Friday, February 5, 2010

A Moral Evaluation of the Gaza War

Written by Asa Kasher of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs - Feb 4th 2010

- In Israel, a combatant is a citizen in uniform; quite often, he is a conscript or on reserve duty. His state ought to have a compelling reason for jeopardizing his life. The fact that persons involved in terrorism are depicted as non-combatants and that they reside and act in the vicinity of persons not involved in terrorism is not a reason for jeopardizing the combatant's life more than is required under combat conditions.

- The ethical doctrine which follows from the IDF Ethics document mandates that, whenever possible, you must warn non-combatants that they are residents of a neighborhood where it is dangerous to stay. In Gaza, the IDF employed a variety of unprecedented efforts meant to minimize injury to non-combatants, including warning leaflets, phone calls, and non-lethal warning fire.
- There is no army in the world that will endanger its soldiers in order to avoid hitting the warned neighbors of an enemy or terrorist. Israel should favor the lives of its own soldiers over the lives of the well-warned neighbors of a terrorist when it is operating in a territory that it does not effectively control, because in such territories it does not bear the moral responsibility for properly separating between dangerous individuals and harmless ones.

- Proportionality is not a numerical comparison, but an assessment of existing threats and the measures that must be taken in order to avert them. Proportionality is justifiability of the collateral damage on grounds of the military advantage gained.
- Compare the Gaza operation to the U.S. Marine operation in Fallujah, Iraq, in late 2004. During the operation, about 6,000 Iraqis including 1,200-2,000 insurgents were killed. Of the city's 50,000 buildings, some 10,000 were destroyed, including 60 mosques. Thus, the U.S. left a trail of destruction in Fallujah far greater than anything Israel inflicted on Gaza. Comparing IDF activities to those of military forces of Western democracies is an essential part of any present attempt to use international law.

- We in Israel are in a key position in the development of customary international law in this field because we are on the front lines in the fight against terrorism. The more often Western states apply principles that originated in Israel to their own non-traditional conflicts in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, then the greater the chance these principles have of becoming a valuable part of international law.

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