Monday, July 17, 2006

Israel Right or Wrong

There's a lot of discussion about whether Israel, in responding to undisputed aggression from Lebanese territory, is overreacting or -- in the words of Just War doctrine, being "disproportionate."

This situation highlights one of the difficulties in applying Just War doctrine: answering the questions posed by the doctrine depends on how much you know; and those of us who observe from a distance, who rely on the media to inform us, have to question whether we know enough.

It seems to me, the question of "proportion" applies not only to the aggressive acts that came immediately before -- i.e., the seizure and killing of Israeli military personnel, the launching of weapons against Haifa, etc. -- but also, what Israel can see is poised to come next. So a lot of folks are wondering why Israel, in responding to Hizbollah's attacks launched from southern Lebanon, is striking at the whole country. I make no pretense of being an expert in military matters, but what many say -- that Israel is knocking out command-and-control, cutting off information, sources of supply, and avenues of escape -- seems reasonable to me.

The idea that the government of Lebanon is somehow an innocent victim in this strikes me as odd. Understanding the mess in Lebanon, and feeling sympathetic for the plight of a fragile government is one thing; but when harm comes from across your border, you hold the government of the other nation accountable.

After all, these comments seem to assume that the government infrastructure of Lebanon is uninvolved -- do we know this? Insofar as Hizbollah is so powerful in Lebanon -- the central government has, notably, chosen not to challenge Hizbollah, let alone disarm it or drive it out -- one may reasonably wonder just how deeply Hizbollah has penetrated Lebanese society and government. Israel may reasonably wonder, too, beyond whatever its intelligence tells it.

Am I endorsing Israel's course of action? Nope. I'm basically saying, I am not fooled by all the data that is available on the Internet and TV into thinking I know enough about this situation; and I haven't seen anything that couldn't be reasonable. I have to wait and see.

Some might wonder if I am disagreeing with the Holy See? I don't see that I am. I understand the statements of the Vatican -- whether from the Secretary of State, or the Holy Father -- to focus on restraint and solicitude for civilians. Neither the pope nor his surrogates have disputed Israel's prudential judgment in these matters.

Some have accused the Vatican of being naive in this situation; I rather doubt that. Others have faulted the Vatican for seeming to equate Israel and its attackers. I don't see that, either; I think some of that is colored by an emotional attachment to Israel.

It's not "moral equivalency" to have in mind ways that Israel has misbehaved and contributed to the ledger of injustice and hatred. Not moral equivalency, because even after all that, it seems clear that Israel is willing to coexist with its neighbors, but few of Israel's neighbors are yet ready to do likewise. I think the "Israel right or wrong" attitude of Pat Robertson, many misguided Christians under the sway of Dispensationalist theology, and too many of our feckless politicians is goofy and offensive.

That said, I think it's abundantly clear Israel operates far more according to values of compassion and human dignity; and who can say that about Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran or Syria, with a straight face?

20 comments:

Deacon Jim said...

In my reflections on this issue I turn to equivalents. What would be equivalent to what's going on from our perspective, here at home?

Think in terms of drug smugglers coming in from Mexico. Surely they wreak havoc on U.S. citizens. Surely their actions result in the death of U.S. citizens. Surly they have attacked U.S. Marshalls, law enforcement, etc.

In retaliation should the U.S. shell and bomb Mexico's water supply, ordinary Mexican civilians, a Mexican lighthouse, Mexico's grain supplies? I think not. We just go after the bad guys.

I have no problem with Israel going after terrorists or an enemy army that is attacking them. I think they are smart enough in terms of technology and on-the-ground knowledge to do so well, effectively and efficiently. I just cannot understand what precipitates the wholesale destruction occurring. The scale was a decision. Someone has to be calling those shots.

Perhaps the paradigm has shifted. Perhaps Israel's leadership is now unwilling to co-exist with their neighbors? Perhaps they have bought into the doctrines of preemption and collective punishment. It is scary. May God save us from all evil.

Titus Filius said...

