As international human rights organizations decry the high toll of civilian deaths suffered in the Lebanon war, America’s main organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis is calling on the Israeli military to be less concerned with avoiding civilian casualties on the opposing side when carrying out future operations.

Following a solidarity mission to Israel last week, leaders of the Rabbinical Council of America issued a statement prodding the Israeli military to review its policy of taking pains to spare the lives of innocent civilians, in light of Hezbollah’s tactic of hiding its fighters and weaponry among Lebanese civilians. Because Hezbollah “puts Israeli men and women at extraordinary risk of life and limb through unconscionably using their own civilians, hospitals, ambulances, mosques”¦ as human shields, cannon fodder, and weapons of asymmetric warfare,” the rabbinical council said in a statement, “we believe that Judaism would neither require nor permit a Jewish soldier to sacrifice himself in order to save deliberately endangered enemy civilians.”

The directive from the Orthodox rabbi comes at a time when both Israel and Hezbollah have been subjected to intense scrutiny from the media and from international human rights organizations about the Lebanon war’s grueling impact on civilians. Israel has taken the brunt of the criticism, with the number of Lebanese civilians killed in the month-long conflict put at about 1,000.

Civilian deaths on the Israeli side, which totaled 43, were markedly lighter despite Hezbollah’s steady rain of rockets over heavily populated towns and cities in Israel’s northern region. Defenders of the Jewish state say that Israel has been unfairly blamed for Lebanese civilian deaths, which, they contend, are largely unavoidable given Hezbollah’s practice of hiding in innocent people’s homes.

Condemnation of Israel by international groups for inadvertently killing civilians when targeting terrorists “has happened in all of the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, but this has brought it front and center in very clear ways that everybody now sees,” said Marc Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Congress.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.