Israel has acted with morality in Hamas war
5 December 2023, The Australian, by Greg Sheridan
Israel has conducted itself lawfully, in accordance with the law and morality of war. The only immediate path to some just resolution of the tragedy unfolding in Gaza is for the Hamas leadership to return all hostages to Israel, resign leadership of Gaza and hand over the perpetrators and plotters of the October 7 atrocities to stand trial for crimes against humanity.
Any human being feels compassion for the suffering of innocent people in Gaza. The moral responsibility for this lies 100 per cent with Hamas, which is a proscribed terrorist organisation, but also a kind of death cult, a committed and longstanding leader of anti-Semitic hatred and a totalitarian ruler of its own people.
Therefore, those who care about Palestinians in Gaza should urge those with moral responsibility for the suffering, and the power to end it, to do so.
If it released the hostages and surrendered its own murderers, Israelis would stop military action immediately and the reconstruction of Gaza would begin straight away. But Hamas wants Palestinians to suffer as part of its psychological and international political campaign against Israel.
Like everything in the Middle East, the situation is immensely complex. But some clear principles apply. Consider three questions.
Has Israel behaved morally? What does Israel do next? What happens after the Israeli military operation ends? The pro-Israel lawyers who sent a letter to the Albanese government, as reported in The Australian, make a strong case that Israel has acted within international law. Let’s look at morality more broadly. Every great tradition of human thinking has grappled with how to wage war morally. Very few people are pacifists; it’s not a mainstream position in Christianity. Even most claiming to be pacifists want someone to protect them.
In Western societies, the most influential thinking has been Christian just war theory. This not only holds that waging war is sometimes justified but is sometimes a moral duty.
The Catholic Compendium of Social Teaching, for example, states: “Leaders of the state that has been attacked have the right and the duty to organise a defence …” Also: “The right to use force for purposes of legitimate defence is associated with the duty to protect and help innocent victims …” And on soldiers: “Those who defend the security and freedom of a country in such a spirit (at the service of peace) make an authentic contribution to peace.”
So there is not just a right but a moral duty in some circumstances to take military action.
The Catholic Catechism crisply summarises such circumstances.
The damage inflicted by the aggressor must be “lasting, grave and certain”. War must be a last resort, all other avenues having been exhausted. The possibility of success must be realistic. The use of force must not create harm “graver than the evil to be eliminated”.
It’s forbidden to target civilians intentionally. And the normal laws of morality apply, even in warfare.
Those last two sentences embody proportionality and discrimination.
We don’t know how many people in Gaza have died.
It’s certainly fewer than Hamas claims. But it’s a larger number than the 1200 people Hamas slaughtered in Israel on October 7 in grotesque, savage, sadistic and frequently sexualised atrocities.
Does that mean Israel has acted disproportionately? The answer is no. The evil that the aggressor, Hamas, threatens in this case is much more even than the obscene murder of 1200 innocents and the kidnapping of 250 hostages.
If Hamas stays in power it will commit such atrocities again.
How do we know this? Because its leaders have said so repeatedly and because this is consistent with everything it has done in the past.
Not only that, every analyst recognises the highly realistic danger that Israel could be attacked by groups similar to Hamas on its other borders: Hezbollah in the north; Shi’ite militias in Iraq and Syria; the Houthis in Yemen. All these groups are directed and funded by Iran, whose leaders have repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel off the map. We also know Israel, in its short modern history, has on several occasions been directly attacked by several of its neighbours at once, seeking its annihilation.
At the same time, something like 250,000 Israelis have been displaced from southern and northern border towns. If these towns can’t be repopulated, Israel’s strategic vulnerability will grow, very dangerously. Therefore, it is not Israeli hysteria, farright politics, or an over-reaction that the terrorists desire, for Israel to consider that it must destroy Hamas’s ability to launch such attacks in the future. That means in effect destroying Hamas as an organisation.
So it’s the proximate, realistic, existential threat to Israel’s very existence that the question of proportionality has to be applied against.
Hamas seeks to make Israel’s ethical dilemmas, and therefore the political damage it sustains, as acute as possible, by basing itself in the middle of civilian concentrations, locating its tunnel networks beneath hospitals and all the rest.
Israel is not exempt from ethical and moral considerations as a result of all this, but the Israeli military conducts itself as well as any Western military would in similar circumstances.
What will Israel do next? Probably, it will keep going with its military campaign in southern Gaza. A permanent ceasefire now would leave Hamas damaged but still in control of Gaza.
That would mean Hamas had won a great victory, inflicting unspeakable atrocities on Israeli civilians, with a special determination to humiliate and degrade Israeli women, and stayed in place.
Because Hamas’s motivation is ideological and quasi-religious, the suffering of the Gazan people would be simply part of Hamas’s glory. Calls for a permanent ceasefire, as Foreign Minister Penny Wong has gone very close to, are thus disingenuous at best.
There are, operationally, only four possibilities now: military victory for Israel, military victory for Hamas, endless lower-level war, or Hamas surrenders. None of the first three is pretty.
Finally, assuming Israel is successful in eliminating Hamas as an organisation, who runs Gaza in the future? In the past, Israel has made realistic offers for a Palestinian state but this would mean a final end to all Palestinian claims against Israel and an enforceable guarantee that such a state would not launch attacks on Israel. Any Palestinian leader who accepted such a deal would certainly be assassinated. No such deal is possible now or soon.
But someone must run Gaza.
There’s a lot of wishful thinking that Arab nations, Egypt, Jordan etc, might provide security.
That’s unrealistic. Their forces couldn’t take action against Palestinian terrorists.
Some local authority must run daily government, but Israel exercise the right, as in the West Bank, to mount security operations when necessary. The Palestinian Authority is falsely called moderate. It’s almost as anti-Semitic as Hamas, denying historic Jewish connection with Israel, frequently denying the Holocaust.
It grotesquely claimed youngsters Hamas slaughtered at the October 7 music festival were killed by Israelis.
Nonetheless, a corrupt PA, effectively dependent on Israel, may be the least worst option.
There is no solution. But there may be ways of managing with much less violence, and greater life amenity for Palestinians.Article link: https://todayspaper.theaustralian.com.au/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=a3bbcfc7-5915-4a06-a347-a2ab8caba9c2
Article source: The Australian | Greg Sheridan | 5.12.23