Ethics of the Jewish State

There are not many sentences I find as aggravating and infuriating as the following: “Every other country does it” (or variations: “What would France do?”, “What would the United States do?”, etc.).

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote the following:

“It is often said that Israel is judged by a double-standard. This is not true. Often, Israel is judged by a quadruple standard. There is one standard for developing-world countries; a second for Europe; a third, more stringent standard, for the U.S., and a fourth, impossible, standard for Israel. Often, this quadruple standard bothers me, especially when it is deployed by Judeophobes. But the truth is that I judge Israel by a higher standard than I judge other countries, precisely because it is a Jewish country. Jews gave the world the gift of ethical monotheism, and the idea that all people—not just kings—are created in the image of God. Judaism holds that Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and Tariq Khdeir, are created in the image of God, and therefore, to abuse them, to destroy them, is to desecrate God’s name. Each time a Palestinian is abused in custody by Israeli authorities, those who commit the beating are violating the spirit and promise of their country.”

I wholeheartedly agree with the above. In my view, Israel can, should and must exist in large part to give the cultural contributions that are unique to the Nation of Israel – עם ישראל. Such contributions are not the technological achievements that we have accomplished, or the economic prosperity created from naught – but rather the values and commands of the Pentateuch and the Prophets.

Most of these commands given to the public (the public as a whole, not to all individuals) are easy to keep when stateless. It is the very existence of a state that makes them so hard. In the face of huge migration that can cause severe issues, it may be tempting to refuse them all, refugees and work migrants alike.

But we must accept refugees! The moral standards claimed by the rest of the world are irrelevant, because we are commanded to accept the stranger. I believe it easily apparent that the above does not mean accepting every single person. However, it does require proper treatment of minorities. It requires acceptance of refugees. Whether Italy accepts refugees from Libya or further south is ridiculous. I do not need Matteo Lenzi – I have God.

Part of objective and not subjective nor relativistic morality is the upholding of the objective moral standards. This, however, should not be twisted.

Israel cannot serve as an extinct light upon the nations. We are not meant to be a light to future archeologists and historians. We are meant to be a light today. This does not mean ignoring the substantial moral challenges that face us every day, nor those who ardently wish to kill us. Rather we must cope with them. We must survive. And survival in our dark and violent corner of the world does not come with U.N. resolutions, or with various initiatives, but rather with the power and might of the sword.

This is a particularly problematic issue to deal with. For starters, how can we weigh respect for life, man and the living with the need to effect deterrence? What is the balance we must strike?

All the external comparisons are nothing short of irrelevant. Whether we cause more or less citizen casualties than other countries is pointless. Rather the question before everyone should be: “What is the least amount of innocent people that could be harmed while deterring the killing of my people”.

I do not pretend to have found this magical parameter. There is not an equation for morality. 3:1 has no moral connotations. But rather these questions be there with us. We must remember our commandments. Isaiah was infuriating to the people to whom he preached, but we can see what happened. We must be able to accept the occasional suppression caused by morality. The goal of Israel is not to be a better nation than nation X. We must be the nation we should be.


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