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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

License to Kill?

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a prominent figure in Israel's Zionist-Religious community, published yesterday an article justifying the killing of terrorists even after they are wounded and captured. The article (in Hebrew) came in the wake of reports that Israeli soldiers, from an elite naval commando unit, intentionally killed a wounded terrorist in Jenin last Friday.

The basic thrust of the article is that a terrorist has din rodef, which means that he endagers life and can be killed if that is necessary to stop him from killing. Aviner gives two reasons for his "license to kill": a. if the terrorist is jailed, he may later be released and murder again; b. the element of deterrence, to illustrate to other terrorists what their fate will be. Aviner calls the killing of wounded terrorists "a very moral act", but he is careful enough to close with a caveat: his is merely the viewpoint of the Torah, not practical guidelines for the military.

I read this and I find myself speechless, embarassed and frustrated at the twisting and turning of the Halacha to serve purposes for which it was not intended. Din Rodef deals with an act of murder which is about to be committed. Nobody questions the morality of killing a terrorist if there is danger that he is about to commit murder (e.g. if the soldiers have good reason to suspect he is carrying a bomb). But to interpret the Halacha to say that a future murderer should also be killed, just in case, even after being captured, is preposterous. According to this logic, Israel should execute all jailed terrorists immediately, as there is no doubt about their future intentions.

Sometimes I wish "rabbis" would learn to think twice before firing off their mouths and bending the Halacha to suit their political thoughts or, worse, their pent-up urges.

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