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Saturday, January 6, 2007

Notes on- Response by Prof. Asa Kasher to IMRA on follow up to "IDF ethicist: Restraint policy is legit" article

Dear Aaron and Professor Kasher,
Israeli retaliations had to be stopped not only out of consideration for Palestinian civilian casualties, but because they were endangering Israel, exacerbating the conflict and threatening our international position, while at the same time creating the appetite for more and bigger rocket attacks.  Both of you seem to have missed that point.
On the one hand:
The government has a supreme and overriding moral responsibilty to protect the welfare of its citizens and to make it possible for them to live normal lives without fear for their physical safety. Aaron was raising that point, and therefore the "stress" that is caused or not caused is irrelevant. The purpose of military action or diplomatic action would not be to relieve stress, but to protect the physical welfare of the people of Sderot, Ashkelon (and later Ashdod and Tel-Aviv?). The rockets have killed at least 8 people. They have maimed many more. Probabilities don't matter if you or your child are the one who got killed or lost two legs.
On the other hand:
The responsibility of the government extends to all of its citizens and the means needed to protect those citizens are not necessarily military. The military actions that Aaron favors were, in the judgement of the government, increasing the probability of further attacks rather than decreasing them, and by isolating Israel in the world, they were reducing our diplomatic alternatives and threatening the welfare of our citizens rather than guarding it.  The Israeli military actions were being used, with considerable success, by the Hamas in their attempt to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the world, and lift the international boycott.
The enemy we are facing does not care about their own civilian casualties. Indeed, they strengthen their political position both domestically and abroad in proportion as Israel kills Palestinian civilians, who become "martyrs." Their terror actions are intentionally designed to elicit reactions from Israel that are strategically ineffective and generate civilian casualities among the Palestinians, "martyrs" who can be used to help fuel extremism, and who serve as examples of the "evil" nature of the Zionist enemy.
From the point of view of military ethics, there is certainly no justification for a policy that does not increase the security of our own citizens, and in fact causes a deterioration in our situation, and at the same time endangers enemy civilians. It is an "own goal" in the same way that German unlimited u-boat warfare in World War I did not curtail British shipping, but instead dragged the United States into the war.
Even if you have no other medicines around, do not take rat poison to cure a headache. We do not have a good solution to the problem. In the absence of such a solution, however frustrating, it is not helpful to advocate that we "just do something," because that "something" exacerbates the situation and increases the danger to us , rather than reducing it.  
Ami Isseroff, D.Sc.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, January 06, 2007 7:50 PM
Subject: Response by Prof. Asa Kasher to IMRA on follow up to "IDF ethicist: Restraint policy is legit" article

Response by Prof. Asa Kasher to IMRA on follow up to "IDF ethicist:
Restraint policy is legit" article
6 January 2007

Dear Dr Lerner:

Thank you for your message [IMRA: repeated below].

Here is my detailed reply. You may use it on the condition that it is quoted
in full and without any alteration.

The JP article did not convey the complexity of the argument.


Rockets sent from the Gaza strip to Israel are attacks on Israel.

Some of the rockets kill or wound Israelis. The chances of being hit are

The regular fear of the rockets creates stress among many people.


The policy of restraint is not a policy of doing nothing.

It allows, even requires, that targeted attacks on people who launch rockets
take place, even if there is a danger of collateral damage;

It does not allow a military activity of concurring parts of the Gaza strip
in pursuit of launchers of rockets.


1. In addition to targeted attacks and a broad military activity, there is
the method of shelling areas from which rockets are sometimes launched.
There is probable collateral damage when this method is used.

It is well known that this method does not solve the problem of rockets.

It is perhaps of some benefit given the stress of the people and it shows
the State of Israel does not remain indifferent when attacked.

Since it does not help in solving the problem, then as far as the problem is
concerned it is of a symbolic nature solely. Its role in showing the state
does not remain indifferent is also symbolic.

Moral stance 1: You don't kill people who do not threaten you for symbolic

Moral stance 2: Even if it help solving the problem of stress, it is wrong.
You don't kill people who do not threaten you in order to solve problems of

Moral stance 3: A broad military operation is justified only as last resort.
The efforts to solve the problem without such an operation is something the
states owes, first and foremost, to its combatants, given the assumption
that in such an operation Israeli combatants might get killed. If the
restraint policy is a policy of trying to solve the problem in other ways,
assuming that if they fail the military option would be used, then it is
fully justified.

You will see from this explanation how misguided were all the talkbacks that
appear in reaction to the article.


Asa Kasher

Prof. Asa Kasher
Laura Schwarz-Kipp Professor
of Professional Ethics and
Philosophy of Practice
and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
Tel-Aviv University
Academic Advisor, IDF College of National Defense
Editor, PHILOSOPHIA (Springer)

From: Dr. Aaron Lerner
To: Prof. Asa Kasher
Subject: Follow up question to your recent interview in the Jerusalem Post
Date: Wed, 03 Jan 2007 13:10:15 +0200

Dear Professor Kasher,

I read with great interest your recent interview published in The Jerusalem
Post (portion repeated below).

In the interview it would appear that the low probability that a given
rocket launching would actually kill Israelis was weighed against the
probability that Palestinian human shields would be killed by Israeli
military action to try and stop the Palestinian attack, with the conclusion
being that the government could justify its policy (at the time) of not
shooting at Palestinian rocket teams.

I was wondering how you see factoring in the ramifications of the "restraint
policy" vis-a-vis deterrence and the risk that restraint could ultimately
lead to a considerably greater conflagration with the potential for
casualties of a magnitude far greater than those involved in the Kassam

By the same token, when one considers the morality of the current restraint,
how does one take into account the potential cost in lives in the next round
of conflict thanks to Palestinian exploitation of the "window of
opportunity" the Israeli government is providing to Palestinian forces to
arm themselves with both large quantities of weapons as well as more
accurate and effective rockets.

With your permission I would like to share your response with our readers.

Best regards,

Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA
Tel: 09-7604719


IDF ethicist: Restraint policy is legit

 Matthew Wagner, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 28, 2006

The government's policy of restraint regarding Kassam rocket launchings from
Gaza is legitimate from an ethical perspective, Prof. Asa Kasher said this
week in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post.

"The chances that a Kassam rocket will kill are relatively low compared to a
suicide bombing," said Kasher, co-author of the IDF code of ethics.

"Therefore, use of targeted killings to prevent terrorist attacks that
threaten the lives of dozens of Israelis is an obligation of the state that
has nothing to do with political policy decisions. But the decision to
exercise restraint against Kassam rocket launchings is a legitimate policy

Kasher, professor of professional ethics at Tel Aviv University and academic
adviser at the IDF College of National Defense, added, however, that each
Kassam rocket that landed on Israeli territory was an attack on the State of
Israel. He also said the government had a moral responsibility to combat the
fears of its residents in the south who were threatened by the Kassam

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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