Aryeh Klapper

A Reply to Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times

Dear Mr. Kristof,

You write “We must not kill Gazan children to try to protect Israeli children”. Indeed, the most fundamental principle of Jewish ethics is that all human blood is equally red. The Talmud says that one cannot properly interpret Torah without first internalizing this principle. I have spent my career as a rabbi emphasizing this above all to university and yeshiva students in America and Israel.

But the Talmud nonetheless mandates the use of lethal force when necessary to stop homicidal aggressors. Active self-defense and other-defense is obligatory not because the blood of victims is redder than the blood of attackers, but because allowing murderers to run rampant cheapens the blood of every human being, and sometimes you can’t stop them any other way.

The Talmud understood that only a parody of ethics would guarantee the triumph of evil by ensuring that good people did nothing.

After October 7, no one can deny that Hamas aspires to genocide. After October 7, no one can claim that passive defense will prevent Hamas from progressing toward genocidal capacity. The destruction of Hamas, which seeks to ethnically cleanse Jews from all the land “between the river and the sea”, which includes the entirety of the State of Israel, is necessary regardless of one’s vision of an eventual political settlement between Jews and Palestinians, or even which sides’ past actions one blames for the rise of Hamas.

Israel must make every effort to minimize the deaths of children while accomplishing that destruction. But presenting Israeli policy as a choice to prefer some children’s lives over others is dangerously misleading, immoral, and libelous. Rather, destroying Hamas is necessary to prevent the direct murders of Israeli children and the indirect killing of Palestinian children via Hamas using their bodies as human shields and their suffering as diplomatic clickbait.

Calling for a ceasefire now amounts to sheltering mass murderers while they plot their next killing spree. Leaving Hamas in charge of Gaza means the inevitable sacrifice of the lives of many more Israeli and Palestinian children, and abandoning any hope for genuine peace.

Mr. Kristof, in 2016 you wrote advocating US military intervention in Syria: “If we don’t act after half a million deaths, will we after one million? After two million? When?” If you don’t support Israeli military action after the torture, murder, and kidnapping of thousands, when will you? After six million?

About the Author
Rabbi Aryeh Klapper is Dean of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership, which brings rigorous traditional scholarship, interdisciplinary openness, and a deeply humanist understanding of halakhah to every aspect of Jewish and public life. CMTL develops present and future Modern Orthodox leaders, male and female, through unique programs of intense Talmud Torah that catalyze intellectual creativity and educational innovation. Rabbi Klapper is a popular lecturer whose work is published and cited in both university and yeshiva contexts.
Related Topics
Related Posts