All Writings
March 7, 2024

Netanyahu Is Rendering Israel Morally Bankrupt

This article is a selection from my upcoming book, A Historic Point of Departure: Bringing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a close and creating a new regional geopolitical order, set to be published in April 2024.

Israel must uphold its moral values and make every effort to spare the lives of innocent Palestinians as it pursues Hamas’ destruction

The unfathomable massacre of Israeli Jews by Hamas and its insatiable thirst for Jewish blood has rightfully evoked the most virulent condemnation from many corners of the world, including many Arab states. The call for revenge and retribution by many Israelis was an instinctive human reaction that can be justified in a moment of incomparable rage and devastation. In this case, the Israelis’ reaction transcended Hamas’ massacre because it brought to life memories from the Holocaust that the Jews foresworn to never let happen again. But it happened, though on a much smaller scale; the savagery and the cold-bloodedness that characterized Hamas’ attack was reminiscent of the Holocaust, which is etched in the mind and soul of the Jews.

Israel’s decision to crush Hamas as a political movement, destroy its infrastructure, and prevent it from reconstituting itself is necessary, and it should relentlessly be pursued with vigor. Under no circumstances and regardless of what the Jews have experienced, however, can the Israeli military justify any acts of revenge against innocent Palestinian men, women, and children who have nothing to do with Hamas’ evil act.

None of the dead or injured Palestinian women and children were asked by Hamas’ leaders whether they should go and massacre innocent Israelis at an unprecedented scale. Although Hamas knew full well the unimaginable price these ordinary Palestinians would end up paying, Hamas was more than willing let them die by the tens of thousands as the sacrificial lamb on the altar of the most vicious beasts that roam the earth.

After more than six months of fighting that inflicted horrific death and destruction on Gaza and claimed the lives of more than 30,000, two-thirds of them women and children, while laying half of Gaza in utter ruin, one must ask the question: was there a strong element of revenge that contributed to this colossal human disaster? Tragically, the answer is YES. The role of the victim is deeply ingrained in the Jewish psyche, and the leap from being victim to victimizer is subconscious; acting on it is spontaneous. That said, the extent and the scope of the Israeli reaction calls into question whether or not Israeli soldiers have been engaged in acts of revenge beyond their legitimate right to self-defense while pursuing Hamas’ operatives.

When we see in real-time the destruction of one neighborhood after another, horrendously transcending any proportionality of collateral damage which is often unavoidable in a state of war, we see revenge and retribution.

When soldiers boast of serving in the most moral military force in the world but laugh and dance following the explosion and leveling of a residential building to the ground, killing dozens of civilians among one or two suspected Hamas fighters, it is not an act of self-defense, it is an act of vengeance that defies the logic of what’s moral.

When the entire population of Gaza is facing “catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity” and hundreds of children are dying from curable illnesses because they could not receive the medical treatment and the medicine they need, it is an unforgivable crime the whole world is watching in real-time with revulsion and disdain.

When a majority of the Palestinians are forced to evacuate their homes with women and children, and the sick are forced to walk for miles with little or no rations, not knowing where they will sleep and where the next meal will come from, it is cruel and devoid of any moral culpability.

When an entire family is buried alive under the rubble of their building that collapsed over their heads, and they die a slow death before the rescuers and medical teams can save anyone, it is inhuman and severely damages the high moral ground the Israeli army has proudly claimed.

More than 25,000 women and children have been killed in Gaza, including 258 babies who never had the chance to celebrate their first birthday. Infants and toddlers are children just beginning to discover the world. Can the barbaric and utterly condemnable attack by Hamas on October 7 justify or explain the horrific killing of innocents on this scale? How can any people who claim to cherish life, steal it away from so many completely innocent children, who had their entire lives ahead of them? This not collateral damage, as some Israeli cynics try to explain it. This is revenge – and the cycle of revenge will continue indefinitely.

Shortly after October 7, I recall an interview with an Israeli soldier who said outright that he ‘needs his revenge.’ Does not that soldier, and everyone who thinks like him, realize that this is precisely how Hamas was operating on October 7? Is it not obvious that revenge, by its very nature, has no end? It is a mechanical and thoughtless response to injury that repeats itself until one party has the moral strength and courage to say enough is enough: we will not go on slaughtering each other wholesale, exacting retribution on individuals who have committed no wrong, whose deaths are meant only to maximize the suffering of those who loved and cherished them.

Does not every Israeli mother realize that every Palestinian mother cares for their children with the same boundless love that they have for their own? Does Israel truly believe that a Palestinian infant has less value than an Israeli babe-in-arms? Can anyone truthfully believe that the moral response to having one’s innocent loved ones killed is to kill more innocents? And on what scale? How many dead Palestinian children will it take to satiate the desire for revenge? There is no end, because no matter how many Palestinian children Israel kills, it will not bring back to life a single one of those Israeli younglings that were killed on October 7.

Israel is not honoring its dead by this slaughter and devastation, but just the opposite. It is disgracing the dead and themselves. Israel appears bent on demonstrating before the whole world that it has lost all sense of moral compass, proportionality, pity, and compassion. The Jewish people are better than this: it is they who taught us that to save one human life is to save the world. The deliberate shedding of innocent blood is and will always be an atrocious act of evil that can never be morally justified. And the time has come for Israel to bring an end to this retribution before it loses its soul and whatever moral sympathy the world had for the wrong it suffered over six months ago.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is justifying this collective punishment by dehumanizing the Palestinians, deeming them unworthy of humane treatment. He is waging a merciless campaign against innocent Palestinians who had nothing to do with Hamas’ acts of terror. For Netanyahu, there is simply no moral equivalence. For him and many of his deplorable followers, the Palestinians are sub-humans, and their lives are unequal to those of Israeli Jews.

Israel will win this war; the question is, will it win it while adhering to Jewish moral values that have guided and ensured their survival throughout the centuries, or win it by leaving behind deep moral wounds that will be etched in memory and history books as one of Israel’s darkest chapters? They must remember that just about every Arab country will quietly (and some even overtly) cheer the demise of Hamas, but they are and will continue to speak ever louder and clearer about their objection to the killing of innocent Palestinians, especially women and children, and they will scuttle any future prospect of normalization of relations between Israel and other Arab states.

The dehumanization of Palestinians will come back to haunt the Israelis simply because the Palestinians have no other place to go. And whether they are ordinary human beings with hopes and aspirations or subhuman, Israel is stuck with them. And regardless of how the war will end, Israel will have to address the conflict with the Palestinians. The depth of the scars of the war will define the relationship for years to come.

As the death toll and destruction rise in Gaza by the minute, the initial overwhelming sympathy toward Israel’s tragic losses has waned even among many of its friends. Indeed, once Israel loses its moral compass in dealing with the crisis, it will no longer be seen as the victim who rose from the ashes of the Holocaust and has every right to defend itself but the victimizer whose survival rests on the ashes of the Palestinians.

Israel’s ultimate triumph rests on its ability to rise above the fray and adhere to the moral values on which the country was founded and which are the only pillars that can sustain it.