ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Guerilla Warfare and the Moral Ethical Debat 13.5.04

Guerilla Warfare and the Moral Ethical Debat

13 May 2004

By Yisrael Ne'eman

The already intense debate over PM Ariel Sharon’s Gaza “Disengagement Plan” reached a fever pitch by the end of last week as 13 IDF soldiers were killed in clashes with Palestinians. Eleven soldiers were killed when two armored personnel carriers carrying explosives were demolished in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood and along the Philadelphi border road between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Another two soldiers were killed when guarding those on the Philadelphi axis who were searching for remains of their comrades.

One needs to differentiate the Disengagement from the battle against terrorism. Sharon’s proposed withdrawal and removal of Jewish settlements from Gaza is designed to avoid political, demographic entanglement (as mentioned in these columns over the past few weeks). The soldiers killed this past week were not involved in guarding settlements. They were battling Palestinian terror organizations in a Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) or what is known as guerilla warfare, destroying Kassam rocket/bomb factories and the tunnels leading from Egypt into Gaza used to smuggle in weapons and terrorists. Even were Israel to completely withdraw, such forays will continue to be necessary, should terrorism and rocket attacks continue across the Gaza-Negev frontier.

A secondary, moral-ethical debate has been enjoined concerning the type of retaliatory strikes to be authorized in the future. Known for his liberal views, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz of Shinui, advocates using air power to destroy bomb and rocket factories, even though they are housed in residential neighborhoods and often in multi-story buildings. To avoid killing civilians, Poraz suggests dropping leaflets warning residents of the impending attack. This way Israel will not endanger its soldiers and place the moral responsibility on the Palestinians themselves, if they refuse to leave. A staunch supporter of the Gaza withdrawal scenario, he has also received backing for the idea from many on Israel’s Right, and especially those in the settler movement.

Problems will arise after the first attack where Palestinian residents will not leave their homes, for whatever reasons. The Palestinian leadership has no problem sacrificing its civilian population as guardians of bomb factories, and then reaping the media benefits of parading the bodies of dead women and children who “martyred themselves” for the cause. Not only will the Arab/Moslem world be whipped into a further frenzy (if possible), but Israel can expect condemnations from the European Union and the UN, while the US and especially Sec. Of State will speak of “excess force” and possibly begin to compare Israeli civilian casualties such as bus bombing victims, with Palestinians guarding bomb factories.

The far left in Israel will question whether Israel even has the right to “pre-empt,” by attacking the bomb workshops since they refuse to recognize the transformation of a civilian into a military target the minute he/she takes on a combat/terror function, LIC or not. And worse yet, the warnings may just be ignored, in the same way that dozens of civilians were inadvertently killed in the West Bank Kibbya raid led by Sharon himself, in 1953. On the other hand, is it not immoral to endanger soldiers needlessly, as claimed two years ago when the IDF lost 23 soldiers in Jenin?

In the political sense, there will be a Gaza disengagement, but militarily, Israel will be involved as long a terrorism prevails. As such, the moral/ethical debate will continue.