Article Library / Structured Jewish World Dialogue

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

  • Most Jews accept Israel’s contention that it strives resolutely to uphold moral values in combat and to refrain from harming innocent civilians. It is critically important that this image be preserved, both through continued adherence to “purity-of-arms” ideals (irrespective of Diaspora Jewish attitudes), and through effective hasbara (public relations) vis-à-vis the Jewish communities. Among other things, Diaspora Jews should be apprised of the dilemmas that arise from the use of force and encouraged to discuss them in Jewish forums.
  • Israel should pay more attention to the possible effects of its security-military decisions on Diaspora Jewry. This consideration should not necessarily be dominant in all cases among other Israeli considerations, however it should be represented and expressed during decision-making processes.
  • In this context, separate and serious consideration should be given to the question of how Israel’s use of force affects relations between Diaspora Jews and the non-Jewish world. This is especially true in those communities where Jews are deeply involved with their surrounding environment. New challenges arise from the need to explain Israel to non-Jews who are part of the Jewish community (mostly non-Jewish family members).
  • Israel would do well to listen to Diaspora Jewish criticism of its hasbara efforts. Diaspora Jews who seek – and are sometimes forced – to be involved in explaining Israeli positions to the world, deserve to have their many criticisms heard by Israel. In this context, official Israeli spokespeople should take into account the impressions their statements make on Diaspora Jews.
  • The IDF’s image as a moral army is a vital asset to Israel vis-à-vis the Jewish community, one that should be cultivated and preserved. It is crucial to refrain from making statements or conveying messages that undermine this image. It is also important to ensure the quality and appropriate professional preparation of all of the frameworks that bring IDF soldiers and officers together with Diaspora Jews – whether programs such as Taglit-Birthright Israel or high-level forums in which senior officers meet with Jewish community leaders. The preparation should specifically address the Jewish viewpoint, rather than being confined to general hasbara messages.