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On my previous article

Chag Purim sameach. I am writing concerning my previous blogpost which has generated considerable discussion.
Firstly, I wish to recognise Benji Schleider whose communication helped me organise my thoughts and make some necessary further comments.
On a broad point, I want to first note that my article overstepped the mark. I use my blogs to express my opinions, and my opinions are highly influenced by my Torah study. I have always made a conscious point to try to avoid appearing to pasken when I’m not qualified to do so.  Here I wrote in a way that crossed that boundary and may have given the wrong impression I was paskening. I wish to express my regrets for this and to apologise to chachmei Yisrael – I will make best efforts to avoid repeating the same mistake.
Nonetheless, I wish to defend my interpretation of the relevant scriptural prooftexts as a support for my overall contention that Israel should change its thinking on its approach in Gaza as we see there is a risk that famine may happen there: i.e. the Torah’s commandment to help one’s enemy with a fallen donkey (Exodus 23:5), and the Talmud’s prioritisation of the enemy over the friend (Baba Metzia 32B).
Many, in response to my article, have observed ‘the enemy’ the Torah is talking about is a Jewish enemy. I understand this is the generally understood position of the Rambam (Mishneh Torah Rotzeach uShmirat Nefesh 13:9), so I proceed with humility.
While I would be ready and pleased to defer to conclusive counter-arguments, from my own close reading of Baba Metzia 32B and various interpretations of it, it seems to me the enemy the Torah is talking about is not Jewish, and that indeed, the enemy should be prioritised.
The gemara text itself is short and cryptic. Specifically, the gemara makes an assertion that ‘the enemy’ is Jewish. However, this appears to be refuted immediately afterwards, as the gemara proceeds to clarify that the Jewish enemy is ‘the enemy’ in a previously cited baraita and not ‘the enemy’ in the pasuk in Shemot. Here is how Sefaria words it: 
The Gemara suggests: Come and hear proof from a baraita: If one encounters a friend whose animal collapsed and it is necessary to unload its burden, and one also encounters an enemy who needs assistance to load a burden onto his animal, the mitzva is to assist the enemy, in order to subjugate one’s evil inclination. The Gemara reasons: And if it enters your mind that the requirement to prevent suffering to animals is by Torah law, that option, to unload his friend’s animal, is the preferable course of action for him. The Gemara answers: Even if the requirement to prevent suffering to animals is by Torah law, even so, loading his enemy’s animal in order to subjugate his evil inclination is preferable.The Gemara suggests: Come and hear proof from a baraita. The enemy with regard to which they stated the halakha that one must assist with his animal is a Jewish enemy and not a gentile enemy. The Gemara asks: If you say that the requirement to prevent suffering to animals is by Torah law, what is it to me if it is a Jewish enemy and what is it to me if it is a gentile enemy? In either case, failure to unload the burden will cause the animal suffering. The Gemara answers: Do you maintain that the reference in the baraita to an enemy applies to the enemy mentioned in the verse: “If you see the donkey of him that hates you collapsed under its burden…you shall release it with him”? It applies to the enemy mentioned in the baraita cited above, in which the tanna taught that loading a burden onto an enemy’s animal is preferable to unloading a burden from a friend’s animal.
The Artscroll commentary seems to reach a similar position – “neither baraita implies an exemption from unloading a non-Jew’s animal”.
Moreover, going back a little further in the masekhet on the same daf, the gemara appears to set an obligation to help a non-Jew just as one would help a Jew, because of ‘enmity’ i.e. the resentment it would cause if people see a Jew only helping other Jews. (The Rambam,  for his part, qualifies his ruling noted above that one is not obligated to help a non-Jew with the caveat ‘unless enmity will be aroused’. This caveat seems to modify our understanding of what the Rambam is actually ruling.)
Even taking account all of the above, this still sets a weaker requirement than the conclusion in my article – and again noting I overstepped the mark in terms of appearing to pasken – that we are obliged to help ‘the enemy’ first.
Here again, we may look closely at the gemara’s words (and I realise there may be a makhloket on this). The baraita that speaks of the enemy being Jewish discusses a dilemma in which the choice is whether to unload the donkey of the friend or load the donkey of the enemy. Note the difference – it is a case of unloading versus loading, where the gemara elsewhere seems to recognise unloading as the more pressing imperative, and loading the less pressing imperative (i.e. an apples versus oranges comparison). Therefore, the gemara doesn’t seem directly to speak to an unloading versus unloading comparison (i.e. apples versus apples), at least not in Baba Metzia 32b. (If there are other references I missed, please enlighten me.)
