Editorial View - By Asher Shla'in

[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]

Pilots and Criminals

Let The Conscience Speak Up

The debate that erupted over the letter written by several IAF pilots, refusing to participate in executing the policy of "targeted killings", has already left behind the questions of conscientious objection and the nation's democratic values. As if pre-planned, it has become an issue in the foreign media, threats of international trials against pilots were voiced, Israel's Supreme Court has been called to state its position on this "killing without trial", and Israeli "spiritual figures" got together to press charges against the IAF commander.

Being a law-abiding person is generally quite commendable; fortunately, the law is usually supported by compulsory means. Yet, as legislation (internal and international) is a human act, and does not carry any celestial value, it can be questioned and modified. Therefore, I wish to review the pilots' act and its repercussions and implications in light of the real facts, according clear basic values and preferences.

My own conscience is an active one, and I keep consulting it in the course of the present discussion. In real life, one's conscience sometimes calls for a necessary "compromise" concerning rights that should have been honored in other circumstances. However, no discount in my own moral judgement is called for, concerning the harsh issue of targeted killings.

This is a war situation. War is characterized by the inability to defend those entitled to security by the usual police means. In war, there exists an enemy that has succeeded to gain power within an alien population, and operates in a way that attacking it or defending against it can hurt civilians, with less than the desired distinction between hostile activists and innocent residents.

The signing pilots and their supporters call for a prompt "end to occupation" as the ultimate cure to the violence we endure. As is known, this is about handing over the territory beyond the "green line", Juden-Rein, to the exclusive rule of PLO. Their position implies that the need to deal with the sources of terror against our people will then disappear. It must also imply, however, that in case of continued or renewed terrorist activity against our civilians from within the "liberated" population - we will be entitled to attack these poor people, even more blindly (as intelligence will diminish), while the option of an arrest will become zero. Yet, it will then be "allowed" because the Palestinians will have become a "state". In this situation, the renewed harsher ordeal of the Palestinians will turn "legitimate" by these pilots' kind of conscience - being then the result of a "proper" war. (In this connection see Martin Sherman's Hebrew article in: http://www.ynet.co.il/home/1,7340,L-788-2771195,00.html).

My sense of morality, however, works differently (how does yours?) - I care for people more then for formal entities. I would expect real lovers of the Palestinians to struggle (also against Israeli authorities) for the rights, dignity and welfare of each person - rather than abandon these people to the mercy of a criminal, terror-supporting regime. My public conscience is already burdened with the neglect to liberate them from the terrorist rule that we introduced over them through past policies.

In the present situation, the war against terror regrettably cannot be done in conventional police work - and yet, breaking the hold of terrorists and criminals on the Palestinian society is something Palestinians need even more than we need our peace.

The acts of the rebelling pilots and their political camp seem to stem not from real care for people, justice and human rights - but from the wish to distance themselves from Arabs and their hardships, even if it involves PLO victory.

Asher Shla'in, 3/October/2003


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