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Killing Innocent Lebanese Is Morally Wrong

Shooting someone who is attempting to or is in the process of doing you mortal harm is usually considered justifiable homicide on ground of self-defense. Shooting someone ex post facto is somewhat questionable, although it might still be morally acceptable, especially in the case of repeat offenders whereby killing the perpetrator would save the lives of future innocent victims. Killing the 20 innocent bystanders next to the perpetrator in order to get at the aggressor could no longer be considered a simple act of self-defense. Innocent blood has been shed, and someone must be held accountable.

In the case of the "accident" in Lebanon, as Harry J. Pell '99 described the incident in his guest column ["Israel Has a Right to Defend Itself," April 21], the responsibility of the tragedy fell on both parties: the Hizbollah guerrillas who provoked the aggression by firing upon Israeli civilians and cowardly hid amidst the Lebanese civilians, as well as the Israeli army that fired the lethal shell.

It is not a matter of whom to blame for starting the conflict, but rather it is a matter of who killed the innocents. Please remember that manslaughter, even when unintentional, is still a crime and morally wrong. The state of Israel could only claim the moral high ground of self-defense when it uses its lethal forces with control and precision, limiting its attacks strictly to the terrorists and them alone. When it ceased to do so, it has committed a wrong. Perhaps not as severe as murder, but it could not escape the blame of manslaughter. Either way, for the victims the end result is the same. They are dead, and for them it was an end all too premature and undeserved.

It is not easy to claim the moral high ground in a situation as complex as the one in the Middle East today. Israel could claim self-defense when it strikes against the Hizbollah guerrillas and them only. When it made the mistake of harming innocent people, it should accept the responsibility of its actions, instead of clinging to the claim of self-righteousness, as some apologists seemed to be doing.

Israel could continue its military activity in Lebanon if it is in the best interest of its citizens, but it should recognize the danger its military activity posed to the innocent Lebanese people, and be ready to take responsibility when "accidents" happen. The idea of an eye for an eye is somewhat morally questionable, although it might be justifiable under extreme conditions. However, poking out the eyes of bystanders for is never an acceptable response for losing an eye.

Remember that no one human's life is intrinsically more valuable than the life of another. All lives must be treated with equal respect and dignity. The Hizbollah guerrillas, by taking arms against either the Israeli army or the Israeli civilians, has forfeited this right to life. They have become fair game for the Israeli military. However, the people of Lebanon are not guilty of any crime, even if they happened to live right next to the terrorists. Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorist attacks, but the Lebanese people also have the right to live. Had the Hizbollah guerrillas launched their rocket attacks amidst Israeli civilians, would the Israeli army still respond in the same way? I rest my case.

Hsienchang Chiu '96