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Security vs. Morality in Israel
I watched recently several times a documentary of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) war against Hezbollah. It is in Hebrew and was easy for me to feels the emotions and grasp the thinking of those brave Israelis.
I have a mixed feeling about the way the IAF fought that war, according to this documentary, and I would like to hear your own opinion of the situation.
The documentary is called Winning Twice. The pilots explained that the IAF won the war twice since every time a large rocket was launched against a far target, such as Haifa and Hedera, within a short time the IAF destroyed the Hezbollah launchers. But the critical fact, they say, is that they used extreme restraints: the least possible weapons out of their huge arsenal to minimize almost all possible Lebanese civilian casualties.
It seems a marvelous approach, who wants to kill innocent people, until you start thinking about the implications. Let us look at three of the cases the IAF pilots were very proud of:
Case one: Around five PM on the first day of the war an Israeli pilot was ordered to destroy the bridge that connects much of Lebanon to Syria. When he saw the target he told mission control that he does not want to attack the bride then since it was full of civilian traffic. He was allowed to go back to base and attack around midnight when the pilot felt that is would cause no civilian casualties.
Can you fault him? Can you fault his mission control? It seems a humane solution to a war situation.
Now, I suggest we look at it from a broader sense. The Syrians, the suppliers of Hezbollah, would have done every thing they could to send support and supply to Hezbollah in the south via this very bridge. The distances are very short there, it stands to reason that during the many hours between five PM and midnight some assistance to Hezbollah passed this very bridge.
Also, this added support could have helped Hezbollah to kill more Israeli civilians and soldiers.
How do you decide if this delay in bombing was justified or not?
Case two: A pilot is shown locating a Hezbollah missile launcher on a street at night. He is about to fire his rockets to destroy the vehicle, then another pilot tells him: stop, there are three children nearby. The attacking pilot says (all on film) message received will not attack Hezbollah launcher.
Moral conduct no doubt, he chose to save the lives of three innocent Lebanese children. The IAF pilots discussing the case felt very proud of their conduct.
This Hezbollah missile launcher undauntedly was used later to send more missile into Israel, these Hezbollah missiles in all probability caused more damage and possibly killed some Israeli civilians.
What do you think?
Case three: While the documentary was filming a Shabat Friday night dinner on the base a phone call told the commander that a Hezbollah rocket was just launched towards Hedera, a fairly large city half way between Haifa and Tel Aviv. Several IAF aircrafts were ready to fly at a moment notice since the pilots were sitting in them ready for immediate attack. They found the target and destroyed it in less then an hour after missile launch. The pilots were very excited and happy when interviewed a brief time later.
Now, here is the key issue: Destroying the Hezbollah command center, the very people who gave the order to launch this and many other missiles. It was located in a big apartment building in a Lebanese city, the apartment number and its exact location on an elevated floor was told to the IAF. The following discussion [approximately] took place: We have three choices to destroy the command post:
1. Drop a five hundred pound bomb on the apartment building and destroy it all with hundred of civilian casualties. No danger to IAF and a sure kill.
2. Send a helicopter to direct a small missile into that apartment. Easily done, but, the rocket may also destroy a number of other apartments and still cause maybe some civilian deaths.
3. Send a special commando unit by helicopters to the building, climb the stairs, locate the apartment, attack and kill only the Hezbollah team in the apartment.
The Israeli military selected the last alternative-commando; one Israeli soldier died one injured severely.
The IAF pilots and commander were very proud: we took the high moral ground. We went to extreme since we do not want to kill innocent people. This is our heritage; this is the moral way to fight a war. Also we did not want to have Hezbollah propaganda against Israel blaming us for civilian casualties.
What do you think?
Next time the Lebanese civilians will not throw the Hezbollah team out of their apartment building. Why should they?
What was the thinking and feeling of the family and friends of the killed Israeli soldier and his injured friend?
I am proud on one hand by the morality the Israeli are showing, but I also believe it is counterproductive. In fact- destructive and will cause more damage both to Israel and the enemy also. Many Arabs believe that eventually Israel will be destroyed and will continue to fight to that end. Only when the Arabs have to pay a real price and realize it is not good for the Arabs themselves to continue this fight, I believe, they may settle down to live their own lives in peace.
Let me inject here information related to this story: Palestinians from Gaza were continuing to shell Israel with Kassam rockets from locations very close to Palestinian civilians. Israel responded by shelling the Kassam launch site. After a misguided Israeli shell killed a Palestinian family nearby a few weeks ago an outrage was expressed globally on the “mass murders” by Israel. Israel apologized profusely. However, a few days later Arab terrorists started to prepare to fire their Kassam rockets again near Palestinian civilians housing. A group of Arab civilians attacked the terrorists with guns and knives and forced them to go away- the civilians explained that they don’t want to be killed by Israeli shells like the other Palestinian family just a few days earlier.
Moral of the matter: the Palestinian themselves would opposed Kassam attacks near civilian areas if they feared for their own lives. And this is a serious problem for Israel- terrorists among civilians.
I wonder, is that the way to fight a war when your concern about the enemy civilians is larger than your concern about your own people? I admit that the security of my children is more important to me than that of someone who wants to destroy us.
I suggest that until the Arabs know full well, from actual experience, that Israel will use unpredictable power to counter attack, the terrorists will continue their murderous, unabated attacks against Israeli civilians. Any one who understands Arab mentality knows that fear is a necessary tool in the Middle East.
Prime minister Olmert said when he was visiting Russia recently: "The Iranians need to be afraid that something will happen that they do not want to happen to them,” The same way, I believe, Arabs in general, and Arab terrorists in particular, be it Hamas, Hezbollah or any other group, should be afraid from Israeli reactions. Those reactions, especially to rocket attacks from Gaza and Lebanon, were too subdued, too refined for too long, in my opinion.
The Arabs are not afraid of Israel. They should be.
Any belief that the Arabs will be eager for real peace with Israel if Israel will just be nice to them, accept their ever-increasing demands, is wishful thinking and counter to long demonstrated facts.
We must grasp that most Palestinians and many Arabs wish and work for the full destruction of Israel. Nothing less! The Nazis and Japan did not crumble in WWII because we were right or by our kindness and civility but the strength of our military might. I fail to understand why some people still believe that the laws of war have somehow changed when they apply to Israel.
Note: As the war continues with unrelenting Hezbollah attacks on Israeli civilians, the IAF pilots began to lose their patience, got angrier and angrier and were asking their commander how long do they have to wait before they unleash a real, powerful response on Lebanon. But they did not. It was not allowed.
I am eager to hear your own views of this difficult dilemma for Israel.
The IAF documentary- Hebrew only: