Friday, August 01, 2014

Genocide is NEVER permissible: A response to Yochanan Gordon

Yochanan Gordon, a blogger for the Times of Israel, published a disgusting blogpost earlier today, entitled, "When Genocide is Permissible." The article has been taken down by the editors of the Times of Israel, but Gordon also posted it to his Facebook page and to the website of the Five Towns Jewish Times, and as of now, it's still up on both sites. Update: it's now been taken down by both sites.

It's also been republished in various other venues, and I have screenshots of it. In the article, Gordon argues that "We are at war with an enemy whose charter calls for the annihilation of our people. Nothing, then, can be considered disproportionate when we are fighting for our very right to live." He thinks that the US and the UN have tied Israel's hands in properly prosecuting the war. He then writes:
Hamas has stated forthrightly that it idealizes death as much as Israel celebrates life. What other way then is there to deal with an enemy of this nature other than obliterate them completely? News anchors such as those from CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera have not missed an opportunity to point out the majority of innocent civilians who have lost their lives as a result of this war.
But anyone who lives with rocket launchers installed or terror tunnels burrowed in or around the vicinity of their home cannot be considered an innocent civilian. If you’ll counter, that Hamas has been seen abusing civilians who have attempted to leave their homes in response to Israeli warnings to leave – well then, your beginning to come to terms with the nature of this enemy which should automatically cause the rules of standard warfare to be suspended.
This part of the argument is the first step to crimes against humanity. Of course the civilians living around the rocket launchers or tunnels are innocent, unless they themselves launch the rockets or build and maintain the tunnels. The women, children, and men not of fighting age in Gaza by definition are not responsible for the rocket launchers or tunnels, as it is adult men who do these things. And by no means all adult men - no one is claiming that all the adult men of Gaza are part of the Hamas fighting force. Anyone who is a civilian is not guilty and should not be intentionally attacked. This is a basic foundation of the contemporary laws of how war should be conducted. It doesn't matter that Hamas won an election - that doesn't make the innocent civilians of Gaza any less innocent.

This is the same principle that declares that it is a war crime for Hamas to fire missiles at Israeli kibbutzim, moshavim, towns, and cities - indiscriminate fire aimed at civilians is a war crime, as the UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay just said a day or two ago. Israeli civilians voted in the current government - but that does not mean that they should be treated as combatants whom it is legitimate to attack.
Everyone agrees that Israel has the right to defend itself as well as the right to exercise that right.

Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has declared it, Obama and Kerry have clearly stated that no one could be expected to sit idle as thousands of rockets rain down on the heads of its citizens, placing them in clear and present danger. It seems then that the only point of contention is regarding the measure of punishment meted out in this situation.

I will conclude with a question for all the humanitarians out there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated at the outset of this incursion that his objective is to restore a sustainable quiet for the citizens of Israel. We have already established that it is the responsibility of every government to ensure the safety and security of its people.
While it is correct that it is a government responsibility to ensure the safety of the people living under its rule, not all means are permissible. Massacring civilians is not permissible. Murdering soldiers who have already surrendered themselves is not permissible. Again, this is not just my opinion - it is part of the laws of war.
If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?
Of course not. Genocide is never permissible. Since the end of the Second World War the international community has agreed that genocide is the ultimate crime.

We - the Jews - experienced genocide in our own flesh. How can a fellow Jew advocate the genocide of the people of Gaza, knowing what we suffered at the hands of the Nazis?

Did Yochanan Gordon learn nothing through his study of Torah? His Facebook page says that he studied at Mesivta Chaim Shlomo. Did he learn nothing there about the mitzvah: "You shall not murder"?

He is one of the sales managers at the Five Towns Jewish Times, in addition to writing opinion pieces for them. His father founded the newspaper, as he writes in his bio for the Times of Israel. Will the newspaper allow his column to remain on their website?

1 comment:

  1. kol hakavod. A shame that such a piece had to be responded to in the first place