This fictitious story clarifies how perfect human justice can be very unjust
This is my rendering after a story by Rabbi Zev Leff, may he be well.
Imagine a sheer perfect person. He’s very respectful and grateful vis-à-vis his parents. He loves and adores his wife and stands by her any way she wishes and more and is grateful for her support. He’s a superb father to their children. He teaches by example, is always pointing out things he likes in them, gives each what they long for, answers their questions, and is generously available. He’s a model worker. All his colleagues like and admire him and his boss consults him regularly. He’s always ready to help, to ask and give advice when needed, honest, fair, warm, punctual. (Same with his friends.) Many work there because he’s there. He’s a pillar in the community, both with volunteering and chairing community interests.
He only has one flaw. As soon as he sees a fast-food restaurant he’ll run to buy a machine gun to kill everyone inside. One fatal day, this story goes, he does just that. The police arrest him, he’s brought to court, and he gets life without the possibility of parole. No one can say that’s unfair.
However, his parents, wife, children, boss, colleagues, friends, and everyone in his community suffer a tremendous loss. But why? They did nothing wrong. How is this fair?
This is not fair to everyone else, but his verdict is. Could the judge send him home as if nothing happened? No. He cannot punish him less because bystanders suffer. He also didn’t punish more to hurt his close ones.
The story is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Take pit bull terriers. Bred to attack and kill small animals. But, not in attack mode, they are incredibly sweet, especially to children. Yet, when triggered, they turn into killing machines, almost impossible to be stopped. (A teacher of one of my kids, an extreme softy and deeply religious man, once stopped an attacking pit bull terrier. All the kids in the class thought he was the cool hero he was.) Unfortunately, a baby skull is exactly what can trigger them. Therefore, all pit bull terriers should be put down. Is that fair to the sweet dogs? No. Is that fair to the kids who loved him? No. But you can’t have them around. [As a side point, Dutch animal experts hold these dogs have no aggressive nature so that their aggression comes from not being properly trained.]
Same in Gaza. Most of these mass murderers, rapists, and terrorists probably have parents, wives, children, bosses, colleagues, friends, and neighbors who care about them. All of the latter might be innocent (let’s say, for argument’s sake). The IDF tries to spare them. It’s sad, but showing what Israel does with people who collectively are bent on mass murdering Jews is shocking. It looks more inhumane than an abattoir (I’m a vegan). But it’s the proper, right, just, and humane thing to do.
Recall this, when the media push the innocently hurt bystanders’ narrative.
The survivors of the genocide are different. They are like rape victims, even those not physically raped—different from the family of the rapists.
The rabbis teach G^d’s Justice does no collateral damage. Each verdict is perfectly calibrated. [But martyrdom only cleanses and elevates.] Yet, one can be unlucky and suffer collateral damage only your neighbor deserved. But that will always rectify something from an earlier incarnation.
On Proportional and Collateral Damage, Guilt, and War Crimes
Military action being ‘proportional’ has nothing to do with ‘getting even’ or taking revenge ‘reasonably.’ Something like: ‘You killed so many of us, so now, we can kill so many of you’ has nothing to do with fair warfare.
Rather, a military strike is disproportional when it aims at a proper military target, but an unreasonable number of non-combatants or civil structures are hurt. Bombing cities indiscriminately is a war crime. Targeted killing of an enemy while trying to spare bystanders is just and fair in war.
NB: Houses of worship, hospitals, and schools are to be spared. Yet, their protected status falls away when they are used by the combatants of the invaded population in the war to store weapons, to fire from them, etc. The international legislators or the laws of war were not stupid.
The US in Afghanistan fought proportionally. It killed three to five times more bystanders than terrorists. That is proportional! The IDF in Gaza is so careful with human life that it kills less than one civilian for every terrorist!
NB: A child (someone under 18) carrying or using arms is counted as a soldier. Chamas trained and used many child terrorists. ‘Journalists’ who worked for Chamas are not immune civil reporters. They are fair game.
Unarmed Gazan civilians also committed war crimes in great numbers (plunder, rape, unlawful incarceration). They should be brought to trial.
When a terror tunnel is dug from a Muslim village to a Jewish neighborhood, surely everyone in the village knows. The removed sand is more than what can fill a couple of litter boxes. When no one notifies the authorities, you may want to put them all on trial for abetting terror or failing to prevent mass murder, but you cannot carpet bomb the village.
Proportionality requires not targeting civilians or civilian structures, which would be war crimes anyway, even when the residents are enthusiastic supporters of Chamas. Immoral but unarmed supporters you cannot hurt.
In wars, mistakes and accidents happen. Those are not crimes. Minimizing civil casualties among the enemy goes a long way toward proportionality or ‘fair’ collateral damage. While all death is terrible, especially when caused by humans, there is a difference between an accident and murder.
In love and war, not all is allowed. The first to rule so were the Torah and Jewish Law. In a war, you can’t uproot fruit trees if you need wood, and not-fruit-bearing trees are around for use. That would be disproportional.