I spent my Shabbat troubled by the fact that I hadn't heard people speak up against Israel's intentions to destroy the house of the Palestinian tractor-driver from last week. Oh, sure, the usual suspects on the left (guilty as charged) will raise their voices sooner or later, but I wanted people who were a bit more mainstream than the human-rights advocates to weigh in. And I wanted the arguments to be moral ones.
My wife told me that the voices would emerge, that people were waiting a bit for the lynch mood to die down. She is usually right, so let's hope so.
In the meantime, here are some voices that qualify for the "Sane People in Sodom" award, not the "Righteous People in Sodom" award. Their arguments are not moral ones, but if they can save the family's house from the mob, I will give them two cheers.
On Friday Haaretz had a "carefully balanced" editorial whose bottom line was: "Politicians, stop acting like a mob." You can read it here. The crumbs the editorial threw to the mob was painful, such as criticizing the perpetrators' family for suggesting that the whole thing was an accident, as if any of that is relevant. The editorial is not what I would have written, but If it helps save the house…
Then there was a well-meaning piece by Haggai Efrati in NRG Judaism (in Hebrew here). Efrati is a member of an organization, if it still exists, called "Realistic Religious Zionism," which is moderate on the issue of the territories and whose members have more moral qualms than your average Israeli religious Jew. The article blasts rabbis who rush to declare in the name of Jewish law that it is a mitzvah to destroy the houses of the famlies of perpetrators, or wipe out the villages, etc. In my opinion, the article illustrates well the confusion of "Realistic Religious Zionism." Instead of attacking the rabbis as moral monsters, they basically attack them for speaking out on matters over which they have no special expertise. That is an argument that resonates well with the modern orthodox community, which loves to bash its rabbis when they interfere with their autonomy, and I am sympathetic to it. Not what I would have written, but if it helps save the house….
I certainly don't count among the righteous people folks like Amnon Straschnov, retired chief military judge advocate who argues in today's Haaretz that legally Israel has the right to tear down homes, only that practically it is a bad idea. See here. When he writes,
House demolition, both as a punitive gesture aimed at the perpetrators of acts of terror, as well as for military needs and deterrence, are based on extremely firm legal foundations, such as regulation (1)119 of the defense regulations in times of emergency, 1945, and the Fourth Geneva Convention
that's the sort of bullshit argument that one expects of lawyer, a fortiori military lawyers. Note the qualifier "extremely" in the phrase "extremely firm legal foundations," (mistranslated in the English version as "fairly") Anybody familiar with the Fourth Geneva Convention knows that this is wrong. Wikipedia says it best:
The use of house demolition under international law is today governed by the Fourth Geneva Convention, enacted in 1949, which protects non-combatants in occupied territories. Article 53 provides that "Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons ... is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations."
Israeli use of house demolitions has been particularly controversial. However, Israel, which is a party to the Fourth Geneva Convention, asserts that the terms of the Convention are not applicable to the Palestinian territories on the grounds that the territories do not constitute a state which is a party to the Fourth Geneva Convention. This position is rejected by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, which notes that "it is a basic principle of human rights law that international human rights treaties are applicable in all areas in which states parties exercise effective control, regardless of whether or not they exercise sovereignty in that area."
So much for the "extremely firm legal foundations" that may allow Strachnov to sleep at night and to write an article to salve his guilty conscience. It's certainly not what I would have written.
But if it helps save the house….