Article Library / Structured Jewish World Dialogue

Jewish Values and Israel’s Use of Force in Armed Conflict: Perspectives from World Jewry

• Diaspora Jews expect Israel to abide by a particularly high moral standard in its military conduct – a higher standard than that to which the rest of the world, including the West, is held.

• The justifications for this expectation are partly ideological-moral and rooted in Jewish values – i.e., being a “light unto the nations,” the need for “tikkun olam” – and partly practical, i.e., how Israel can defuse international criticism and maintain Jewish support.

• Nevertheless, many Jews express a degree of disappointment and dismay that Israel is not managing to “win” its wars unequivocally. This conclusion expresses the inherent difficulty of asymmetric armed conflict with non-governmental forces that entrench themselves within civilian populations while targeting Israeli civilians. The more Israel uses “disproportionate” force to achieve a clear victory, the higher the risk that Israel will be accused of acting immorally.