Many european leaders call Israel's actions "disproportioned." But is their a proportion to how a country is to respond to its murdered citizens? Any attack on an innocent population is vile and unjustifiable. And what Israel has done is target the terrorist. If the terrorist intentionally conceal themselves amongst the innocent population who's fault is it?

Anonymous said...

Deacon Jim, I think you need to look at this again. Drug smugglers from Mexico are quite different than homicide bombers, rockets, kidnapping, etc. coming from over the border. Israel's leadership has always wanted to co-exist with their neighbors. That option has never been there for them because just as they settle into a quietness, their neighbors "throw" something..They throw something from the hand of a "splinter group", but it still hits innocents. And, if the neighbors did not supply terrorists with the means to shoot rockets, or send homicide bombers, then there would be no incentive other than making peace. When they begin to support economy, and independent thinking and action, self reliance,...when they teach their people to fish , to plant, to build, instead of to hate and destroy, then there will be peace.
Would you invite your enemy into your home without some assurance that you would survive the event?
And, as for the scale of the destruction.....have you noticed that the largely international areas of Beirut are not touched? That the ministers from France and other countries have come in and out....that the universities are untouched. Have you noticed that despite what you describe as "wholesale destruction", that it is very targeted, and the civilian population is told to get away from the Hezbollah areas....and they know exactly where they are.
We all pray for peace, we all pray that we be delivered from evil. We all must stand up to evil when we see it, and say enough!

Andrew said...

Also, Deacon Jim, I think Fr. Fox's statement about holding the government accountable for trouble coming across your border is totally applicable to your Mexican situation. I don't think we do enough to penalize Mexico for its failure to control the drug trade and illegal immigration. I'm not saying we should bomb them, but there ought to be something... other than having them build all our cars...

Dad29 said...

Bainbridge makes the point that taking down electricity, roads, bridges, etc., in Lebanon constitutes an attack on the civilians--who will be unable to use these basic services.

He does not go so far as to condemn such activity, but makes it clear that we can see the "fine line" from there...

mike m said...

deacon jim --

Your Mexico analogy is flawed to say the least.

A more appropriate analogy would be to assume that Mexico had been attacking American civilians for decades, that members of La Raza had been for years sending terrorists across our southern border to blow up buses, etc.

Let's also assume that Vincent Fox had allowed this extremist faction to control a sizeable portion of his country and sat back and watched as they launched rockets into Houston, Phoenix and Los Angeles -- all the while refusing to mobilize the Mexican Military to enforce the border and prevent the ongoing assault on American citizens.

Let's also assume that La Raza has sworn to continue its assault on American civilians until America itself is wiped off of the map.

If you think for a second that America would not defend itself by carrying out attacks on La Raza's infrastructure and the infrastructure of the government that allows it to operate within its borders -- and that it would not be justified in doing so, I question your ability to reason.

The Jews have lived for decades under constant assault from Islamofascists in all directions as the world watches from afar warning Israel against "overreacting."

Tell me, what is the difference between what Israel is doing now to bring an end to the years and years of bloodshed it has suffered at the hands of Muslim extremists -- and what the United States did in response to 911?

We bombed the Afghanistan infrastructure and went after Taliban strongholds with the full weight of our military might. Why? Not because they ordered the attacks on 911, but because they harbored Al Qaeda and refused to lift a finger to bring him to justice.

Israel is doing more to combat terrorism and the spread of radical Islam than the United States is doing in Iraq. And because Israel is merely defending itself from repeated and direct attacks against its own people, they are able to do what the United States only wishes it could do, but can't for fear of diplomatic backlash.

I say more power to them!

Orange_Cross said...

It must be nice for you father to have the luxury to wait. I see your trivializing of the abomination that is war as something justifiable as a symptom of your death worship. Fare thee well, and your congregation bearing arms with your words echoing in their ears.

mike m said...

Yellow ... I mean Orange_Cross --

It must be nice for YOU to have the luxury to sit here and condemn Israel's action's from the sidelines -- far, far away from the rockets, bus bombs, car bombs and the other leading exports of Islam that the Israelis have been expected to endure for decades.