But given that the gemara appears to conclude previously that the enemy referred to in the Torah obligation is a non-Jewish enemy, and also that the gemara establishes the principle that helping your enemies first is necessary to overcome the evil inclination, it leads to the likely conclusion – and again I don’t want to give the impression of paskening – that one would indeed still prioritise helping an enemy in an unload versus unload situation, which seems to be the case here.
Just to add to this, when I read Rabbi Sacks ZT”L (‘helping enemies’; Helping an Enemy | Mishpatim | Covenant & Conversation | The Rabbi Sacks Legacy) – and being clear I don’t wish to imply that he would have necessarily defended the same position I am holding, or to impute to Rabbi Sacks any particular position that he may have taken on the current conflict in Gaza – he refers in his article to the pasuk/mitzvah in Shemot and the gemara in Baba Metzia 32B together with the mitzvot not to hate Edomites and Egyptians, so while he does not directly say so, his writing seems to lead in a similar direction.
But here I have to concede an ambiguity in my writing. I am not saying Israel should be helping provide aid to Hamas combatants, G-d forbid. Rather, I am talking about ensuring humanitarian relief reaches non-Hamas Palestinian civilians. I hoped this would be clear because earlier in the article, I had specifically mentioned the imperative to ‘end Hamas’. Admittedly, though, the phraseology in my article clouds this issue somewhat. But let it be clarified – I am referring here about ensuring humanitarian relief reaches, not those combatants that Israel is actually fighting (including those many combatants that disguise as civilians), but rather those non-combatant Palestinian civilians who hate Israel as well as of course any that don’t. (What to do in the event when it is not clear? I think Israel has tried and tested measures for identifying combatants disguised as civilians, though I accept this is not easy and there’s a lack of moral outrage on this practice from those who are otherwise quick to condemn Israel.)
Finally, my article, G-d forbid, is not intended to harm Israel. To be clear, there is no implication from my side that Israel is trying to block the aid, G-d forbid. I have seen persuasive evidence that Israel is doing its part to check and admit aid in increasing volumes, and that these volumes may be higher than the volumes entering Gaza pre-war.
Rather, my underlying concern is that Israel appears to be taking a position of being reactive rather than proactive in addressing the humanitarian situation in Gaza. It appears to be responding to the urgings of others in opening up new avenues for providing humanitarian assistance rather than itself championing innovations and forward-thinking, as per Israel’s posture in so many other activities. This includes Israel’s long-standing and under-publicised efforts to offer world-leading specialised medical treatment to Palestinians who cannot access such treatment in the Palestinian areas. It also includes Israel’s rapid response to humanitarian disasters around the world, earthquakes in Pakistan and Turkey being only two of many examples. These are acts of kiddush Hashem.
Rather, I feel there are several problems with Israel appearing to be reactive on the humanitarian issue.
Firstly, it is the wrong thing to do, as argued above.
Secondly, Israel mistakenly provides other parties with a moral high ground which, in many cases, is not in the least deserved and undermines Israel’s strategic as well as moral standing. Israel has a wonderful record of fulfilling the Torah’s maxim on helping non-Jews, accumulated over decades, and there is a danger this could now be over-shadowed. By consequence, it is doing itself, and the Jewish people, a disservice. It is right to call this out.
Thirdly, Israel is missing an opportunity. It has been widely recognised since long before the current conflict that Hamas uses aid as an instrument of exercising and maintaining its grip on power in Gaza. In so doing, it follows the practice of grimy warlords and dictators around the world, not of an organisation that claims to act in line with principles championed by Quran, as in Torah. Israel could have further widened the moral daylight between Hamas and itself by positioning itself as the guardian of Palestinian civilians, acting in line with principles held in the humanitarian sector to make sure no one is left behind when it comes to accessing aid. In so doing, it would also have stripped Hamas of one of its major sources of power and influence.
As far as different thinking is concerned, since my article was published, MKs Gideon Sa’ar of the right wing New Hope party and Danny Danon of the ruling Likud showed one example a few days ago – that Israel should now formally push for a surrender and exile option for the Hamas’ leadership, one which has presumably always been a possibility but never formally platformed.
I believe there are other alternatives, but either way, I feel that being reactive rather than proactive on humanitarian aid to Gaza will, G-d forbid, generate more losses than gains for Israel across many dimensions.
About the Author
Adam Gross is a strategist that specialises in solving complex problems in the international arena. Adam made aliyah with his family in 2019 to live in northern Israel.
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