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Tuesday, January 13, 2009


 

"We don't target civilians" and the story of Sodom


Israel repeatedly claims they don't "target" civilians; even Al Jazeera English frequently features that absurd subhead on-screen. Why absurd? Well, to begin with, there are the cases like the Zeitoun massacre where even Israeli spokesperson Marc Regev was unable to offer even the standard "there was rockets being shot from the neighborhood" or "there were weapons stored in the basement" excuses and was reduced to claiming today on Al Jazeera that they had "no information" about the event, this more than a week after the well-publicized massacre in which Israeli troops had herded 100 members of one extended family into a house and then subsequently shelled that house.

But consider even the cases like the U.N. school bombing where the Israelis first claimed (falsely) that rockets were fired "from the school" and later claimed (possibly true) that they were fired "from near the school." But let's assume for the moment their first false claim was true and well-established - Hamas militants had fired a rocket from the middle of the school. Who was the target of the return tank fire which killed 40 people? Was it the one or two militants? Clearly not. The only way you could "target" them was with a sharpshooter, or perhaps with a helicopter gunship hovering overhead. You certainly can't do it with tank fire. In this case, the Israelis hadn't even seen the people doing the firing, only the rocket and its presumed origin. What they were targeting, then, was the school. But the school was filled with several hundred refugees, a fact clearly known to the Israelis. What they were "targeting", then, was one or two militants they hoped were still where they had been (or where they claim they had been) when they fired the rocket, plus several hundred civilians. Were they targeting exclusively civilians? No. Were they targeting civilians? Without question, yes.

Now on to the Bible story. Clearly, the Israelis thought that it was permissible to kill dozens of civilians if they might also kill one or two "bad guys." But what happened in Sodom? Here's Wikipedia's summary:

In Genesis 18, God informs Abraham that he plans to destroy the city of Sodom because of its wickedness. Abraham pleads with God not to destroy Sodom, and God agrees that he would not destroy the city if there were 50 righteous people in it, then 45, then 30, then 20, or even ten righteous people. The Lord's two angels only found one righteous person living in Sodom, Abraham's nephew Lot. Consequently, God destroyed the city.
So what do we, or rather what do Jews who take the Old Testament as the word of God, learn from this story? God thinks it is impermissible to kill thousands of people if it means killing as few as ten good people. But at the U.N. school, the odds were precisely the opposite. The Israelis, the people of the "Jewish State", defend the murder of dozens of innocent people as justified by the death of two "bad people." Not exactly what God had in mind. Or so I gather.

I should note, in fairness to Israel, that U.S. bombing policies in Iraq and Afghanistan follow precisely the same logic. The only difference is that the U.S. doesn't claim to be a religious state in which the word of God plays a special role. Israel, however, does.


Why stop here? There's more...

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