One of the most repulsive moments of the present Middle East conflict occurred after one of Hezbollah’s rockets killed two Israeli-Arab children: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah pointedly apologized only for these deaths, thus making it clear that there is nothing to regret in the deaths of Israeli civilians. Doesn’t this make clear the ethical difference between Hezbollah and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), which always regret civilian casualties among the Lebanese, perceiving them as a necessary evil?
However, upon a closer look, this clear opposition gets blurred. The IDF always emphasize how Hezbollah locates its headquarters and arms in the midst of densely populated areas, well aware that any attack on Hezbollah strongholds will thus lead to large numbers of innocent civilian casualties. While certainly true to some extent, the problem is: Why does Israel, fully aware of these tactics, still bomb the sites? The obvious answer is that it believes the deaths of innocents are worth the price of hurting Hezbollah.
Let’s try a mental experiment and imagine that, instead of Lebanese women and children, the human shields used by Hezbollah were Israeli women and children. Would the IDF still consider the price affordable and continue the bombing? If the answer is “no,” then the IDF is effectively practicing racism, determining that Jewish life has more value than Arab life. No wonder that, in order to defend the IDF’s tactics, Alan Dershowitz recently introduced in the Los Angeles Times a gradation between civilians, distinguishing between the “totally innocent” Israeli civilians threatened by the Hezbollah rockets and the not-so-innocent Lebanese civilians.
[Extract. Appeared in In These Times, on August 30th, 2006. (full text).]