Morality For The Mentally Deranged
You can kill as many innocent people as you want, so long as you don't do it on purpose
John Kirby, the Coordinator for Strategic Communications on the National Security Council for President Joe Biden, recently made a statement defending Israel’s policy in the war against Gaza. The relevant portion begins at 2:05 in the video below.
Hamas deliberately slaughtered and murdered some 1,200 people on the 7th of October, and it seems like we’re all willing to forget that…
It is not the Israeli Defense Forces strategy to kill innocent people. It’s happening, I admit that. Each one’s a tragedy, but it’s not like the Israelis are sitting around every morning and saying, “Hey, how many more civilians can we kill today? Let’s go bomb a school, or a hospital, or a residential building and just cause civilian casualties.” They’re not doing that. They’re trying to go after Hamas, and it’s a very difficult task. When Hamas, oh, by the way, in addition to deliberately slaughtering people, is deliberately hiding themselves in residential buildings, in hospitals, in tunnels, putting the innocent people of Gaza deliberately in the crossfire. Now you tell me, is that right?
Kirby is attempting to make the point that the difference between Israel and Hamas, who committed a terrorist attack on October 7th, 2023 killing somewhere around 1,200 innocent civilians in Israel, is that Hamas deliberately targets innocent civilians whereas the Israeli government merely kills civilians in Gaza by mistake. The implication being that this makes Israel morally superior to Hamas. My reply to that would be that being morally superior to a terrorist organization is hardly a high-bar to hurdle when it comes to basic humanity.
Regardless, does Kirby’s point even matter?
Let’s say he’s right that the IDF isn’t deliberately targeting innocent civilians in Gaza per se, let alone gleefully taking pride in every civilian killed in the straw-man he erects in his statement: How would the situation look different if they did? I doubt there’s an accurate count of innocent civilians killed and injured in Israel’s strikes on Gaza as of yet, but it certainly numbers in the tens of thousands. So Israel has accidentally killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians in the two months since the Hamas terrorist attack, but Hamas is worse because they killed 1,200 people on purpose. That’s the type of logic that could only appeal to the criminally insane.
It does not matter if Israel is deliberately trying to kill innocent Palestinians by the tens of thousands or if they are simply doing it by accident. What matters is that Israel is killing innocent Palestinians by the tens of thousands and has no intention of stopping or doing anything to mitigate the killing of innocent civilians. Whether the crime here is murder or manslaughter is, at least at the moment, irrelevant: What matters is that innocent people are being slaughtered, to use John Kirby’s word, and Israel refuses to stop killing them.
Now, all of that said, Israel is deliberately targeting innocent civilians in Gaza. If you purposely bomb a hospital where you know there are innocent civilians—even if Hamas is genuinely using it as a base of operations—then you are deliberately targeting innocent civilians. They may not be the ones you want to bomb, but you know that they are present in the hospital and that your actions will kill them.
Yes, Hamas may be using innocent Palestinians as human shields, but it doesn’t follow that their lives are forfeited because a terrorist organization has no regard for their lives anymore than they do Israeli lives. “If Hamas doesn’t care about them, why should we,” should not be a convincing argument to anyone. Forgive me if I hold the Israeli government to a higher standard than a terrorist organization, especially when my money is being sent to them so that they can murder innocent people who never did me any harm.