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A government (Hamas) wants to destroy your country and kill, rape, and torture your people. That government carries out a heinous attack. Some, perhaps many, of the Palestinians in Gaza (and elsewhere) celebrate the unspeakably brutal attack. Hamas officials and fighters retreat to Gaza to use the civilian population as shields against an Israeli military response. In Gaza, there is often no clear demarcation between civilian and military targets, and they are often deliberately intertwined. Children and women, even if unarmed, can support the military wing of Hamas with warnings, misdirection, and logistical information.

The world engaged in total war during WWII. Civilian populations were targeted because societies were part of the government’s war machines. Was is immoral in that context to bring the war home to the civilians of aggressor nations in order to defeat those nations more quickly? The easy answer is yes, wars are inherently immoral, so escalations against civilian populations are even more so. But, then there is the reality of engaging in war against an immoral enemy who does not follow “rules” of war. Do you spend more of your blood trying to fight fairly (a moral war, if there is such a thing), against an enemy who cannot be expected to do the same? I understand that the purpose of dropping atom bombs on Japan was to save American lives that would have been lost in an invasion of Japan. That seems like a valid reason if you are a soldier preparing to invade Japan, perhaps less so if you are not directly engaged in the fight.

Obviously, the killing of innocent Palestinians who deplore what Hamas did is tragic. The denial of Humanitarian aid for hospitals and to prevent disease and starvation, absent clear military imperatives (for example, if it goes straight to Hamas soldiers, bypassing civilians), is indefensible. To the extent Israel is doing that, it deserves censure. I am less sure about Israel deserving censure for the high civilian body counts given the way that Hamas has chosen to wage war on behalf of the Palestinians in Gaza. If a hostile neighbor to attack your family in a no holds barred street fight to the death, are you expect to fight with gloves on, and stop because your opponent, with no intention of giving up, is putting his family in harm’s way?

And, what nation has clean hands when it comes to censuring Israel for a high civilian body count? Certainly not the US, Russia, China, India, or any country that has had a religious war or a civil war, or a war against “undesirable” populations. Wars are always appallingly awful. They shouldn’t be fought. But, given how Hamas started this fight (of course, one can talk about unbearable provocations by Israel, but in my view, Hamas started this specific military engagement), and how it conducts itself, and it’s stated goals, I find it hard to criticize Israel for its undeniably severe efforts to destroy Hamas in Gaza. If Israel is intentionally bombing civilians indiscriminately; i.e., engaging in total war against the population of Gaza, that may not be justifiable. But destroying places, and therefore killing people, even loosely associated with Hamas seems justifiable, in the warped context of war, as reasonably calculated to degrade Hamas and therefore to protect Israeli lives.

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I agree, but with a more hawkish bent. Gazans need to respect their citizens lives. Until they do, I find it difficult to be persuaded by having their enemy (Israel) have more respect for Gasan lives than Hamas does.

For instance, if Hamas steals aid, Israel needs to block aid. This is very tough on the Gazans. Hamas will extend the war, if it steals aid, which is likely to add to more citizen death and despair. It looks bad to block aid, but I believe it's the tough disciplined way to win and ultimately do less harm overall.

Israel is in an inevitable position and it's decisions are guaranteed to be scrutinized. This means they also deserve grace. Especially because they are on the moral high ground.

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Dec 13, 2023·edited Dec 13, 2023

The loss of life and immiseration of Palestinians is terrible to behold. No country takes more pains to minimize civilian casualties - none. Blame for the suffering belongs on Iran, Hamas, and its supporters. The U.S., U.N., and well meaning fools in general should not impede Israel from pursuing and achieving the kind of crushing victory that will prevent the recurrence of Oct. 7 in perpetuity - otherwise #StandWithChamberlain.

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Just curious: has this writer written any articles about the devastation wrought in Ukraine by Putin? Anything on the treatment of Uyghurs in China? Anything about the suffering of civilians or the devastation of cities in the Syrian civil war? Has this writer ever called out Bashar al-Assad? I don’t know: just seems like everyone and their uncle suddenly jumps up and starts to condemn what they see as injustice when the alleged perpetrator is Israel …

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How does one reconcile the 'innocent' civilians of Gaza with the fact that >70% of Gazans professed support for Hamas and its Oct 7th atrocities, and acquiesced in the training of their children to kill Jews?

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Having almost nothing at stake, "Just War" thinkers and scholars have an advantage over Israeli soldiers and civilians for whom it is more than an academic exercise.

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War is a grim business. Civilians die. Should Hitler have been left in power, because bombing/invading Germany would inevitably kill civilians? I think not. Should the crazies be left in charge of Japan because the atomic bomb would mostly kill civilians? I think not.

The US and the UK burned Hamburg, Dresden, and other German cities to ground. A great many civilians were killed. Was that wrong?

Did US/UK bombs distinguish between pro-Nazi and anti-Nazi Germans? Of course, not. Did American atomic bombs only kill Japanese who supported the war? Of course, not.

Truman knew that the atomic bomb would mostly kill civilians (as did the earlier and larger fire raids). He did not relish the deaths of Japanese women and children. He wanted to get the war over with (and the crazies out of power) as quickly as possible. Should we have left the crazies in charge of Japan to keep civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki alive?

Israel now faces the same choices the US (and the UK, the USSR, etc.) did in WWII. Civilians will die to achieve military goals that must be achieved.

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I can't take this seriously. Unless the author can say, with unlikely authority, just how Israel can accomplish its military goals with fewer civilian casualties, he hasn't said anything. It's just finger wagging.

He thinks there's a big distinction in their attitudes about Jews and willingness to kill them between Hamas and Gazans. Based on what? Recent polling shows 75% fundamentally favor the pogrom, though some oppose it, not on moral grounds, but from fear of the backlash. I myself don't care much for opinion polls, but there are many reasons to believe this one.

Should that make a difference? Yes and no. No, one can't target civilians as if there were combatants. Approving of a crime isn't the same as committing one. But the law requires the attacker to make judgment calls weighing the risk of civilian casualties against the military objective and the risk to its own soldiers. It's plainly reasonable to weigh the risk to bloodthirsty civilians who'd be happy to see you dead differently than, say, a bunch of captive Americans that Hamas has surrounded itself with.

Taken in that light, Giora Eiland's comments are unobjectionable, unless he's recommending either targeting civilians or complete indifference to their welfare. If he was, I missed that, but in that case I'd just say "When someone with actual operational authority over the IDF says it, come talk to me."

Another thing the author needs to do if he wants to establish his point is to say "Okay, once 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 number of Gazans have died, Israel has to back off and just accept that there'll be more pogroms." Because that's the implication and he shouldn't obfuscate it.

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I fail to understand how Hamas can be eradicated. It doesn't seem to me that the military goals of destroying Hamas are reasonably achievable. Israel's war efforts are forging closer bonds between Gazan civilians and Hamas. If you truly want to eliminate Hamas a wedge needs to be driven between them and the population by providing a better alternative to armed struggle. If security is what Israel seeks, a peaceful resolution would go a lot further to accomplishing this goal than the continuation of war.

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This will mark the end of using civilians as human shields since it also marks a new tolerance for collateral damage in the very notion of just war when engaged in asymmetrical warfare. Hamas gambled; noncombatant civilians lost; the world of warfare is forever changed. Will this reduce civilian casualties in asymmetrical warfare in the future? Almost certainly.

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