Friday, July 28, 2017

Counter-Terrorism for Dummies (TM)

This will, I very much hope, be the last of my posts relating to my nephew's shooting of the terrorist in Neve Tzuf. If you don't want to read any more about this topic, feel free to skip to the end of the post to see a photo of an amazing animal that I met this week.

On Facebook, I posted a link to my previous post, Armchair Commandos, with the request that people should "please read this post to see why people who are criticizing my nephew for not killing the terrorist have no idea what they are talking about and are causing unwarranted distress." Incredibly, some people responded by criticizing my nephew without reading the post!

In that post, I deliberately did not explain the reasons why my nephew did not kill the terrorist. For I wanted to stress that the more fundamental point is that if you haven't trained as a soldier, don't know the Rules of Engagement or the reasons for them, AND haven't been in such a situation, then you are simply not in a position to judge what he did.

Some people said that it was wrong for me to try to shut down discussion and "argue from authority." After all, they said, everyone's entitled to their opinion. And wasn't I being a hypocrite - after all, when the Gedolim banned my books, I didn't accept the argument from authority!

The answer to that is that there's actually no problem of logic or reason with arguing from authority. The only question is, who is considered an authority! I would argue that the charedi Gedolim are not authorities in resolving conflicts between Torah and science. (Obviously, others disagree, but I have presented ample arguments as to why they are mistaken.)

When it comes to counter-terrorism, however, the IDF and my nephew are clearly greater authorities than some random Joe Shmo with a computer. This was made very clear by the silly comments made by people with absolutely no knowledge of these things. In order to explain why they are wrong, I will have to explain some of the reasons for the IDF's rules of engagement and my nephew's actions. But I am sick of arguing this with people, and it is extremely hurtful to my family (who read my posts and the comments). Aside from dealing with the trauma of the attack itself and the loss of their neighbors, my sister and her family have had to deal with the press hounding them and the most horrific comments made about my nephew being a coward(!!!) and suchlike. So if people want to post critical comments on the arguments that I will now present, do it on your own blog or Facebook page, not here!

So here are some sample criticisms and my response (I am not a soldier either, but at least I have read about the rules of engagement and spoken to my family):

"He should have shot to kill!"
Response: That is only in the movies, not in real life. In real life, except for certain very specific types of situations (e.g. with a sniper), there is shoot to hit or shoot to miss. The human head is a relatively small target compared to the body. To maximize their chances of hitting the terrorist, soldiers are trained to shoot for the largest target, which is their torso. (It's pretty amazing that my nephew managed to hit him - after suddenly running out of his house, scaling a wall and firing through the very small kitchen window!) Shooting them in the torso may or may not result in their death. So this is the perfectly logical reason why he did not "shoot to kill." Now, someone without military training would not necessarily know this. But what they should know is that they don't have military training and therefore should not criticize!
Even if it was possible to "shoot to kill," there are very good reasons why the IDF would not train its soldiers to do that. One reason is that there have been cases of mistaken identity - of terrorist attacks in which well-meaning defenders accidentally killed the wrong person. It's much better to have a practice of simply stopping the terror attack, and then evaluating what should be done. (There are also other reasons why "shoot to kill," even if possible, would not be a wise policy.)

"He should have shot him dead afterwards!"
Response: Really? At what point exactly should he have done this? My nephew shot the terrorist, the terrorist dropped, and then my nephew ran into the house. At that point, when every second counts, he did exactly the right thing - he checked to see if there were other terrorists (for which he would need every bullet!), and he tried to stop his neighbors from bleeding to death. When exactly should he have killed him?

When help came for the victims, should he have gone to the side and quietly put a bullet in his head? Aside from the fact that the consequences for my nephew would have been disastrous, why don't you demand that of everyone else who showed up? There is a government and there are courts and terrorists get put on trial. If you want the courts to apply the death penalty, then petition the government. Don't demand whoever happens to be around the terrorist - be it the soldier, the medic, or the prison warden - to act outside of the legal system.

Again, I understand that people are frustrated that this murderer is alive and might walk free one day. Believe me, my family is every bit as upset about that as you are - and probably a lot more so. But don't vent your frustration in misplaced criticism. And if you haven't been trained and experienced in combat situations, then you are not in a position to judge those who are.

Shabbat Shalom from Australia. Here is a photo of an amazing animal that I met this week:


And here is a reminder about the Exotic Halachic Feast at The Biblical Museum of Natural History - which has a very limited number of seats available!


26 comments:

  1. Rabbi Slifkin - as the father of a soldier, I completely agree with what you wrote above. It's a shame the terrorist was not killed by the shot, but that has nothing to do with what your nephew did, which was correct and courageous. A soldier shoots to stop an attacker, which is exactly what he did.

