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Dec 3, 2008

Interesting Psak from Rav Yuval Cherlow: using human shields

While the army and government apparently has no problem picking unnecessary fights against Jews in Hebron and sending plenty of troops in to shut down the area, the situation in the area of Gaza is much different.

There, the government has been waffling for 3.5 years already. They are constantly saying that we will eventually have to go in and clean out the terrorists and rockets, yet 3.5 years later they are still saying the time is not right for an operation. Meantime, despite truces and ceasefires and whatnot, rockets are still raining down daily on the communities surrounding the Gaza border, even up to Ashkelon and Ashdod.

Gilad Erdan - a current Likud MK, is a pretty good guy. I have liked him, since he began to advance in the Likud ranks about 5 years ago. Erdan even has in his favor the fact that he stood up to Ariel Sharon and opposed the disengagement in the votes leading up to that period. He is a man of integrity, and he considers himself to be a candidate for the Justice Minister position ina future Netanyahu government (though really he is dreaming if he thinks Bibi will give it to him over Meridor, though he is qualified)

Gilad Erdan made a very interesting suggestion and proposed a law the other day. He proposed that they should take Hamas affiliated prisoners and use them as human shields in the communities around Gaza. He figures that with Hamas people possibly turning into victims, they would be reluctant to continue shooting the rockets at us.

I personally think that is a great idea. The only problem with it is that it is a Geneva war crime to use a live prisoner as a human shield. So I would suggest that we kill the prisoners first and then use them as dead human shields, which is not a war crime (maybe killing them is, I am not sure). But anyway, shooting rockets at innocent civilians is also a Geneva War Crime, and they don't seem too overly concerned, so I don't think we should be either.

In response to that suggestion and proposed law, the issue was raised as to what Judaism's position would be on such an idea. Is it allowed?

Rav Yuval Cherlow of the Hesder Yeshiva of Petach Tikva was asked the question. Rav Cherlow answered saying, "I see no ethical problem using a Hamas prisoner as a shield against attacks from Hamas (only from Hamas - it would not be allowed to use a Hamas prisoner as a shield against attacks from other enemy). There are other considerations, so I am only answering from a theoretical viewpoint. When two forces are fighting a war with each other, and Hamas presents itself not as a band of terrorists, but as a ruling force, we need to relate to them as a battle between two forces, and then such behavior would be allowed."

So it is ok halachically as well. Now we just have to get the law passed, so while the government continues to waffle and refuse to expend any effort in Gaza, but spend all their energy fighting Jews in Hebron, this will be a good solution to slow down the rocket barrage yet still not fight.


  1. It wouldn't do any good. The Arabs don't, as a rule, care that much about their compatriots. They would simply be labelled 'martyrs' and end of story. No fallout.

    Folks need to realize that the Muslim and Arab mindset is working on a different set of ethical and cultural principles. That has been obvious for decades, yet here we are still applying our sensibilities to them.

  2. I agree with MYS

    I would like to add, that 1) I can't imagine a gov't that appears as left as this one is would ever allow it. I mean, those poor arab prisoners.

    Secondly, if G-d forbid Hamas would fire a rocket, as he said above, they really wouldn't care, and then kill some of their own, they would just spin it as those evil Israelis, are putting our people in harms way they are evil! And then get the UN and the HAgue on our backs.

  3. I am sure you are right about it not helping, and the government not implementing it.
    But it is an interesting discussion at least!

  4. R' Cherlow says that he sees no ethical problem. Does he see a halachic problem?

  5. Very Intersting blog, really, Thanks
    Hi from Italy

  6. I agree with MYS, but I don't think it's a case of human shields as per the Geneva convention. The GC prohibits the use of civilians (lets assume, for the sake of argument, that once someone is taken prisoner, he is a civilian) in and around military targets to prevent the targets from being attacked. Israeli towns and cities are not military targets, so it is not a problem.


