Today’s Gaza. This is what Hell must be like. You want to kill a terrorist and in doing so you kill almost his entire family including his 3 year-old child. And those who aren’t killed are severely wounded. And if you’re the IDF, you probably get a job-well-done pat on the back from the Ramat Kal and Defense Ministers, who themselves have probably engaged in precisely the same types of killing expeditions. As for the women and children–well, it’s their own fault:
In an incursion in southern Gaza, in a village near Khan Yunis, Israeli troops and tanks, backed by helicopter gunships, destroyed a house, killing two brothers, Ahmad and Sami Fayyad, their sister, Asma Fayyad, 24, and their mother, Karima Fayyad, 60. Their father, Muhammad Fayyad, a farmer, was wounded.Medics at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis said that Sami Fayyad’s wife was wounded, and that the couple’s 3-year-old daughter was clinically dead.
Sami Fayyad, 30, was a fighter with Islamic Jihad’s military wing. Ahmad Fayyad, 32, was a former member of the Palestinian Authority security forces. Israeli Army spokesmen said the brothers were firing on Israeli forces from alongside and inside the house. The house was hit by at least one tank shell, and Palestinian witnesses said Israeli forces, using armored bulldozers, then collapsed the rest of the house.
In a statement, Israel said blame for the deaths of the women “lies with the gunmen, who operated intentionally from a civilian environment.”
There is much that the Israeli right can point to in their feeble attempt to mitigate IDF responsibility: who asked the fighters to endanger their family? Why didn’t the family flee before the shoot-out? But keep one other question in mind: did the IDF give the civilians inside a chance to escape before demolishing the home? If they did, they’d surely have said so in their statement. Since they didn’t you can only assume that the IDF was fully willing to murder three civilians including a baby in order to get their bad guys. This is the moral calculus of the IDF. Two bad guys outweigh the lives of three civilians. Babies hardly count.
Let’s imagine the funerals for the dead which perhaps are being held as I write this, and the tiny baby’s shrouded body carried aloft by Palestinians through the streets of Gaza. For shame. Yes, for shame for the violence against Israeli civilians as well. But killing 3 year olds? What learned rabbinic tractate gives us the right to do such things in order to shield our own civilians? Is our blood redder than theirs?
Annapolis appeared so promising to some a few short weeks ago. Lots of optimistic speeches, the right words being said, hitting the right notes. But it’s massacres like this which show the real face of the conflict and how impossible it is to resolve. In the face of such bloodshed how can there ever be peace?
Let it not be said that Alan Dershowitz doesn’t have a darkly ironic sense of humor. The title of his current essay in Frontpagemagazine is Targeted Killing Works, in which he brags about how few civilians the IDF has been killing lately. Indeed.
Andrew Schamess says
As you note, Maimonides, discussing the ethics of warfare, says that in battle, Jews must always give the enemy the opportunity to retreat or surrender. One would like a Jewish state that actually adhered to Jewish ethical principles.
The number of Jewish laws that are ignored or violated on a daily basis is staggering. But Zionism has nothing to do with Judaism. It’s another anachronistic mutation of German nationalism — the same river of sewage that spawned Nazism.
Andrew-did the Palestinian Authority policemen who murdered both Ido Zoldan several weeks ago in a drive-by shooting, and the others who murdered the two hikers (yes, I know they were armed but they weren’t shooting at anyone before the terrorists arrived) follow RAMBAM’s directions? Did the dozens of suicide bombers who attacked Israeli cities?
I don’t want to detract from this individual horror.
But I would like to say:
When bombs are dropped and ‘targeted assassinations’ done in concentrated population, then people other than those targeted are going to be killed. This child is not the first, nor the last.
Secondly, in this type of assault, as in Vietnam, the distinction between ‘civilian’ and ‘militant’ [or ‘resistance fighter’, as the latter may be called, depending on one’s position], is not a sharp distinction. Further, when the news reports “5 militants were killed”, whose word do we have that these are “militants”? It is the IDF, not exactly an objective source, that so describes them, and the media picks it up.
Thirdly, in nations which theoretically have embraced the ‘rule of law’ as opposed to the ‘rule of the jungle’, people – even, and especially, those who commit heinous acts – are TRIED thru a legal process before being executed.
