David E. Weisberg

Unintended Tragedies, Vicious Accusations

By now, virtually everyone in the world knows that Israeli military forces operating in Gaza killed seven aid workers from the charity organization World Central Kitchen, which distributes food to people in need.  Those killed were citizens of several different countries, including one American citizen.

Within hours, Prime Minister Netanyahu acknowledged Israel’s responsibility in a statement: “Unfortunately, in the past day there was a tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants in the Gaza Strip. This happens in war. We are conducting a thorough inquiry and are in contact with the governments. We will do everything to prevent a recurrence.”  And, after the prime minister’s admission, the Israeli chief of staff, Herzi Halevi, said the attack was “a mistake that followed a misidentification” that “should not have happened.”

There is no reason to believe that the prime minister was untruthful in characterizing the killings as unintentional, or that the chief of staff was untruthful when he said the attack resulted from misidentification.  Moreover, there are two persuasive reasons to believe the prime minister and the chief of staff were telling the truth.

First of all, Israel could have no possible reason for intentionally killing aid workers from a very well-respected international charity organization.  Any rational person would recognize from the outset that killing aid workers would bury Israel under a mountain of international criticism, as even the unintentional killing has done.  The cold, calculated truth is that any cost/benefit analysis would prove beyond doubt that there could be no net benefit to Israel from such acts.

Secondly, even if one entertains the far-fetched idea that Israel would intentionally kill aid workers, it nevertheless would make no sense for Israel to use air strikes to accomplish that end.  The air strikes that caused seven deaths are attacks that only Israel could carry out; Hamas and the other terrorist groups in Gaza do not have the kind of precision aerial weapons that were used.  Therefore, rational Israelis would use weapons—for example, assault rifles or hand grenades—that at least arguably could have been used by remnants of terrorist forces in the locale of the attack.  That would have left Israel with some ability to argue that the killings were not perpetrated by its forces.  In stark contrast, Israel has admitted that it was in fact responsible for the deaths.

All of the foregoing reinforces what any fair-minded person would presume to be true: although the deaths of the seven aid workers were reprehensible and might well have resulted from negligence that was so egregious as to be criminal in nature, no one intended that innocent aid workers would be killed.

And now Bernie Sanders, the socialist U.S. senator from Vermont, takes his place at the virtual podium and expresses his views.  When asked on the MSNBC cable news channel what he would say to Prime Minister Netanyahu if the two had a conversation, Sanders replied: “Stop murdering innocent people.”  This response should be carefully examined.

Sanders’ response assumes, of course, that the prime minister has already been involved in the murder of innocent people—you cannot stop doing something unless you have already started to do that something.  That is simply common sense and ordinary English.  Sanders therefore has asserted on a national cable news channel that Netanyahu is guilty of murder.

And, if Netanyahu is guilty of murder, it would follow that numerous other Israelis—particularly Israelis in the IDF—are also guilty of murder.  This would follow because not even Bernie Sanders would claim that it was Netanyahu’s hand that launched the missiles that killed the aid workers.  No, Netanyahu would have had to give an order to a fairly senior military commander that innocent aid workers should be killed, and that senior military commander would have had to pass that order down the chain of command until it reached the soldier(s) whose hand(s) actually did launch the deadly missile(s).

Each person in the chain of command obviously would have known that it is a war crime, as well as the ordinary garden-variety civilian crime of murder—to intentionally kill innocent civilians.  So, from Sanders’ perspective Netanyahu could not be the only person guilty of murder; the entire chain of command, from Netanyahu to the soldier who launched the missile, would be similarly guilty.  This is the world according to Bernie Sanders.

It is difficult to know how to respond to the bizarre, grotesque ideas that are frequently expressed by Sen. Sanders, other than to shrug one’s shoulders and insist on returning to planet Earth.  The senior senator from Vermont apparently is ignorant of the fact that, in urban conflicts, it is tragically inevitable that civilians as well as combatants are killed.  And when combatants deliberately hide behind civilians, as Hamas terrorists do, civilian deaths are sure to increase.  Rather than trying to learn what every intelligent person knows, Sanders viciously lashes out at people he does not like.  There is no basis for his accusation of “murder,” but the senator doesn’t care that there is no basis.  That’s Bernie Sanders.

About the Author
David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the N.Y. Bar; he also has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Michigan (1971). He now lives in Cary, NC. His scholarly papers on U.S. constitutional law can be read on the Social Science Research Network at:
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