Israeli Soldiers Die Because Its Military Is So Moral; How to Fight the Next War
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The Algemeiner 19.10.2023
Israeli Soldiers Die Because Its Military Is So Moral; How to Fight the Next War
Predictably, suckered again by Hamas propagandists, the international community blasted Israel for attacking the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza.
Without waiting for any evidence — Israeli or otherwise — almost every single media outlet chose to parrot the Hamas lie that Israel was responsible for the explosion.
Even when Israel provided intelligence proving that Hamas lied, most outlets reframed the story as disputing claims from equally credible sources.
The evidence implicating Palestinian Islamic Jihad is quite convincing. President Biden confirmed that the US Defense Department corroborated Israel’s claim that Palestinian terrorists bombed the hospital by accident. Israel has released audio and visual proof — and still some media outlets are saying the findings are “preliminary.”
Meanwhile, has anyone found a media outlet that rushed to judge Israel for the bombing, that is now denouncing the true Palestinian culprits?
This latest Palestinian crime against their own people should clarify this war’s moral dynamics. Hamas started the war on October 7. It was guilty then — and remains guilty now — until the war ends. Every resulting death, every subsequent injury, trauma, and economic loss, including errant explosions, is Hamas’ fault.
Sweating the ethics of fighting such barbarians feels absurd — 35 percent of Israel’s dead remain unidentified because rampaging Palestinians mutilated the bodies so violently.
Still, Israelis — and Jews worldwide — have enjoyed being praised for Israel having “the world’s most moral army.” As a Zionist, I remain proud of Israel’s “purity of arms” code, which conveys the Zionist desire to perfect the Jewish soul, not just defend Jewish bodies.
As a liberal-democrat, I am honored that many democratic armies study Israel’s moral doctrines and restraint toward civilians. But as an American political historian, I warn Israel — and its supporters — that these niceties have cost Israelis their people’s spilled blood and their enemies’ emboldened bloodlust.
It’s a defining Zionist myth. In January 1948, hundreds of Arab irregulars ambushed 35 Haganah soldiers trying to resupply Gush Etzion. The Arabs mutilated these young men’s corpses so brutally, that only 23 of the 35 bodies could be identified. A legend arose that the “lamed-hay” — the Hebrew letters representing 35 — met an Arab shepherd while convoying out of Jerusalem. They were too ethical to kill him, but he wasn’t too ethical — or grateful — to stay quiet. He sounded the alarm, and they all were butchered. More likely, it was two Arab women .
Today, there are Lamed Hey streets, a kibbutz, Netiv HaLamed Hey, and endless educational activities honoring the young martyrs’ ill-fated ethics. That tragedy set a template, whereby Israel sometimes sacrificed military objectives, even Israeli lives, on the oxymoronic altar of military morality.
Until October 7, the most painful recent example of that lovely but lethal morality was another ambush. In March 2002, Palestinian terrorists murdered 130 Israelis — an intolerable number then, although fewer than the 200 victims Hamas has kidnapped, half the 260 slaughtered at the SuperNova concert, and barely 10 percent of the October 7 death toll.
Exploiting Israel’s attempt at peace with the Oslo Accords, Palestinians turned Jenin into suicide-bombing central. Yet even after warning Palestinian civilians to flee, Israel deemed it immoral to bomb Jenin’s bomb factories, munition depots, and terrorist headquarters from the air. Acting morally, Israel sent troops into the cramped Casbah, where terrorists hatched their crimes, hiding behind 13,500 civilians.
Israel’s restraint surprised the Palestinians, who had been targeting innocent Israelis for months.
Tabbat Mardawi, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader guilty of at least 12 attacks, later told CNN : “I’ve been waiting for a moment like that for years.” Instead of the expected bombing raids, it “was like hunting … like being given a prize…. The Israelis knew that any soldier who went into the camp like that was going to get killed.”
On April 9, Palestinian terrorists ambushed Israeli troops. Thirteen Israelis died in the worst incident — and another 10 fell too, with 75 wounded. During the house-to-house fighting, 55 Palestinians died. Most were found clutching weapons in their hands or with their weapons lying nearby.
I remember how proud so many American Jews were of Israel’s “morality.” I remember how devastated I felt for dozens of new widows and orphans whose husbands and fathers died so we could feel good.
Alas, Israel’s ethical effort didn’t stop Palestinians from accusing Israel of massacring hundreds of civilians.
Characteristically, reporters spread the lie before checking any facts. Suddenly, the world pronounced Jenin “totally destroyed” — as if it had been carpet-bombed — and Israel “morally repugnant.” Eventually, honest investigations debunked this big lie. Still, the BBC’s James Reynolds explained “Those two words” — Jenin and massacre — became linked.
