Last week the IDF dropped a bomb on the house of Hamas leader Nizar Ghayan, killing him, his four wives, and some of his children. Reports have put the deaths of civilians, including women and children, anywhere from 10 to 20.
The IDF claims that before the attack it telephoned the house and warned Ghayan to let his family leave. Let's assume the claim was correct. Let's also assume that Ghayan, who was described as a liason between the military and political wings of Hamas, was a fundamentalist extremist bent on destroying Israel, and in favor of suicide bombings. Let's also assume that he had been involved in killing Israelis in the past.
Was dropping a bomb on Ghayan's house morally justifiable?
If you answered yes, change the picture a bit. Substitute Gilad Shalit and ten Israeli hostages, including women and children from Sderot and Ofakim, for the family of Ghayan.
Would dropping a bomb on the house be the moral thing to do? Would you countenance the collateral damage of killing innocent Israelis, included abducted soldier Shalit, in order to get Ghayan?
If you answer no, then you are an immoral person. Because the only difference in the examples is the ethnicity of the civilians; hence, you basically are saying that the Arabs surrounding Ghayan are not human, or not as human as the Israelis, and hence have a lesser right to live than their Israeli counterparts.
If you answer yes, you are also an immoral person, because the deliberate killing of innocent civilians can only be justified – if at all – in a situation where there deaths may prevent a larger and imminent catastrophe. Thus it is arguably moral to shoot down a civilian airliner that is about to crash into the Empire State Building, or better, that could detonate a large nuclear explosion. At least it is arguable. But that is not at all the case of Nizar Ghayan, an ideologue and not a ticking-bomb. Killing him was to "re-establish deterrence".
The truth is that Israel finds it easy to justify the so-called collateral damage in Gaza for the same reason that America found it easy to justify the collateral damage in Iraq. Because most Israelis are bigots when it comes to the Arabs, whether they are Hamas terrorists or Israeli citizens. They are gnats, tics, or perhaps, some quasi-humans, who one doesn't really care about. Or as the wife of a rabbi told me, "They are animals, Jerry, all of them."
That's one of the reasons why you don't find most Israelis – including liberal Israelis – losing much sleep over the rivers of blood in Gaza.
Thank God, however, there are other Israelis. Like the thousands out there in Tel Aviv last night, protesting the carnage.