    The Qassams are blasting away at Sderot, and a group of well-meaning professors and authors are shouting about the defense establishment about shooting at the terrorists and signing declarations entitled "Would you kill the righteous with the sinner?", a reference to the biblical Abraham's plea with God not to destroy the city of Sodom.

    The terrorist state of Hamas has declared war on us and the deadly bombs are raining down on our civilians, fired from amongst a supportive and encouraging civilian population.

    Is it really out-of-bounds for us to use a similar weapon?

    What is the source of such morals? Is there any country in the world that wouldn't respond with non-focused artillery fire? Does anyone really think the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany or Belgium would resign itself to such a never-ending barrage and not respond sharply and unilaterally?


    The absurdity of it all screams out to the heavens when the "world is silent" about the storm of Qassams on a peaceful Israeli city, yet cries out to demand a commission of inquiry over an Arab family killed on the Gaza beach. And what do you know, just like in a theater of the absurd, a group of intellectuals joins this anti-ethical chorus, and adds its own traitorous voice to stab their own nation in the back -

    They have warned the government, senior IDF generals and policy makers not to arouse the anger of the world and the anti-Jewish foreign media with a too-harsh military response, so now they are silent. But this call by the so-called "enlightened" folks, for some reason called "spiritual people" ( a direct translation of the Hebrew term for humanities professors), the indirect meaning of which is the abandonment of their own people by ruling out responses that occasionally fail to hit their intended targets – failing to respond occasionally.

    These people give the impression of being classic "backseat drivers," willing to let others pay with their lives so long as their "theories" can remain in tact.

    Jewish lessons

    From a Jewish perspective, if not a democratic ( the right of self defense) or humanitarian (yes, even the people of Sderot deserve some humanitarian consideration) perspective – the IDF call openly for residents of northern Gaza to leave the area immediately, and that Israel will bear no responsibility for their safety if they fail to do so.

    The lying international media will defend the Palestinians regardless of what Israel does, as will the Israeli left. At least we would gain back Sderot and other cities and town in the area by such a move.

    Jewish ethics are saturated with the ethical message "if someone comes to kill you, kill him first." The Torah and the prophets, Jewish law, rabbinic tales and Jewish thought all treat war as a struggle between two peoples, not between two individuals who happen to have guns.

    Bring the enemy to its knees

    And in war as in war. Civilians get hurt in war – including women, children and the elderly. Only a population that forcibly vomits out terrorists from its midst, that waves a white flag, that expresses strong protest against being dragged into violent conflict – only such a population will be protected, according to any measure of Jewish morality.

    More than that, one of the most meaningful sayings in the Jewish ethical lexicon, in direct contrast to "Christian ethics," is to be found in the Book of Samuel: "And plucked the spear out of the Egyptian's hand, and slew him with his own spear (Sam. II 23:21). In other words: We must use the weapons of the enemy.

    This is exactly what David did in his legendary battle with Goliath: And David ran, and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw that their mighty man was dead, they fled. (Sam. I 17:51)

    Our sages used these verses to teach a lesson for the ages: Don't be afraid to use the enemy's weapons against them. It is legitimate, and therefore moral.

    Artillery vs. Qassams

    Anyone who feels a bit of humanity for his brothers, anyone who has been freed from hatred for his people and the tendency to beat ourselves over the head, anyone who gains his moral teachings from Jewish sources, anyone who is prepared to learn from the general history of warfare and anti-Israel warfare in particular, anyone with open eyes and who looks to the future, anyone who loves life and wants to do good by his people and his land – all these should send a clear message to the IDF: Artillery vs. Qassams.

    Of course, we must warn people and allow them to escape, in accordance with halacha (Jewish law), derived from verses in the Torah. As Maimonides wrote nearly 1000 years ago: "When we lay siege to a city in order to capture it, do not encircle it on all sides. Rather, you must allow the enemy room to flee, in order to save their lives.


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