MELBOURNE – Is Israel’s military action in Gaza morally defensible?
Different answers to that question are possible. Some depend on answers to prior questions about the founding of the state of Israel, the circumstances that led to many Palestinians becoming refugees, and responsibility for the failure of earlier efforts to reach a peaceful solution. But let us put aside these questions – which have been explored in great depth – and focus on the moral issues raised by the latest outbreak of hostilities.
The immediate trigger for the current conflict was the murder of three Jewish teenagers in Hebron, on the West Bank. Israel, blaming Hamas, arrested hundreds of its members in the West Bank, though it has never explained the basis of its accusation.
The Israeli government may have seized on the outrageous murders as a pretext for provoking Hamas into a response that would allow Israel, in turn, to invade and destroy the tunnels Hamas has dug from Gaza into Israel. Though Israeli leaders claim to have been surprised by the extent and sophistication of the tunnels they discovered, Israel’s military briefed the government on the tunnels more than a year ago, and the government created a special task force to consider how to deal with them.