The Truth on How Israelis are Fighting this War (Despite What the Media Says)

Every day since October 7 has been rough. There are so many people who have lost lives on both sides. It seems the greater world is good at empathizing with the Palestinian pain, but when it comes to Israelis and Jews, it’s another story. So many shout for a ceasefire without mentioning any return of the hostages. They equate Palestinian terrorists in prison with innocent Israeli civilians. There are accusations of Jews being warmongers and bloodthirsty baby killers. The only thing Israel is fighting for is life — and a right to exist.

Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Brody is the executive director of Ematai, an organization dedicated to Jews navigating dilemmas of end of life care. He’s a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and an award winning author of A Guide to the Complex. His most recent book, Ethics of Our Fighters: A Jewish View On War and Mentality was released this past January. This book is important as it highlights how Jewish ethics play a role in the way that Jews and Israelis think about fighting. They don’t just strike. There is a mentality and method behind everything.

“I want to try to lay out a sort of a view of how Judaism thinks about these issues. I think many people fear the impact of religion in general when it comes to military ethics because they assume religion equals fundamentalism. And part of what I want to try to show in the book is how Judaism has been understood throughout the centuries and certainly over the last hundred years by rabbis and others thinking about these questions.”

The Jewish people value life as one of the most sacred things — no matter if you’re religious or not. We don’t target innocent life as a mission. The Jewish blood libels, saying that we specifically target Palestinian children and innocents is a complete falsehood.

The only reason we are at war right now is to defend ourselves. The Jewish tradition teaches that there is such a thing as evil, and sometimes you need to fight a war in order to remove that evil. Unlike the Jews, Christians went out and had the crusades and holy wars. Muslims did as well. Some people may believe that religion is the main source of war in the world, which is true of those larger religions, but historically, Judaism never had that type of role. If anything, Judaism has helped shape the moral standard for international law as Western law is based on Judeo-Christian values, which are ultimately Jewish values as Christianity came out of Judaism. 

Part of the reason the West is reacting the way it is, Rabbi Brody says, is because they do not have to deal with evil to the same degree as much as they might think that they do. Most Western countries haven’t fought wars in many years and certainly not on their own land. It makes it much easier to demonize Israel when you don’t have to deal with imminent life threatening issue and live with terrorists constantly attacking your people daily.

Though the statistics of casualties fought by the West’s wars in the past are much worse than what we are seeing today in Gaza, the loss of any innocent life is a tragedy. However, the fault of the casualties lies not with Israel, but with Hamas who uses their civilians as human shields.

“There’s a moral imperative on Hamas’s side, which says that they should be trying to minimize the harm on their own civilians. Obviously Hamas does the exact opposite. And when they’re doing that, moral responsibility for those deaths lies with them.”

The IDF follows Jewish ethics by trying to save as many civilians as possible.

“As far as I know, Israel is the only country in the world that sends out leaflets to warn people to leave. They make phone calls and intercept television programs to tell people to leave. This notion of forewarning actually appears in an early rabbinic source.”

The dilemma of hostages is also long known in Jewish sources. Somehow the world is convinced that Israel just has to offer a ceasefire in order to bring them home. In reality, Israel is being asked to release a thousand known terrorists in exchange. It’s almost ridiculous to even suggest.

“Hamas makes it very clear in their charter and elsewhere that their goal is to destroy the Jewish people and to kill Jews in the land of Israel. We should take that seriously when they shoot rockets at us.”

“As long as they think that they can fight us and win, they’re never going to give up that battle. That’s why it’s such a moral imperative for us to push back against Hamas right now and defeat this threat. So that it will be understood that if you think that you have an option of destroying the Jewish people, you’re wrong.”

The only way to come to truce is with an understanding that Jews are going nowhere. The Jews are a peace loving people but we will fight in the face of evil. While we can hope for there to be peace soonm there is no way of telling what is next to come. While some people hope for a two state solution, Rabbi Brody looks to reality: 

“I think this is actually sort of like this Western imaginative idea right now. It’s really divorced from reality on the ground. No one in Israel, including the left wing parties, is really speaking about this, because they realize we have to defeat the threat against us. But in the long term, certainly we want to have a situation where we can have a ceasefire and we can live at some form of level of peace.”

We are all holding out hope for some better days ahead.

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