These lies fueled the decades-long Arab propaganda campaign delegitimizing Israel. The campaign rests on centuries-old libels calling the Jews all-powerful and all-evil. Many accusations against the Jewish state confirm long-standing biases against the Jewish people.
The pattern, alas, keeps repeating. In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza, hoping for peace. Palestinians rewarded that ethical act with ever-escalating violence and vile accusations. In repeated conflicts, especially since dictatorial Hamas seized power in its 2007 coup, Israel has invented many techniques for fighting urban warfare as fairly as possible.
Israel has dropped leaflets before dropping bombs. Israel has texted citizens before dropping bombs. Israel has “knocked roofs,” sending missiles across a targeted building, before dropping bombs. Israel empowered pilots to abort important missions against legitimate military targets if too many civilians seem to be at risk. Sacrificing the element of surprise, Israel kept trying to act morally — yet kept being condemned internationally.
Meanwhile, cowering behind civilians, Hamas amassed arsenals, trained killers, and terrorized the Gaza corridor with rockets, riots, and attempted border breaches. In 2018, turning to eco-terrorism, they sent burning kites over the border. Their “Kitetifada” set 2,000 fires, incinerating agriculture in an area two-thirds the size of Geneva — where the UN kept skewering “immoral” democratic Israel, while ignoring totalitarian Hamas.
That year, I interviewed my cousin, Adele Raemer. For decades, she lived happily in a progressive paradise of the Gaza corridor kibbutzim, but was now watching as Israel’s disengagement made their lives hellish. “The IDF is the world’s most moral army,” she said. “They aim for the feet. They ‘knock on the roof,’ warning dwellers to flee an apartment-building-turned-terrorist-base before destroying it. If, God forbid, Hamas had breached the fence, hundreds would have been killed.”
Adele, who had hoped for coexistence with Palestinians, resented Israel’s impotence: “I don’t remember voting for Hamas, but they — not my government — run my life. They decide when I go into my safe room — or not. They decide when school is open for me to teach — or not.”
I warned then, that what the UN called “protests,” the kibbutzniks experienced as riots — attempts at mass invasion, with thousands trained to kidnap or kill Adele and her neighbors.
Unfortunately, Israel’s moral code shaped the “conceptzia,” the conception that decided Hamas was pragmatic, and its violence could be indulged and contained.
Fighting this new unsought war for survival, Israelis should learn from this unhappy history:
First, military morality entails a sliding scale. The greater the threat, the more evil the enemy, the more aggressive armies can be. After October 7, it would be immoral for Israel to tolerate Hamas’s continued presence next door.
Second, among the many anti-Israel libels distorting coverage, reporters must stop claiming that Gaza is so “densely populated ,” treating Palestinians like sitting ducks. How could anyone in Manhattan, with 72,918 residents per square mile, deem Gaza overcrowded, with 16,583 residents per square mile — even fewer considering the extra living space Hamas developed in underground tunnels by siphoning humanitarian aid from the UN and other dupes.
Third, end the charade. Although Hamas is cruel to its people — many of its people have been cruel to Israelis. Don’t blame every Palestinian. But every Palestinian who cheered this rampage, who shared snuff videos, who giddily distributed candy after any terrorist attacks — is neither innocent nor hostage to Hamas.
Finally, this sobering historical conclusion should not encourage Israelis to behave as despicably as their enemies do. Nothing justifies targeting civilians or Hamas’ October 7 brutality. Israel should never treat women and children and elders as Palestinians treated Israeli women and children and elders. Israel will never treat prisoners as Hamas is treating some kidnapped victims — no matter what negotiating advantage Israel might gain. And Israel will never specifically target civilians. It will do everything possible to minimize what the American army antiseptically calls “collateral damage.” Ultimately, Israelis must fight as moral a fight as they can, to satisfy their own consciences, to protect their souls, not to please the world.
The IDF’s main mission remains winning the war by dislodging Hamas. As cries of “disproportionate force,” and “cycle of violence,” distract others, Israel should remember Air Chief Marshal Arthur “Bomber” Harris, who headed Britain’s Royal Air Force Bomber Command during World War II. He proclaimed: “I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British grenadier.”
That was the Allies’ moral standard when saving the world from the Nazis. Israel’s Lamed-Hah Morality is too ingrained in Zionism to be that brutal. Still, all Israeli soldiers must remember that in this war — and forever more — their primary moral obligation is to do their job, meaning defend themselves, their comrades, and their homeland against a most amoral foe.
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A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org ) . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist.
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Prof Gil Troy · 20 Derech Bet Lechem · Apt 2 · Jerusalem 9310925 · Israel