Nice to see you, Andrew!
That’s right, the number of civilians killed in targeted killings has been reduced substantially. This was not a targeted killing. The Israeli soldiers were responding to light arms and anti-tank fire and fired a tank shell at the house where the fire was coming from.
“Palestinian witnesses” are very untrustworthy sources.
The ratio of “militants” to civilians killed has improved greatly due to IDF and Shin Bet efforts and they should be congratulated for so.
From Haaretz: Pinpointed IAF attacks in Gaza more precise, hurt fewer civilians
emphasis added to answer Ellen’s question:”whose word do we have that these are “militants”? “
Obviously the death of any innocent person, least of all a child is horrendous. That being said, I must withhold final judgement on the culpability of the IDF and the Palestinian gunmen until I have more information.
Amir is correct in that this was not a “targeted killing” per se, but rather a combat response.
Ellen and Amir are both correct regarding reliability of witnesses. Those of us who have followed the conflict for any extended period of time know that both the IDF and Palestinian witnesses are often less than exact, complete, or truthful in their reporting of events.
This story is very confusing. There are several murders reported together, and I for one, can’t tell who was murdered for what reason.
The rocket that was fired into Ashkelon was not fired from Khan Younis. What were the IDF tanks doing there? It’s not clear who began the firing upon whom. Is the expectation that Palestinians are not allowed to react when the IDF rolls into town?
Andrew Schamess says
Comments above appreciated. Bar Kochba 132 (are there really 131 others of you?): why would non-Jews be expected to follow Jewish law? RAMBAM does not state that this precept is among the Noahide laws.
Andrew Schamess says
Ah, 132 is the date of the revolt. Sorry, I didn’t think of that at first.
The Golem says
Andrew, as to your citation fro the RaMBaM, it would be nice to see the chief Rabbi’s of Israel demanding that the halacha of wars be followed, but …………………
Richard Silverstein says
Bar Kochba: The strength of any moral system is not that it is relative & changes depending on circumstances. The strength is that it is flexible enough to take into account many different circumstances & still remain immutable & true to itself. Rambam’s laws of warfare do not say that a Jew is entitled to ditch the rules when an enemy behaves in a certain way. Then they wouldn’t be “laws.”
The distinction between killing civilians in targeted killings & in regular combat operations is meaningless. A civilian is a civilian is a civilian. If you kill two militants and three civilians & severely wound two other civilians in a single operation you’ve done something wrong. Period. And you don’t deserve congratulations. You deserve opprobrium. Not to mention that every surviving member of this family & its far flung relations will turn into future militants.
If you are about to destroy a residential house in combat you have an affirmative duty to determine whether there are civilians in the house before you destroy it. Given that the IDF is one of the more sophisticated military forces in the world there should be means to determine this. If you destroy the home w/o doing this, then you’ve showed depraved indifference to civilian human life.
The nature of warfare is unquestionably affected by the behavior of the enemy. The US considered using poison gas which was against international law against the Japanese in order to flush them out of the caves they fortified themselves in because of their insistence on fighting to the death even when it was clear they had no options left. (the Americans decided not to do this in the end). A few Japanese soldiers would raise their hands in surrender and then detonate a hidden grenade in order to kill the soldiers who were attempting to them captive along with themselves, like todays Muslim suicide bombers. This led to a situation where frequently the Americans would decide not to take prisoners and would kill Japanese soldiers attempting to surrender, even though this was against the rules of war.
An article which I think Richard posted said Israel forces men being detained to remove their shirts, the implication being that they are trying to “humiliate them” , when in reality the reason is to look for suicide bomber belts.
If Israel really wanted to play the game as the Palestinians play it, should Israel, in response to Qassams or Katyushas fired into Israeli cities, respond in kind, by firing indiscriminately in to Arab civilian populated areas? Same if they send suicide bombers in to Israeli cities?
Andrew-congrats., you are the first to figure out why I added “132” to my name. There are other Bar-Kochba’s in cyberspace so I decided to add a numeral that I would find it easy to remember.
