Justice in the Public's Eye
Emotions Should Not Define World's View of Israel
In December 1992, when Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin deported 400 Hamas activists, the world reacted with disgust and indignation. Rabin had to revoke this action and allow the Hamas terrorists to return to Israeli soil. In stark contrast, following the recent killing of 23 civilians in a bus explosion in Tel-Aviv, Israel has been granted full international support for its declaration of an all-out assault on Hamas.
This change in public opinion does not result from any substantive changes in Hamas's ideology or actions. Two years ago Hamas held exactly the same position that they hold today. They openly declared that they would have nothing to do with the peace process and that they will do everything within their power to jeopardize it.
Preceding the deportation, on November 21, 1992, a Hamas car bomb that was set to go off in a crowded site in Or Yehuda (a suburb of Tel-Aviv) was foiled by the Israeli security forces. On December 7, 1992, Hamas activists killed three Israeli reserve soldiers. On December 13, 1992, Hamas kidnapped and murdered border policeman Nissim Toledano. These are but a few of the terrorist attacks that precipitated Rabin's deportation order.
Why did Israel have to wait for its worst-ever terrorist attack in order to receive the legitimacy to retaliate and prevent further attacks? The terrorist acts that instigated the deportation were warning shots against the future. But in the public's eyes, the attempt to blow up a car in a crowded site is not "enough" to warrant severe actions. Enough is shreds of 23 dead civilians lying in the most central district of the most central city in Israel.
The base of the problem lies in the misconception of justice. Justice as it is perceived today is always on the side of the vulnerable and the weak--never on the side that has the power and dares to use it. Two years ago, when Rabin deported the Hamas members, Israel was in a strong position. True, there were the terrorist attacks that prompted the deportation, but they were not considered severe enough to render the Israelis weak or vulnerable. Suddenly, an attack in the center of Jerusalem and an attack in the center of Tel-Aviv made Israelis vulnerable and the fickle pendulum of justice shifted to Israel's side.
Power is not inherently bad. Moreover, when in the hands of the just, it is a virtue since it deters or actively halts those who violate justice. For example, the United States' strength has saved the world time and again from falling into the hands of authoritative regimes. Israel, though strong two years ago, had every moral right, just as it has today, to treat Hamas in whichever way necessary to stop their terrorist campaign.
The underlying cause of the current approach to justice is a result of giving emotions primacy over reason. Emotions became the standard of justice. More emotions were triggered when the media showed the pictures of the 400 deportees homeless in the mountains of Lebanon than by sporadic terrorist attacks and promises of further attacks.
Emotions are fickle and subjective. They do not rely on objective standards for the judgment of right and wrong. It is dangerous to make life and death decisions in the throes of passion. Emotions have another characteristic that renders them inadequate for making decisions about justice. By their very nature emotions are reactive, not predictive. Predictions and planning belong in the domain of reason.
In 1992, following the terrorist attacks and the attempts on civilian targets, emotions could not and did not predict that sooner or later a bomb would elude Israeli security. Decisions concerning justice should be made through deliberate thought relying on reason, not emotions.
Decisions of justice have to be reached through careful consideration of the circumstances and the possible consequences. When Rabin deported the Hamas activists, he knew that the consequences of not taking severe actions could be dire. Indeed, most of the Hamas leaders behind the recent terrorist attacks were among the 400, former deportees. Rabin's decision to deport the 400 Hamas terrorists was firmly rooted in reason. His decision to allow them back into Israel was a surrender to emotion.
Israel deported 400 Hamas members in order to secure justice. Israel acted as it did because Hamas carried out terrorist attacks directed at jeopardizing the peace process. Had emotions not overcome reason two years ago perhaps an act that defies all reason could have been prevented.