For all the calls to do the untenable, fight Hamas without disproportionately (whatever that means) harming Gazans in the process, no one has yet come up with an actual way to accomplish this. It sounds great in platitudes, but can’t be done on, or below, the street. Is there any other way Israel can eradicate terrorists dedicated to its destruction and thrilled to rape, kidnap and murder its people, to salvage its reputation among the unduly passionate and those who rely on their votes?
a professor of political science at the University of Haifa, offers a way out.
Israel insists that it is doing all it can to protect civilians, given the complex urban environment it is fighting in, the embedding of Hamas in the civilian population and persistent missile strikes.
But Israel must do more to address the suffering of Palestinians, now and after the war ends.
Well, sure, “but Israel must” isn’t what any sentient person would call a rational argument, but then, if reason were playing a role here, there would be nothing further to discuss.
In the short term, Israel should pay compensation to the families of the dead in Gaza and treat the injured. In the future, it must also play a role in the enormous international effort that will be required to reconstruct the territory under its new government, whatever that may be.
The list of things Israel “must” do isn’t long or particularly complex. Pay damages to the families of those killed. Provide medical treatment to Gazans. And after the war is over, help the new Gazan government rebuild what it destroyed. In other words, a sort of Marshall Plan for Gaza.
Of course, there’s a sticky question here about why it would be Israel’s responsibility rather than, say, Hamas’, which is still in control of Gaza as the last elected government that has a side hustle as a terrorist organization sworn to destroy Israel.
Why, then, offer anything to Gazan civilians?
Military expediency and improving Israel’s moral standing in an increasingly skeptical world is one answer. To successfully wage war in Gaza, Israel needs to separate combatants from civilians. Apart from killing and capturing combatants, separation means taking special care of the civilian population to prevent further radicalization, galvanize support for a postwar Palestinian government and leave room for conciliation and cooperation. If we take Israel’s claim seriously that its target is Hamas, not Palestinian civilians, there are compelling reasons to attend to the dead and injured.
Will this work? There are some hurdles that need to be considered. First, do Gazans, with their embedded Hamas sons and daughters (where did you think Hamas’ terrorists came from?) want Israel to be their saviors? Will they tolerate it? If Israel puts up medical tents, will Gazans come for treatment or will Hamas blow them up?
Second, how would Israel distinguish between the “innocent” dead Gazans and the Gazans who keep a green headband and rifle under their bed? It’s not as if the terrorists have a tattoo across their head saying “no regerts.” Indeed, it’s not as if the Gazans who aren’t directly involved in terrorism aren’t either collaborators or material supporters of Hamas. When it comes to terrorists, the lines between military and civilian get blurry.
Third, who says this is the “moral” path other than people who have the hubris to believe they are own morality and get to dictate it to others?
But deeper moral reasons to offer financial support and care to the collateral victims of war exist. The underlying moral obligation is not too difficult to understand. While collateral injuries may be unintentional and unavoidable, they remain a catastrophic side effect of war. Armed conflict, by its very nature, is a humanitarian disaster.
Nevertheless, its victims are innocent, threaten no one and have no truck with war. And while the rules of war acknowledge civilians can suffer harm, they’ve done nothing to warrant their fate. They are, therefore, owed something by those who harm them. True, the lion’s share of responsibility sits with the aggressor — in this case, Hamas. But nations defending themselves also incur something more than negligible liability. Condolence payments and medical care can discharge this moral debt.
Hamas is responsible for the “lions share” of the harm, but Israel owes a “moral” debt? If a nation has a moral right to defend itself, to respond to the rape, kidnapping and murder of its women, children and elderly, not to mention the boys and men, then from whence does this “moral debt” derive?
Israel didn’t choose to have Hamas embed itself among Gazans, build its tunnels, headquarters and armories under and within hospitals, schools and mosques. And it’s not as if Gazans rose up against Hamas as all they were doing so and put a stop to it, knowing that this would ultimately blow back on the “innocent” population when Israel acted to stop Hamas. It’s not as if Gazan parents stopped their children from becoming Hamas’ “soldiers,” the 30,000 warriors for terror ready to rape and murder Jews upon command. What moral debt does Hamas have? What moral debt do Gazans have?
Finally, should Israel pay for those killed and harmed in a war it didn’t choose, will it change the hearts and minds of Gazans. terrorists and the unduly passionate who support the destruction of the “settler colonialists” from the river to the sea?
Israel’s critics would be equally appalled. It sounds gallingly callous to kill those you could and heal those you could not — little more than a self-serving propaganda ploy. At the very least, to critics, the argument is backward. Anyone sincerely wishing to mitigate harm to civilians should stop shooting and negotiate.
The argument is that the only path to a peaceful co-existence is to find common ground, which sounds great even if it ignores that the incentive system created is commit terror, rape, kidnap and murder, barter hostages for imprisoned terrorists, and then get Israel to pay to buy the terrorists’ and their secondary victims, the innocent Gazans, love. Will this work where war did not?