02 January 2009
Acceptable Collateral Damage?
It is always easy to watch hostilities from afar and make one's judgments based on some ethical or moral code that is removed from the daily threat of violence and death. However, as I sit back and watch another round of Israeli and Palestinian violence, I wonder what is acceptable collateral damage in this time of sophisticated weapons and "surgical strikes".
I find myself wondering how Israel justifies killing women and children in order to kill a self-proclaimed terrorist. Is this as simple as killing them before they kill you. Is it a case of these children would have grown up to be terrorists and they would have been encouraged by their mothers to be so, therefore the best solution is to wipe them out before such a reality can eventuate?
I also find myself questioning the wisdom of firing rockets, homemade or otherwise, by Hamas into Israel.
The issue here is not one of whether Israel has a right to protect itself, it is not even a question in my mind of proportionality. Ask yourself this question, when are wars ever about proportionality? Your answer should highlight the silliness of the idea of proportional responses. To the victors go the spoils, and the victors are those that are left standing. Simply, the idea of proportional response will lead only to a series of ceasefires and temporary truces that never address the fundamental problems that lead to the hostilities in the first place.
The issue for me is what constitutes acceptable collateral damage. The recent Israeli attack that killed Nizar Rayan is an example of why this is a question that must be answered. There is little doubt that Nizar Rayan is a senior leader of Hamas. There is also little doubt that he advocates violence. It has been reported that he even sent one of his own sons on a suicide mission to kill Israelis. There is also little doubt that Israel classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization.
However, in order to kill Rayan, the Israelis decided the best method was to drop a rather large bomb on his house. This bomb was obviously large as it destroyed 12 surrounding house as well as the targeted house. The collateral damage issue here that I want to look at is not the property but the 18 people killed in addition to Rayan. Among the dead were his four wives, two daughters, and a son. This is what I wonder when I am wondering how to answer the question of acceptable collateral damage.
I wonder whether Israel could have put together covert Mossad teams and assassinate Rayan. This would have averted any unnecessary collateral damage. Perhaps questionable in international law however I would assert that killing innocent men, women, and children is also questionable under international law.
I am neither pro-Israel not pro-Hamas or Palestine. I am pro-peace and I am pro-humanity. I am against the killing of innocent men, women, and children in the furtherance of any cause.
So, I pose this question, "what is acceptable collateral damage in a time of conflict?"