Ethics and justice in killing Soleimani – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on January 20, 2020

United States President and Commander-in-Chief Donald J. Trump was justified in targeting Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. Unequivocally, unquestionably justified.Discussions after US drones killed the Iranian general dealt with the potential ramifications of eliminating a high-ranking Iranian general, a person regarded so highly by the supreme leader. Commentators painted doomsday scenarios of a threatening backlash against the West and of facilitating the creation of an Iranian martyr, a hero around whom the people could unite. Of course, they also asked whether it was wise move, a sound decision. These discussions are still ongoing and they are all valid and important.For me, the most important discussions are those asking the big question: Was the targeting of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani ethically correct. And to that, I say: Yes. Without a doubt or hesitation, yes. On the question of justice, however, the United States was on shaky ground.Justice and ethics are kissing cousins, but they are not one and the same. Justice requires a trial in a court and a sentence. Ethics is right versus wrong behavior. And there is no better place to discuss Jewish ethics and the Jewish ethics of war than on the opinion page of The Jerusalem Post.On the justice front, the United States did not act on strong ethical footing. A military strike against an enemy who successfully murdered and maimed hundreds of people is not justice it is revenge. Revenge is not justified, not ethically and not Jewishly. Revenge is forbidden. That does not mean that there have not been instances in which countries and individuals even Israel and Jews have justified the tracking down and killing of evil people.We need look no further than the aftermath of the Holocaust. There were plans to pursue Nazi war criminals and to kill them. In fact, one example that is not often spoken of is a plan that the great Abba Kovner, one of the leaders of the Kovno Ghetto partisans, had to poison the water source of a major German city as an act of revenge. In the end it did not happen, and Kovner went on to become the highly respected founder of the Education Corps of the Israeli Army.And after the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, the Olympics in which Israeli athletes were cold-bloodedly massacred by Palestinians, Israel activated assassination teams to exact revenge on the perpetrators and planners of the murders.THESE ACTS were not justified either ethically or Jewishly because they were, purely and exclusively, pursuing revenge. Because justice requires a court, if a country wants justice, it must go through the proper process. It must arrest, capture, even kidnap the person it is pursing and place that person on trial. That is what Israel did when it captured, kidnapped, arrested and brought Adolf Eichmann to trial.So how can the targeting of Soleimani be ethically and even Jewishly permitted?It was an act of self-defense. The job description of General Qasem Soleimani within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was to plan attacks against targets outside of Iran. And he did his job very, very well. He planned and supervised these attacks for decades. He trained Iranian allies and proxies. He armed them and he followed up on their activities. And this is the crucial part he was actively engaged in planning future attacks.The US administration maintains that they have information that Soleimani was planning specific attacks. That is what makes targeting and killing him ethical. It was an act of self-defense taken by the United States in defense of its army, its citizens and its Western allies. The targeting of Soleimani would have been on shaky ground if he was retired and no longer operating. That was not at all the case.There is a principle in tractate Sandherin of the Talmud that teaches: Haba lhargacha, hashkem lehargo. If a murderer comes to kill you, wake up earlier and kill them first. In modern parlance, we call this a preemptive strike. Preemptive strikes are 100% justified as ethical. One need not wait to be hit first in order to defend oneself.It is a principle Israel employed in the Six Day War. It is the principle Israel uses in the calculus when deciding whether or not to assassinate a terrorist leader. Are they actively planning new operations?Israel and the United States hold themselves up to high ethical standards. They hold their military to high levels of ethics. They value ethical behavior. The Israeli Army is called the Israel Defense Forces the IDF for that very reason. Its purpose sine qua non is defense. The IDF has extremely high standards and speaks of the concept of tohar neshek, the purity of arms. Weapons are pure only when used to protect not to abuse.There are exceptions, but not this time. The killing of Qasem Soleimani is a perfect example of the United States acting ethically to defend itself and its allies. And for that bold act, we should say thank you.The writer is a columnist and a social and political commentator.

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Ethics and justice in killing Soleimani - The Jerusalem Post

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