Just Wars and Unjust News

The pillars of the liberal left in Britain when I was younger were the New Statesman magazine and the Guardian and Observer newspapers. Later joined by the Independent daily.

Now these lead the lynch mob against Israel. The Observer last year had to retract a story that Israel used white phosphorus shells in Gaza. Today it drew a parallel between the ISIS / Yazidis crisis and the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Unbelievably, in this parallel Yazidis = Gazans and Israel = ISIS!

The Independent also regularly fires written missiles at Israel in a column misleadingly called ‘Comment is Free’. Misleadingly, because the only comment allowed is what the Independent chooses to publish.

In one of the latest ‘Comment is (not) Free’ it is argued that Israel’s war against Hamas was not a Just War. The writer is Paul Vallely ‘visiting professor of public ethics at the University of Chester’ . But he seems to have no understanding of Just War theory or of the facts in the Hamas – Israel conflict.

He says:

‘There are six classic criteria for a Just War. Your cause must be just; you must act with good intentions and have legal authority. More problematically for Israel, the means you use must be in proportion to the end you seek to achieve.’

And later:

‘You must have a reasonable prospect of military success. And all other ways of resolving the problem must have been tried first.’

Let’s look at these.

‘Cause must be just’.  Hundreds of  suicide bombers, about 20,00 projectiles over 12 years, tunnels into Israel territory – combined with the explicit intention of Hamas to destroy Israel? This is prime evidence for Hamas committing the Just War crime of Aggression. The crime of Aggression underpins Just War theory. And this person calls himself a scholar?

‘Good intentions’. Is not defending your citizens a ‘good intention’?What about Israel’s warning of non-combatants and pulling back airstrikes if there is a risk of harming civilians? Is this person blind, stupid, or dangerously prejudiced?

‘Legal authority’. Using force against this crime of Aggression is the standard and only legal and moral justification for waging war. It is in the UN Charter (Chapter VII, Article 51). In Just War theory this argument goes back to at least the 19th century. Since a government is the sole source of force, say the philosophers, then it is actually obliged to use force to protect its citizens. A scholar in this field does not know this basic stuff?

‘In proportion’. His only argument for disproportionality is that more Gazans than Israelis have died. This is NOT the Just War test for disproportionality. If it were, then Nazi Germany’s war against Britain would be unjust on the part of Britain, since many more German than British civilians died. He seems to not know elementary ideas about conducting a Just War.

‘Reasonable prospect of military success’. P.M. Netanyahu defined military success as preventing Hamas from rocket fire in the future and (later) also destroying the tunnels. The Iron Dome, continued air strikes, and a weapons blockade gives this first objective a ‘reasonable prospect of military success’.  And since the second objective is almost realised, this also must  be considered a ‘reasonable prospect’. Mr. Vallely’s argument here was demonstrably false when he wrote it.

‘Other ways of resolution.’ Has this person no idea that Israel pulled out of Gaza completely nine years ago ‘to take risks for peace’? How do you find ‘ways of resolution’ with a genocidal organisation whose starting position is no negotiation?

The Independent does not allow rebuttals or comments in ‘Comments are Free’ (sic and sick).  I know I am just banging my head against a brick wall when arguing with the British liberal media. Maybe the moral is not to trust their accredited experts. But you probably know that already!

About the Author
Born in UK. Migrated to Australia. Now retired and living in Jerusalem.