more so) for that of those who live under air strikes, we must hope Israel’s government soon comes to recognize that killing civilians protects no one – not even those the “moral army” claims to serve. As the Torah suggests, only those willing to affirm the sanctity of all lives - of neighbor and stranger alike - deserve to flourish in the land of Israel.

Michael Mitchell is a writer living in Tel Aviv. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard International Review.

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