Rockets & Retaliation
While the Russians have claimed that Hamas is willing to talk peace, rockets continue to rain down on Israel.
On the face of it, firing rockets into populated areas seems like a clearly immoral action. However, I have had enough debates about such matters to know that some people regard such tactics as morally acceptable. Outside of academic types, clearly the people who are involved with firing the rockets find their behavior acceptable. Either that or they are somehow overcoming any moral reluctance they might feel. It is worth considering what arguments might be used to morally justify such acts.
One main argument is that the rockets are being fired in retaliation for Israeli wrong doings. As such, the rockets are intended as punishment. In general, punishing people for their misdeeds is morally acceptable and can be argued for in terms of deterrence and retribution (see John Locke’s arguments as good examples of this).
To counter this, punishment is something that should be directed at the guilty party and not randomly inflicted. After all, to punish the innocent would simply be to commit a crime against them and would not be an act of justice.
It might be replied that the people hurt by the rockets are (usually) Israelis and hence they are not innocent. However, being and Israeli seems to be a rather weak basis for justifying such attacks. To use a analogy, imagine that professor Sally is fired from her job at Big University so that the university President can give her boyfriend Sally’s job. Now suppose that, in revenge, Sally started randomly slashing the tires of students’ cars because they happened to be students of the university. While the students are associated with Big U, they hardly deserve her wrath. Likewise for the innocent civilians.
It could be argued that being a citizen comes with moral accountability such that each citizen is responsible for all that his/her nation does. So, the rocket attacks would be justified retaliation provided they killed only Israeli citizens (or other “guilty” people).
In reply, while citizens (at least in democracies) do bear some responsibility for the actions of their nation, such random attacks fail to take into account important distinctions. To be specific, surely not every citizen bears the guilt of every misdeed (or perceived misdeed) of a nation. For example, a random rocket attack could kill an Israeli who has worked for the good of the people of Gaza or it could kill a child. Surely such people do not deserve death.
Obviously, it could be argued that collective guilt somehow overrides all other normally relevant aspects (such as past actions). However, the burden of proof seems to be on those who would make this claim. On the face of it, such distinctions seem very important everywhere else. Why should this situation be different?
In light of these arguments, such random rocket attacks (and similar acts of terror) can not be justified as legitimate retaliation or punishment.