BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

Moral Relativism, Redux

Here we go again!
The Goldstone Report on the Israel’s actions in Operation Cast Lead have cast a serious pall over the country’s image.  There are numerous controversies during this short, but intense conflict.  There was the number of “civilian” casualties (for some reason, most terrorists don’t like to be identified by wearing uniforms), the “wanton” destruction of “mosques” (which doubled as weapon depots) and civilian property (which also served as Hamas’ bases) and the alleged targeting of UNWRA installations (also used by Hamas as staging areas for attacks).

In a perfect world there would be no war.  However, as we all know, we live in a less than perfect world.  There are conflicts. When faced with the necessity to take up arms and defend one’s home, family and way of life, does one toss his or her moral code aside and do “whatever necessary” to win?  No, this would diminish to a degree the value of those things for which one is fighting. However, Israel actually raised the moral bar in how such a conflict should be conducted – America and Russia should take note.

Not that Robert Goldstone recognized this.  No, his report is one-sided, filled with lies, half-truths and omissions.  It is part and parcel of the Islamic fundamentalist propaganda campaign.  It should be lumped in with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denials of the Holocaust; the “Zionism is Racism” slur perpetrated by the PLO and Soviet Union; and the Crusader blood libels.

What should we expect?
What should we expect from the men and women we’ve asked to defend us? Can their officers possibly describe to them every situation they might encounter on the battlefield and how to act? Can we expect a young man, who has been trained to act with deadly force, to reflect on the potential morality of every order at the risk of his own life? Actually, Israel does ask this of its soldiers!

We expect the political echelon to formulate clear and well thought-out policies. We expect the general staff to see to prepare and plan. We expect officers to lead their men courageously. We expect them to win. And yes, we expect them to act in the spirit of the moral values which we have asked them to defend. However, there are limitations to this, especially when fighting a barbaric, cruel enemy.

In the midst of battle, we cannot ask an infantry platoon to act as if they are freshmen philosophy students.  An army must fulfill its basic functions.  Or the enemy’s army will fulfill its basic functions and we will be the worse-off for it.  Western societies have come to view every field of human endeavor as one in which all players should have an equal chance to win.  However, war is a zero-sum game: there must be a loser.  I’m glad it was Hamas!

It’s all just a matter of opinion, isn’t it?
Moral relativism is the viewpoint that moral judgment regarding a person’s behavior depend on whether the person believes his actions to be right or wrong.  This view is commonly expressed as “there is no right or wrong, it’s all only a matter of opinion.”  Acceptance of this view is tantamount to saying that morality has no validity.  Taken to its obvious conclusion, there is nothing objectively wrong with one person torturing and killing another, as long as the individual committing these acts sincerely believes that they are not wrong.

“Cultural relativism,” is the view that moral judgments and rules reflect the cultural context from which they are derived and cannot be applied to other cultures or societies. Some who hold this view are skeptical about even the possibility of saying that slavery is wrong in a slave-holding society! Let’s give this a modern spin.

If I am born and raised in a culture that accepts strapping dynamite to my chest and blowing myself up in a supermarket as a legitimate method of protest, then this act cannot be condemned from a moral viewpoint.  It is part of my culture, and you as an outsider have no moral grounds to condemn my act.

The Price of Tea in China
So, what has all this to do with the price of tea in China? This: moral relativism is a weapon that wounds twice.  First, the person or group subjected to the attack is injured.  Second, the moral relativists – the apologists who often sit safely ensconced in university campuses, television studios and trendy coffee houses – demean and dishonor the victims and their own society.

The vast majority of the IDF acted with great restraint.  Enemy wounded received medical treatment.  There were many instances of soldiers risking their lives to remove women and children from harm’s way.  Many times soldiers held their fire, attempting to ascertain who or what was in a building, and in the process exposing themselves to danger.

Hamas is a terrorist organization with no interest in peace with Israel.  It could easily proclaim its willingness to abide by the agreements that the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed with Israel.  It could easily stop shelling Israeli towns and cities.  It could easily acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Hamas does none of these things.

Hamas smuggles weapons and ammunition into Gaza, in contravention of past Israeli-PA agreements and flouting international law.   It does so brazenly, offering reporters tours of tunnel digging and smuggling operations. It fires missiles and mortar shells at Israeli towns.  Hamas members dress their children in suicide bomber “costumes.”  It sends the mentally impaired to infiltrate Israel wearing suicide belts – murder belts, actually.  During Operation Cast Lead, missiles were stored in schools, weapons fire was directed from the minarets of mosques and attacks were launched from schools and hospitals.

This is their “culture,” their “moral code.”

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October 5, 2009 - Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Palestine | , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. An extremely good reply, just Im not sure that Hamas isn’t the loser and hasn’t been made stronger.
    Still their moral codes/standards are questionable and for that I am proud of Israeli soldiers standing up for the side that value life…

    Comment by Mihal indyk | October 7, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hello Big Mo!
    I am so happy to find your link via LinkedIn. Your blog, ‘Here we go again’ is excellent. I will be reading more of your blogs. Please check out http://www.thejidf.org [The Jewish Internet Defense Force] led by founder David Appletree.
    Naomi Litvin
    http://www.weneverlosthope.blogspot.com

    Comment by Naomi Litvin | October 7, 2009 | Reply


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