Randall Fried

Debunking the Myth of Moral Equivalence

In the realm of international conflicts, a persistent misconception revolves around the idea of moral equivalence. It’s crucial to dismantle this myth, particularly concerning the actions of Israel, as a sovereign state, and the actions of Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization. While some may draw parallels, it is imperative to understand that Israel’s obligation to defend itself is not morally equal to the indiscriminate violence perpetrated by Hamas, which includes firing rockets and infiltrating internationally recognized borders to commit horrific acts of violence against Jews and Arabs alike.

The Myth of Moral Equivalence

Moral equivalence suggests that both parties in a conflict share equal blame or bear equivalent moral responsibility for the consequences of their actions. This notion is often invoked to create a false balance between the actions of a sovereign state and those of a terrorist organization. However, a closer examination reveals stark differences in intent, methods, and moral standing.

Israel’s Obligation to Defend Itself

Israel, like any other sovereign state, has a fundamental obligation to protect its citizens from threats, violence, and acts of terror. This obligation arises from its commitment to ensuring the safety and security of its population. When confronted with attacks, whether they be rocket fire or infiltrations across its internationally recognized borders, Israel is duty-bound to respond to safeguard its people.

The Importance of Intent

The criminal code within societies recognizes the importance of intent in distinguishing between various degrees of offenses. For example, in the criminal justice system, different degrees of murder are recognized based on intent and premeditation. First-degree murder involves a well-planned intent to kill, second-degree murder implies the intent to kill but without premeditation, and manslaughter usually involves unintentional killing in the heat of the moment. These distinctions exist because not all deaths are the same, and the intent behind them significantly affects how we perceive the crime.

The Actions of Hamas

In stark contrast, Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization, employs tactics that deliberately target civilians and seek to create fear and chaos. They have openly called for the destruction of the State of Israel and have carried out numerous attacks that indiscriminately harm innocent civilians. Their actions include the firing of rockets into populated areas, infiltrations across borders, and brutal acts of violence that have shocked the world.

Hamas’s brutal tactics have included the murder of both Jews and Arabs, though Jews are their primary target and often in the most barbaric and sadistic ways. These acts of violence not only violate international humanitarian law but also represent a level of barbarity that is rarely seen in modern conflicts, reminiscent of the horrors of the Holocaust. Such actions defy any sense of morality and underscore the vast difference between the actions of a sovereign state defending its citizens and those of a terrorist organization seeking to terrorize and destabilize a region.

The Importance of Context

Understanding the myth of moral equivalence requires considering the broader context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel’s actions, while aimed at protecting its citizens, are carried out in a complex and challenging environment where terrorist organizations often operate within civilian populations, using them as shields. This context makes it exceptionally difficult to engage the enemy without risking civilian lives.

Hamas, on the other hand, exploits this very context by launching attacks from within densely populated areas, further endangering civilians. This deliberate strategy complicates Israel’s efforts to respond proportionately and minimize harm.


In conclusion, it is essential to debunk the myth of moral equivalence between Israel’s actions as a sovereign state defending itself and the actions of Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization. Israel’s obligation to protect its citizens is rooted in its commitment to ensuring their safety and security. In contrast, Hamas employs brutal and indiscriminate tactics that violate international law and seek to terrorize Jews.

The stark differences in intent, methods, and moral standing between a sovereign state’s efforts to defend its citizens and a terrorist organization’s campaign of violence must not be obscured. While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex, recognizing these distinctions and the role of intent is critical for a more accurate understanding of the dynamics at play and for fostering a meaningful dialogue aimed at achieving lasting peace in the region.

About the Author
Randy is the Director of Philanthropic Engagement & Communication at Tzedek America. For the past twenty years, Randy has also been engaged in Jewish education as an educator for teens and adults, specifically spending the past 15 years teaching Holocaust history and the Jewish history of Poland. Randy is a member of the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps and Speakers Bureau. Through Randy's communal work, he has also become involved in local politics and community outreach and has advocated for both communal and Jewish interests at the City and State level.
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