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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Morality in the Middle East

Published: October 19, 2007
Section: Opinions

There are four countries that border IsraelEgypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syriaall of which have a majority Arab Muslim population. Countries that border those countriesTurkey, Iraqalso are the home to a majority of Arab Muslims. Israel, on the other hand, is home to a majority of Jews, and is the Middle Eastern country with the strongest relationship to Western civilization. It has become difficult to progress through modern daily life without hearing of the constant conflicts that bombard the citizens of these countries.

Though diplomacy can be discussed and facts of a battle reported on (to an extent), there is one aspect of the Middle East that is rarely brought up: the issue of morals. Throughout its entire existence, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations has criticized Israel on an almost constant basis for its mistreatment of Palestinian citizens. However, this Council has conveniently turned a blind eye to the atrocities of the Hamas government toward the Israeli population. Through the analyzing of war tactics, prisoner exchanges, and stated goals, a trend will emerge that Israel is far superior to a portion of her Arab neighbors when morality is in question.

I was in Israel during the second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. I can remember watching the channel 10 news every night listening to a recap of the days activities on the northern border. More often than not, the highlight of the broadcast was not extolling an Israeli advance, but either a loss of life on the side of the Israelis, or an Israeli strike on a civilian target inside Lebanon. The climax came when one night I learned of a strike that took down a hospital. I want to make clear that I in no way support the taking of innocent civilian lives. However, I do believe that it was not 100% the fault of the Israeli Armed Forces that this loss had to occur.

The target of each of the airstrikes carried out by the Israeli Air Force were hundreds of rocket launchers, armed by Hezbollah, that were bombarding northern Israel with katusha rockets on a regular basis. These rockets were raining down on cities and villages across the northern border of Israel. Not one of the thousands of rockets launched during the war hit a military target;

only civilian homes, schools and businesses. It was therefore incumbent upon the Israeli government as protectorate of its citizens to do all that was necessary to halt the rocket attacks.

However, this task is not as easy as it may seem. The Hezbollah army stationed the rocket launchers in the back of pickup trucks and stationed these trucks on the street between buildings like a hospital and a childrens center. Israel was placed in a catch-22: either allow the rocket attacks to continue, or do what was necessary to eliminate them.

Hezbollah knew that Israel would attack. Their placement of the launchers juxtaposed to civilian targets shows their lack of concern for the lives of their own civilians let alone those of Israel who were the target of the rocket attacks. The moral standards of a group who purposely places devices that will be attacked in extremely close proximity to civilians are exceptionally low. Furthermore, before every Israeli attack on a target where civilians could be present, pamphlets warning of the attack and advising a speedy exit were distributed to all residents, showing Israels concern for the lives of the innocent.

Monday night, Oct. 15, 2007 Israel and Hezbollah conducted the first prisoner swap since the 2006 war. The Israelis received the dead body of a civilian who drowned in 2005 in the Mediterranean and whose remains were washed up into Lebanon.

It was not until recently when Hezbollah began hinting at knowing the whereabouts of the body that Israel even knew he was missing. However, because Israel cares about each of her citizens, she went about securing the release of this civilian. In exchange for this one body, Israel gave to Hezbollah a guerilla with blood on his hands plus the remains of two other Hezbollah fighters. The imbalance in this trade is quite clear, something that would never happen in professional sports. However, Israels concern for her civilians trumped her concern for fairness as the deal went through. Additionally, Hezbollah currently holds two Israeli soldiers captive (their capture in a cross border raid last summer was the igniting spark of the war). There is no sign of the physical state of these men.

Hezbollah refuses to allow the Red Cross to inspect the soldiers or to report on their condition which suggests that the condition is poor and Hezbollah does not want this to be discovered. The morality of these actions is non-existent. Rarely do POWs that are taken by Israel die in captivity from mistreatment or disease. This concern for human life places Israel well above her adversaries.

The objectives of every conflict, too, prove that Israel has a greater moral standard than her neighbors. Not once in her 60 year history has Israel initiated a war. Though Israel has in the past fired the first shot, this has been in response to an act of war by the enemy.

Throughout the first and second intifada, Hamas sent men, women, and children into Israel to kill themselves, hopefully bringing some Israelis along for the ride. The respect for human life here is nil. Not only are these people willing to kill other innocent human beings, but at the cost of their own lives! Israel, on the other hand, values every life individually. Innocent civilians are never purposely targeted, and only known terrorists are abducted.

Nobody is perfect, including Israel. However, the very fact that the international community has no qualms about condemning Israel in her actions but is dawdling, if mobile at all, in discussing the deliberate moral failures of a portion of the Arab population is further proof of the ignorance of these people.

The value of human life is among the highest values in world opinion. People fight cancer, hunger, AIDS, and other epidemics for the preservation of human life. Maybe a deeper look into the Israeli-Arab conflict could show that fighting the ideals of certain Arab peoples is equally important in the preservation of human life.