Richard Silverstein says
You have subtly altered the terms of the argument. We were not arguing about the nature of warfare, we were arguing about Rambam’s laws of warfare. Those are 2 diff. things. Rambam’s laws are not affected by the behavior of the enemy. That’s why they’re laws. They present us a model to strive for in our own conduct. To the extent that we ignore them or fail to achieve them we should be judged as Jews and Israel should be judged as a nation claiming it lives by Jewish values.
This is precisely what Daniel Pipes & numerous Israeli rightist politicians propose. And this actually WAS Israeli policy in Lebanon. So let’s not act as if this is a moral Rubicon Israel would never cross.
Norman Weinstein says
Whatever the moral rightness of its existence may be, Israel remains an occupying power, and those occupied who do not wish to be occupied will strike their enemy when and how they can, often with fatal results. Then Israel strikes back, and with each innocent killed, child or otherwise, so much does Israel sully its reputation and repudiate its very right to exist. Throughout Israel’s modern history there have been those elements in Israeli society and elsewhere that really do not want peace so much as ALL OF JUDEA AND SAMARIA, and this means for them obtaining all the land between the Mediterranean and Jordan through hook, crook or settlements. They might then accept some kind of peace as long as they can control the degree of viability of whatever Palestinian state might then be allowed to exist. It’s in the very nature of this occupation that outrage after outrage by both sides will continue to occur; and until such time as the Likud and other right-wing elements more extreme become less significant than those many in Israel truly desiring a just and real peace, no such peace will happen. And sadly enough the United States is a thoroughly complicit and enabling ally of the Israeli right, with American liberal Jews, most likely the Jewish majority, either indifferent or afraid to speak out against this Mideastern status quo. Let us hope, at least, that a replacement of our present criminal regime with one that is more likely to adhere to traditional laws, values and norms will come about, and with it a better grasp of things and a desire for justice, although an uncritical support of Israel, whatever may be happening, seems to have become a part of the American DNA.
A site I recently discovered, Gila Svirsky: A Personal Website, is I think very much worth a visit by those who are troubled by what is occurring in the not-so-Holy Land. Its address is http://www.gilasvirsky.com/index.html.
And mine is at http://www.mybarbaricyawp.net.
Norman Weinstein says
The URL of that Gila Svirsky site I mentioned in my previous post doesn’t seem to work. Perhaps this one will –
Throughout Israel’s modern history there have been those elements in Israeli society and elsewhere that really do not want peace so much as ALL OF JUDEA AND SAMARIA, and this means for them obtaining all the land between the Mediterranean and Jordan through hook, crook or settlements.
Problem is, Norman, that the war between Israel and the Arabs has nothing to do with
Judea/Samaria. There were three wars between Israel and the Arabs in 1948, 1956, and 1967
BEFORE Israel ever came into control of Judea/Samaria, and giving up Judea/Samaria would thus not bring peace since it is not the core of the matter. The “core” of the matter is that the Arabs do not recognizethe rights ANY Jewish state of ANY size within ANY borders to exist..
Richard Silverstein says
Sez you. All the outstanding issues of the 1948 & 1967 wars (1956 is quite irrelevant to this issue) would be fully resolved by Israel withdrawing to 1967 boundaries. All those Arabs you claim will never recognize any state of Israel of any size have already stated quite clearly that they WOULD do so if Israel withdrew. Which means you don’t accept the word of the Arab League and Saudi Arabia which made the 2002 proposal. I’d say that’s yr problem & not ours nor those Arabs who’ve clearly extended a hand in peace.
Richard – this “hand of peace” you claim exists is EXPLICITLY based on Israel accepting
the Palestinian “Right of Return”. Now, you claim that you have secret, inside information that they don’t really intend to implement it, only to do it symbolically. That’s certainly not what they say.
As I said in a different thread. Former Foreign Ministry Official Alon Liel ( a “progressive”) said the Egyptians totally oppose the creation of a Palestinian state and peace with Israel, viewing this as a threat to their interests. This is also the attitude of the Saudis and Iranians and Syrians. The Saudis came out with this “peace offer” in 2002 as a result of their unpopularity stemming from the 9/11 attacks which their citizens played such a prominent role in. The Palestinians can not go against these countries, even if they wanted to, and now since Abbas has $7 Billion in his pocket, he certainly has no motive to make himself a target, Sadat-style, by making concessions to Israel. You are simply projecting your own wishes on the Arabs and claiming, with no basis in fact, that they want what you want. They view their interests in a different way than the way you view their interests. The fact is the conflict can not be resolved juridically, and, instead a modus-vivendi must be found in the absense of any peace agreement that doesn’t involve pushing the Arabs to the wall and forcing them to sign agreements they can’t live with.