Get your head out of the sand, hypocrite!

Orange_Cross said...

Heck, I was a soldier and served
"honorably" so they said. Have you killed anyone in cold blood lately? Hypocrite? Are you in Tel Aviv? I'm not. And I don't mean to say that I killed anybody in bold blood either. I did serve though. I know some marines over there who are killing in cold blood, not that disspassion isn't a "virtue" as far as war is concerned. Then again, its been a while since I've heard from any of them.

mike m said...

No, I'm not in Tel Aviv. That's why I don't presume to tell the Israelis who are that they must sit on their hands as their people are slaughtered.

I don't find it the least bt surprising, either, that these Marines that you know have better things to do than write you letters. They're busy defeating fighting to defend our country from blood-crazed lunatics overseas so that you can enjoy the freedom to sit here and call them murderers that kill in "cold blood." And I'm glad you're no longer a soldier. You see, what our military needs is a few GOOD men.

Father Martin Fox said...

Mike M:

I have to say, apart from the substance of your views, about which I have no comment, the tone of them is rather strident. You are very welcome here, but I ask that you refrain from personal attacks, such as suggesting someone is "yellow," calling someone "hypocrite."

Tiredofitall said...

Father see if this may help. I am not Jewish but I do feel as though Israel has the right to co-exist in peace.I wrote the following on my blog. You make many valid points and I'll be back often to read what you have for us next.
On May 14, 1948, modern day Israel was born. Within days, its Arab neighbors attacked the Jewish state, and Israel has technically been at war ever since. There has been no peace for Israel or the Palestinian pawns that have languished for decades because Islam refused to accept that Israel has a right to exist.
The heads of several Arab countries have infuriated Islamic leaders by recognizing Israel as a legal state. These leaders saw the futility of the constant fighting and killing that often spilled over into their own countries. But even political leaders fear the Islamic powers within their own borders and have not stopped the massive transfer of weapons, money, and even men to the Palestinian leaders to carry on the fight.
King Abdullah of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt have been condemned by Islamic leaders across the Arab world for accepting Israel. Islamic leaders in both Jordan and Egypt have declared that Israel must be destroyed. America and England must also be destroyed for supporting the Jewish state. Hamas followers often take to the streets chanting, “Death to America.”
This is not a fight between Arab and Jew. The free world must understand this is a war between Islam and Judaism and Islam and Western culture. Some people may find this to be a fine distinction, but it is an important one.
FOX News reported that Palestinian refugees blew a hole in the wall erected by Israel to stop the transfer of weapons into Israel from Egypt. Palestinian refugees, some eager to join in the fight, continue to pour through that opening and Egyptian border guards are making no attempt to stop them. Mubarak dares not stop them. If he does, the wrath of the Islamic leaders will be unleashed upon him and he wants no part of that.
But this war is different from others that Israel has been involved in. Previously, Israel has been attacked by one Arab neighbor or another or several at one time. In each case, the Israeli military was up to the challenge. When fighting a conventional war, there is no Arab or Persian military that could beat Israel.
Hamas and Hezbollah use the tactics of cowards. Their fighters surround themselves with children and women. They hide in people’s homes, putting civilians between Israeli soldiers and bombs and themselves. Then, when those innocent civilians are killed, Hamas and Hezbollah and Islamic spokesmen wail and cry over their bodies declaring that Israel must be stopped. It is all a well planned and often repeated sham. Yet, the West seems to fall for this sham every time, ignoring the death rained down on a daily basis by the enemies of Israel.
One year ago, the world watched as Israeli soldiers dragged Israeli citizens out of their homes in the Gaza strip. The Gaza Strip was the second “occupied territory” being returned to the Palestinians. Southern Lebanon was the first. Later this year Israel had planned to return 90% of the West Bank. It is unlikely now that this will occur.
The reason Israel had occupied southern Lebanon was because Hezbollah used that area constantly to attack the citizens of Israel. A United Nations resolution stated that in return for Israel leaving Lebanon, Hezbollah would be disarmed. Israel kept its part of the agreement in May of 2000. Hezbollah never disarmed. The fragile government of Lebanon seems helpless to stop the rampage of the Islamic terrorist organization. This should have surprised no one. In war, Muslims do not keep agreements and consider anyone that does, a fool.
