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Israel and the Just War Doctrine

I write today a response to Jeff Martin’s criticism of Israel with respect to the Catholic just war doctrine. I do think he’s in error, because he gives the facts a cursory glance and omits key details, but that only leads to my main criticism: I think he shows a bias against the Israeli side of the war.

Firstly though, I address the Catholic Church’s just war doctrine. Now let me start off by saying I have no ties with the Catholic Church, nor do I subscribe to its teachings, so for me this is purely an academic exercise. But to me it is clear that the “conditions for legitimate defense” are met by Israel in this case. Point by point:

  • “The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain.” It is.

    According to Wikipedia, hardly a source biased in favor of Israel, five rockets were fired at Israeli civilians in March 2007 and 103 more in May, marking the true beginning of the Nazi V2-style terror campaign against Israeli civilians. The rockets continued to fall since that point, through 2009. There was a lull though, when September saw 3 rockets, and October one rocket barrage only. However last month, in December 2008, the pace grew worse. In December there were (“at least” says Wikipedia) 50 rockets were fired before a six-month cease fire was even ended, and then after that period actually expired, and then after that at least 270 more rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza.

    When an enemy fires hundreds and hundreds of lethal rockets at you, that is a grave threat to the populace. Nobody doubts that the rockets were fired, as Hamas even claims responsibility for some of the attacks, so the threat is certain. Further, the attacks have come over a nearly two year period, with no signs of an end (as during the previous cease fire hundreds over 200 rockets were fired in total), so the threat is certainly lasting.

  • “All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective.” They have.

    Sealing off Gaza from Israel did not protect Israeli citizens when rockets and mortars began. Giving Hamas its own territory to control, and allowing it to win an election, did not stop the attacks. Making a diplomatic agreement with Hamas, in the form of a cease fire, did not stop the attacks. No matter what Israel does, the attacks continue.

    This is not surprising, given that Hamas refuses to recognize that Israelis have a right to live in Israel. This is an irreconcilable difference that Hamas refuses to leave unresolved. They press the issue and Israel cannot stop that with words.

  • “There must be serious prospects of success.” I submit that the only way Israel could be stopped from winning this conflict, given their likely nuclear weapons capacity, is that the humanity and compassion of the IDF and Israeli leaders would prevent them from killing the terrorists at any civilian cost. This is, of course, a sharp contrast with the Hamas leadership, which shows no care when it kills Jewish civilians. Israel can win.

  • “The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.” I don’t think you can get much worse than a continuous rain of rockets on civilians without venturing into the realm of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons, which Israel shows no signs of using in this conflict.

    This isn’t like the hypothetical situation of the US and Canada shooting each other’s fishermen in response to a fishing resource dispute, or Japan nuking Moscow over the Kurile Islands/Northern Territories. No, Israel is responding with force to force already been used. This is no hypothetical threat or some non-military evil that is being responded to with military force.

The facts are not in dispute. The only problem is though, is that Maximos (as Jeff Martin long posted as at RedState) fails to analyze the entirety of the facts. No, he doesn’t even talk about the length and intensity of Hamas’s attacks on Israel, merely saying that he “could go either way” on whether the threat Hamas already has and continues to pose against Israel is enough to meet the standard.

This takes me to my second point: bias. I submit that Maximos comes to the conclusion he does, because he has a subtle bias against Israeli’s side of the war. He appears to have a blind spot to anything Hamas does. The clearest example of this is the fact that the article he wrote even exists. That is: he only bothers to write about this dispute when Israel does something he doesn’t like.

He completely ignores Hamas when they spend nearly two years attacking Israel. They never got called out for disobeying the Just War Doctrine. I just checked: of all the articles tagged Just War at What’s Wrong with the World, the only one that pops up is his criticism of Israel. A check of other tags on the post does find a criticism of Hamas and ‘Palestine’, but that comes from Paul Cella, not Jeff Martin.

Why does he never notice Hamas attacking Israel, but chimes in to criticize when Israel attacks Hamas? I don’t know. Maybe Maximos is influenced by a mainstream press corps that has the same bias. Given that his article uses mainstream press outlets to make his case, that seems likely.

It’s almost as though while I treat the just war doctrine as an academic exercise, he’s treating the attacks Israeli’s suffered as an academic exercise. He’s detached, and I believe he might be too detached to come to the correct conclusions. Any analysis of Israel’s actions, whether from a Catholic or any other perspective, must include a full view of the entire picture. Omitting the story of what Hamas has done, and has shown it will do, of course will show Israel in the wrong, but hidden biases and blind spots do tend to lead a person to the wrong conclusions.

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