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  2. Without criticizing your nephew (no one can really know what was his mindset and how anyone would respond to such a situation... The fact that he did act and even neutralized the terrorist is way better than what most of peoples would have done in such situations), the idf rules of engagement applies only to a full squad of fighters.
    When stopping a terrorist, before looking for others terrorists or helping victims, you HAVE TO make sure he isn't a threat anymore all along. When you're with others, one can point his weapon on the terrorist while the other goes on.
    When you're alone, the only way is to shoot once in the head. Otherwise, if the terrorist get back on his feet there is no one to stop him.

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  3. Extremely well said. And what is that animal? It looks like a cross between a Koala and an Aardvark.

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  4. What on earth is that creature?

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    Replies
    1. It's a giant baby koala.

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    2. That's Rabbi Slifkin. A little tact, please.

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  5. R' Natan, I, of course, agree with your sentiments and arguments about your nephew's actions. I admire his quick and effective response to the terrorist which may have saved the lives of the (grand)daughter and her children. He deserved only applause rather than some ideological carping.

    On a different note, what is that animal you're holding?

    Y. Aharon

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  6. Thank you for your well thought-out comments. I didn't need convincing, but I think you did a good job of answering those who do. Hopefully they will read and learn that there is a big difference between a soldier and a vigilante.

    But now the more important question. What is that adorable animal you seem barely able to hold on your lap? And does anyone make a plush replica I can get at home?

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    Replies
    1. The very fact that the public is demanding vigilante justice shows just how badly the govt has failed.

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    2. "The public"? Or some ignorant people?

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  7. Thanks for the informative explanation!

    Here is another question: Weren't precious resources wasted by having people constantly watch and see whether the terrorist moves or not, people who could have instead help treat the victims? Couldn't the victims have been treated better had people made sure the terrorist is dead?

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    Replies
    1. No. And please try, really hard, not to be a total....

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  8. What animal is that?

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  9. Your nephew is the epitome of courage and heroism. Sorry you've had to rehash this painful episode repeatedly. Yeshuot v'nechamot

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  10. Rabbi, your nephew is a hero, and I wish all soldiers in the IDF (as well as civilians) would be able to act as bravely and efficiently as your nephew did to neutralize a threat in the most efficient manner possible.

    The fact that people who know nothing about the situation (including I believe a chief Rabbi) would have a chuztpa to criticize anyone involved is very sad reflection on elements within Israeli society.

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  11. Natan,
    I read everything you write and never called into question anything factual you wrote. But now - I simply cannot believe there are people out there that would criticize your nephew. I suppose you are correct, but it's really unbelievable...

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    Replies
    1. I agree, it's unbelievable, but it's happening...

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  12. And the animal is......tell us already, I need to know.

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  13. Rabbis S

    Are you speaking at all in Melbourne? Have an easy fast.

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  14. Islam celebrates death. Judaism celebrates life.
    Had the terrorist been killed in action, it would have been justified, but not a cause for celebration. To call for his extrajudicial execution after he was incapacitated demonstrates a bloodthirstiness that is below the moral standards for human beings, let alone observant Jews.
    Golda Meir said that we can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but not for turning our children into killers.
    If defending ourselves requires killing people, that is our misfortune. We must never allow the fact that it is a misfortune deter us from killing when it is necessary, nor allow killing when it is necessary stop us from regarding it as unfortunate.
    It is bad enough when our enemies diminish us by killing innocents. But when we deny the humanity of the guilty, we diminish ourselves.

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  15. Tell your nephew to stay strong. He did the right thing. It was Akaviah Ben Mehallalel who said: "Better to be a fool in the eyes of man my entire life than to be a sinner in the eye's of G-d for one moment".

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  16. All very good arguments and especially the problem of "possibility" where your nephew tried to stop the attack and save the victims and was left with no opportunity to finish the terrorist off. Your nephew is a hero!

    I do think it is legitimate and very important to criticize the terribly unethical rules of engagement that put our soldiers at unnecessary risk and coddle the enemy. A govt that proscribes this insane purity of arms doctrine deserves every criticism. It is also a travesty that if your nephew HAD had a moment to finish off the assailant that the sick Israeli system would throw him in jail for it!

    And finally, there is only 1 place to point blame that these terrorists are not given death penalty and that they get cushy jail experience, short sentences, get freed, or worse get freed in body part or prisoner exchanges with the enemy. One place: the utterly corrupt Israeli govt.

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  17. And the skill and precision involved in what he did just to stop that attack is something truly remarkable btw. Not to mention the immediate jump into action. Wow!

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  18. Apparently not mentioned yet as another reason to not shoot to kill even if you could: you can't interrogate a dead terrorist.

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