We now hear the hue and cry from the world at large, and from those who are the cause of this war, Hamas and Hezbollah, that the Israeli response is “disproportionate.” Did the Islamics not know when they crossed onto Israeli land to kidnap their soldiers that Israel was better armed and could, in effect, blast their enemy back to the stone-age if they desired to do so? Did Hezbollah not think that Israel would respond to the kidnapping of their soldiers from Israeli land?
When a war is engaged, is the goal not to win that war? Why should the Israelis have their hands tied behind their backs because a foolish group that is out-gunned on every front decided to pick a fight with them?
Did Japan or Germany keep their superior fighter planes and tanks in reserve until the United States caught up so the fight would not be “disproportionate?”
The Muslim spokespeople are out in force, talking of how the “innocent” civilians are being massacred by the overwhelming forces of the Jewish state. They say nothing of the daily bombings, the suicide bombers, the use of the Gaza strip to launch rockets onto Israeli citizens, or the rockets and missiles being launched from Lebanon deep into Israel. Amazingly, these spokesmen continue to babble on about the return of the “occupied Muslim land.”
Also ignored is the fact that these attacks have gone on for several years. Now, Palestinians go on television and wail about how the soldiers were taken only because the evil Israelis were bombing the Gaza Strip. One must ask why Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip. In the last 11 months, since the return of the Gaza Strip, over 700 rockets have been launched into Israel. That averages two rockets a day. What other country would live under such conditions?
The world was told that if Israel just gave back the “occupied lands” peace would come to the Middle East. That, too, was a lie. Both returned occupied territories were instantly turned into areas to attack Israel with rockets and bombs.
A few words on those “innocent” civilians needs to be said. First, children on both sides are always innocent. But the adults must be responsible for their decisions. The Palestinians, finally free from the tyrannical Arafat, elected yet another terrorist group, Hamas, to lead them. They are now paying for that decision. It is difficult to have great pity for a people who continually make bad choices. Even now, as they lay in the dark, many in shacks, with little food and even less hope, they go to the streets to cheer on the very group that has lead them to such misery. The Palestinians cheer Hezbollah even as their Lebanese brothers and sisters pay the price.
There is only way to end this endless fighting. Hezbollah and Hamas must be destroyed. Both groups must be disarmed and defanged. The leaders must be arrested, imprisoned, or killed. Israel has the means to carry this out. The world must step back and allow Israel to break the backs of its enemy. It must be done. In the long run, more people will die if Israel is stopped, once again, from obliterating those that have sworn to drive every Jew into the sea. It may sound cruel and heartless, but neither Hamas nor Hezbollah nor Islam has any heart. Let the Israelis drive a stake in the heart of the terrorists that have vowed to destroy them and perhaps then, there will peace at last

Father you can read more at

http://tiredofitall-israelsright.blogspot.com/

dunes said...

Tiredofitall:
wow if i could i would frame your response and hang it in my house.
i wish the whole world will see the truth as you wrote it. and see that waht happend here in israel. is going to come to their doorstep unless we stop islam.

Cai Ping said...

Thank you Father Fox. Your defence of Orange_Cross despite his suggestion that you are calling your congregation to bear arms certainly shows your soul. I must however say that Mike makes very good & logical arguments.

My analogy would be that of a guy who goes to a bar for a drink. But just because he is different, 3 big burly guys walks up to him determined to throw him out of the bar.

Now, the 1st guy throws a punch at him from behind & he turns around to hit back while the other 2 burly guys cowardly stands behind to supply beer bottles to the 1st guy.

Does the guy who was attacked, just wait to trade blow for blow? "You punch once, I punch once than wait for your next punch before I punch back again"?

I'm attempting to understand human responses, action & reaction to maybe bring a little sanity to all theses insanity.

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