Bar – can you provide any citations to back up your theories here. I’m genuinely interested in understanding them better.
Richard Silverstein says
That is incomplete. The Arab League proposal calls for recognition of a Right of Return to be defined & implemented BY BOTH PARTIES. It doesn’t call for a full physical Right of Return of all refugees to Israel.
The Saudis created the 2002 peace plan yet they oppose peace w. Israel. Do you realize how ridiculous you sound? Assad has been begging for negotiations with Israel publicly for over a yr (& conducing back channel negotiations according to Israeli news reports) yet they too oppose peace w. Israel. If you keep trying to foist these whoppers on us one of these days you might actually succeed. But not today.
You’re the one w. no facts. If you bother reading this blog is replete with statements fr. all the relevant parties to the conflict supporting what I write here. You on the other hand produce no facts but yr own opinions buttressed by nothing more than yr own prejudices.
Which is the tried & true Israeli method: no partner for peace; let’s just maintain the status quo using brute force to keep our enemies in their place until such time as we can impose a favorable settlement on them one way or the other. Sorry, been there, done that for 60 yrs. Never worked before, won’t work now.
Richard-you have unwittingly stated the Arab policy yourself—they want a PEACE PROCESS, but they don’t want PEACE. They view a PEACE PROCESS as a way of maintaining links with the United States, because the US is always nagging for the Arabs to make peace with Israel. In addition a PEACE PROCESS can force Israel to make unilateral concessions, such as destroying Gush Katif, without the Arabs having to give anything in return. This is consistent with the Arab plan to destroy Israel by a process of attrition. They feel Israel is demoralized (while this may be true of part of Israel’s secular Ashkenazi traditional ruling clique, it is not true of the population as a whole) and is in a state of degeneration, as they see it (I do not agree with this, of course), and so a PEACE PROCESS can accelerate it, by holding out a distant prospect of peace, if only Israel will only make more concessions. However, the Arabs do not want peace with Israel itself, as Alon Liel said about the Egyptians.
BTW-there is a good book review of an important book in the New York Times this week about how Muslim Judeophobia is a direct decendent of Nazi antisemitic propaganda exported to the Middle East in the 1930’s and 40’s. Don’t forget that this Judeophobic propaganda is officially sanctioned by many of the states in the region. So how can you expect these countries to make real concessions for peace with Israel while they portray Jews in this fashion. The book is “Jihad and Jew-Hatred” by Matthias Kuntzel. Here is the link [link removed by author per comment guidelines]
Richard Silverstein says
That’s pure posturing on yr part. If anything the shoe’s on the other foot. It’s the Israelis who’ve always wanted to APPEARANCE of a commitment to peace & not the Palestinians (at least not those in the mainstream).
In this day & age you think that any Arab state except perhaps Iraq is eager to “maintain links” with the U.S.?? If anything it’s the U.S. that needs links to the Arab states so it can appear to be an honest broker in attempting to resolve the IP conflict & other regional conflicts.
I have a very clear rule in this blog. I don’t allow discussion of extermination by one side of the other. If you want to claim that Arabs are trying to exterminate Israel (or anyone else wants to claim that Israel is attempting to exterminate the Palestinians) you simply will have to go elsewhere to do so. And I mean it. I’ll ban yr ass if I have to.
And pls. don’t try to pass off anything written by Jeffrey Goldberg as “interesting” or anything of the sort. He’s an Israel First apologist who entirely distorted Jimmy Carter’s book & record in his toxic review of Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Links to his work here will be immediately removed. I’m entirely uninterested in allowing you or anyone else to publicize anti-Arab propaganda just as I’m uninterested in allowing anyone to promote anti-Israel propaganda. If you want to promote this shit you’ll have to do it elsewhere.