Israel: IDF Operating a Moral War in Gaza?

Bloggers have been defending the IDF which has been highly criticized for operating an unjust war in Gaza. Many choose to highlight facts which are not necessarily presented in mainstream news on its fighting techniques – minimizing civilian casualties by using precise missile technology, calling homes and dropping warning leaflets, while focusing on the target: weakening Hamas, destroying their artillery and ability to fire missiles into Israeli territory. They attack Hamas maneuvers, using Gazan civilians as human shields/a>, purposefully operating from schools, mosques and adjacent to humanitarian relief operation buildings.

Yaron reacts by posting the following image, displaying an IDF soldier protecting a baby carriage, while a Hamas fighter uses the baby as a shield:

Alan Abbey from the Shalom Hartman Institute, writes:

The debate over Israel’s actions in Gaza is heating up worldwide. As I write this, the media, from the New York Times to Al-Jazeera are discussing whether the war is moral, defensive, and “proportional.” This article, ”Israelis United on War as Censure Rises Abroad” from the Times’ Ethan Bronner, “gets” the conflict from the Israeli perspective and pointedly quotes the Hartman Institute’s Most Senior Fellow, Moshe Halbertal, one of the authors of the IDF’s Code of Ethics:

Mr. Halbertal takes quite seriously the threat that Hamas poses to Israel’s existence, and that issue affects him in his judgments of the war.

“Rockets from Hamas could eventually reach all of Israel,” he said. “This is not a fantasy. It is a real problem. So there is a gap between actual images on the screen and the geopolitical situation.

“You have Al Jazeera standing at Shifa Hospital and the wounded are coming in,” he continued, referring to an Arab news outlet. “So you have this great Goliath crushing these poor people, and they are perceived as victims. But from the Israeli perspective, Hamas and Hezbollah are really the spearhead of a whole larger threat that is invisible. Israelis feel like the tiny David faced with an immense Muslim Goliath. The question is: who is the David here?”

Alan finishes by linking to an additional essay from the Hartman Institute on this topic.

Uri Heitner writes about the moral dilemma that arises with this war. He asks if operation “Cast Lead” is a “just” war and if there was an alternative:

The operation is against an enemy who does not have an ethical code when fighting. An enemy that targets civilians and children. An enemy whose actions over the past years focused on massive suicide bombings in Israel, and 8 years of firing missiles directly at civilian Israeli population. It is a country's highest moral duty to defend the lives of its citizens. Therefore, a war against an enemy targeting its’ citizens, is clearly justified. And if the cost of targeting this enemy also harms civilians, with deep sorrow and pain, this price is justified.

Even when a war is justified, it is necessary to ask if there is an alternative. In this case, we have tried everything. Beforehand, the fire was presented in Sderot because we were settled in Gaza. They were shooting at Sderot to kick us out of Gush Katif. As we pulled all our settlements and forces out of Gaza, their fire continued and grew stronger. Israel responded by using a policy of restraint, later with fire towards open fields, closing the border crossings, etc. Israel agreed to a “hudna” agreement which was breached after 46 minutes, and continued to respect it unilaterally. Israel agreed to a “tahdiya” agreement which was also respected unilaterally. Israel begged for a continuation of the ceasefire, even though it was not really quiet. But the Palestinians decided to stop and shoot tens of rockets on civilian populations in Israel.
No. There was no alternative.

When an enemy who targets our civilians, fires at us while hidden within civilian population, there is full justification for the war. And the price is painful – Palestinian civilians and children die, and our enemy is fully responsible for the blame.

So are there no rules when fighting terror? In my opinion, the moral rule should entail making best efforts to prevent civilian casualty, while carrying out the plan. Does the IDF act within this principle?

I have no doubt the IDF is a moral army, strict as much as it can with ethical fighting, even in the unique conditions of this war. With that, IDF must continue to always investigate its actions, check if it hurt civilians when it was possible to avoid, and learn how in such different war conditions, it can minimize harm within civilians.

Nate of Patterns R’ Us ponders over IDF tactic of calling suspected targets to warn them of a pending attack so they can seek refuge, while the building and military equipment is destroyed:

I am positive this adaptation in tactics is a response to the IDF lessons learned from the Lebanon War in 2006. They may have won the military engagement battle, but they lost the information battle, and hence the war. (You can argue they did not lose, but merely came to a draw. If that is the case, a draw against non-state actors from the US-funded Israeli state is a win for Hezbollah.) This time, against Hamas, Israel and the IDF are going to extra lengths to win the information war. First, they let Hamas break the cease-fire first and waited days to respond to the missiles fired. Second, they immediately released videos of Hamas militants being attacked by IDF on the internet, specifically Youtube. Thirdly, they are calling civilians to warn them of attack so as to reduce civilian casualties and cannon fodder for Hamas to use against them in the Information War.

Clearly, the new IDF tactic also serves as a psychological operation purpose beyond just reducing civilian casualties. That is the ideal PSYOP tactic; one which makes the military attack more effective, reduces civilian casualties, and serves as a deterrent for other civilians. I am sure the US military is watching and learning, and will incorporate elements of this tactic in their operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

…Overall I think this IDF military tactic is a good development for both fighting irregular wars and for conducting information operations as well as the moral element of reducing civilian casualties. But just like the introduction of PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) two decades ago, I wonder what the unintended consequences of such tactics will be in the long run.

Meryl Yourish writes about Mark Regev's response to a biased CNN anchor during an interview on IDF war tactics: (video of the interview is embedded below)

Watch this video, and see how many times the CNN anchor takes as truth the Palestinian claims that the IDF deliberately targeted the UN building that was hit earlier today.

For instance, the anchor says that Israel was using white phosphorous shells. Mark Regev denies this, points out that the ICRC has documented that Israel is not using white phosphorous illegally, and that Hamas fired a white phosphorous shell at Israel. The anchor then says, “But only Israel is firing white phosphorous shells” immediately after Regev just told him Hamas is firing them.


  • R Aharanov

    Israel was built on Palestinian Land. How do you justify that? They think they are fighting to get back their own soil. Expalin this before you complain about their flimsy rockets

  • Dan Devaney

    When hundreds of civilians are dying as a result of the “surgical” attacks of Israel there is no excuse. These are war crimes.

    It is just as likely that Israel may be attacking UN sites in the hope that it will lead to a U.N. withdrawal from Gaza allowing Israel to throw away the scalpel and use more draconian means unobserved.

    Israel is such an expert at war, I would not be surprised.

  • Me

    All those that claim israel have the right to defend herself, are complicit in the deaths of the innocent, and Hamas is a liberation force, thats their right…the wwhole conflict began when palestinian land was stolen after the creation of the jewish state…oh yeh, i here someone mention the bible, well the bible also says the jews are ‘perfidious’, so please don’t pick n mix, afteral the biblical erezt isreal as a godly society is not secular, then why is this jewish state with claim to ancient judea isn’t religious???? who is the massiah that supposedly brought the jews back to the holiland, isn’t that what the coming of the massiah was about??? you people!!!

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