Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Tishrei 5765 - October 13, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Immorality of Palestinian Combatants and Noncombatants

After 11 days of often intense fighting in northern Gaza between Israeli military forces and Palestinian militants, an Israeli tank came under heavy fire one night at about 1 a.m. Israeli forces responded by shooting back at the apparent sources of the fire. Certainly those whose lives were at stake were fully alert, but visibility is certainly not the best at that time.

One of the tank shells came crashing into the living room of the Filfil family home (a five story building) where, according to a report by New York Times reporter Greg Myre, the 11 members of the family were gathered "in an effort to stay safe." No one was killed, but the entire family was wounded and taken to various hospitals.

The Filfil family home is located on the front line, where the Israeli armor is arrayed opposite Palestinian militants and terrorists. Israeli forces are there in strength. It is clearly a serious military effort, involving over 200 fighting vehicles. The Filfils could easily move away from the danger. Gaza City is only a few miles away, and there is no fighting there. If their goal were to "stay safe" they could have easily taken much more effective steps.

Furthermore, the reporter asked them where they will go "if Israeli tanks are still parked outside" their home when they are released from the hospital. "I would go straight home, and take my kids," said Mrs Filfil.

One of the major humane achievements of modern warfare is making a distinction between combatants and noncombatants. Combatants are legitimate targets; noncombatants are not.

This distinction is behind much of the structure and organization of modern armies, as agreed in The Hague Convention of 1907 and Geneva Conventions in 1948 and 1949. The combatants should be clearly distinguishable from noncombatants. That is why soldiers all wear uniforms, and that is why they live on army bases that are set off from residential areas and usually located far away from noncombatant areas. Military people are supposed to be clearly discernible, as well as military vehicles and military buildings. They are the objects of war, the legitimate targets of attack. All those who are not combatants are not legitimate targets.

The Palestinians do not observe these humane rules of war -- neither on their side nor on the other side. They target all Israelis, of all ages and of all occupations. They have fired more than 450 military rockets, most launched from the north of Gaza where Israeli forces discussed above are currently active to try to stop the attacks. They can hardly be aimed, but even so the general area towards which they are launched, the Israeli town of Sderot, has no value as a military target. Neither of course do the restaurants and hotels that Palestinian terrorists target and then proudly take "responsibility" for any murderous success.

On their side as well, their fighters try to stay among as many noncombatants as they can manage, with the apparent acquiescence of the noncombatants. Crowds of civilians often gather opposite Israeli military vehicles in Gaza, and then fighters come up behind them and shoot from among the crowds. Spokesmen often lie and claim that fighters were just innocent bystanders. And even real bystanders like the Filfil family seem far from innocent in their zeal to hang around the war zones where they are likely to get hurt.

All this is against the official international rules of combat and in flagrant violation of all notions of human decency. To target young children and to offer your own young children as targets by shooting from among them show a low regard for human life on the part of the Palestinians -- truly a contempt for all human life including their own.

Properly, the Israeli army takes great pains to target only fighters. In the past it suffered great losses because of its insistence on conducting the combat according to the rules of international law and human decency. This time, with siyata deShmaya, it has so far been spared significant losses despite the best efforts of the Palestinian fighters.

Chas vesholom that we should be even tempted to respond in kind to such despicable tactics. Fighting the extreme immorality of the Palestinian fighters can only be effective if it is based on extreme morality.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.