Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|11/02/00 at 09:55:26|
|Dear FeuerThoughts subscribers:|
Some of you may be thinking: Hey, aren't you going to write about anything
but the situation between Israelis and Palestinians? I will, soon, I
promise...I could tell you about Eli's great soccer game this weekend
(three goals) about Veva's upcoming "senior show" in ceramics. But for now...
Correction: Do Not Murder
Steven Feuerstein, email@example.com
I recently wrote a statement entitled "Why I Am Here Today" that explained
why I had decided (felt "compelled") to take a public stance calling on
Israel to stop killing and brutalizing Palestinians. A central part of my
argument was that "the Torah does not say: Thou shalt not kill."
This statement was distributed widely on the Internet, generating lots of
responses, many positive and many negative. One strain of criticism was
very interesting and exposed a seeming hole in my Jewish education. As
Yitzhak S wrote to me:
"I am not an expert in Oracle PL/SQL computer language, but I am an expert
on the Middle East, and I speak Hebrew very well. So, if I was writing
computer code and got the semantics mixed up, that would probably screw up
the program to some degree. Right?
"So it is with understanding Torah. I don't want to squabble over
semantics, but the Torah in no place says "Thou shalt not kill." What the
Torah says in what Christians call the "Ten Commandments" but knowledgeable
Jews know as the Ten Utterances (there being 613 commandments, or mitzvoth
in the Torah) is the following:
"'Lo tirtzah.' Which means, literally, 'do not murder.'
"Killing is morally justified in Jewish law in cases of self-defense. For
instance, in the case of "'in rodef' or the 'law of the pursuer' which
allows for taking a life when your life or the life of your fellow is in
danger. Jews are not Quakers, and Torah recognizes that violence is, at
times, unfortunately necessary.
"I say this because in reading your speech, you clearly don't have a grasp
on Judaism, yet you are speaking as if you do."
Now, I will say that I have heard that there is apparently some difference
of opinion as to whether the earliest, orally-based recordings of the "Ten
Utterances" really did talk about killing or murdering, but the above
interpretation does seem to be a common understanding among Hebraic
scholars today. So let's assume that DO NOT MURDER is a more accurate
translation of the "utterance" that is usually offered up as THOU SHALT NOT
KILL. Is it then time to reconsider my position and to shift my support to
the actions of the IDF in particular and the Israeli government in general?
Should I let the IDF and world Jewry "off the hook", in terms of that very
solemn and unbreakable "utterance", since they are not murdering (so it is
argued to me), but acting in self-defense or to defend others?
Before making such momentous decisions, I decided to do a little research
and a bunch of thinking. I first visited www.dictionary.com to get some
murder - The unlawful killing of one human being by another, especially
with premeditated malice.
killing - To deprive of life
I also checked my "old technology" 25 pound dictionary and came up with
roughly the same thing:
To kill is to deprive of life (without any qualifications).
To murder is to kill in an unlawful manner.
Well, there certainly is a difference there, and the most crucial aspect of
that difference is summed up very nicely by the Clash, in their song "Know
"Murder is a crime, except when it's done by a policeman."
Since governments (national and local) get to write the laws, they get to
decide what sorts of killing are legal and illegal within their
This leads to situations like that found in the United States, where there
has been a virtual epidemic of police killings of citizens, most of them
people of color. All a cop has to do is say "I saw him reach into his
pocket and pull out something shiny. I thought it was a gun. I had no
choice but to shoot." Right. And the more this is allowed to happen, the
more the overall system degenerates and public support for the enforcement
agencies decreases. You end up with, well, the Chicago and Los Angeles
police departments, where it has become common-place to torture suspects
until they sign confessions and put innocent people on death row.
So, in general, basing a "top ten" Utterance or Commandment on whatever is
the current legal system, is a pretty iffy proposition. The situation in
Israel is, however, even more compromised than that.
Israel, according to U.N. Security Council resolutions, according to
whatever international law exists, including the Geneva Conventions,
according to its own agreements with the Palestine Authority (growing out
of the Oslo accords), does not or should not, if it kept its promises --
even have legal jurisdiction over Palestinians.
And yet it is currently engaged in massive and deadly military action
against a civilian population within areas that should be under the control
of the Palestinian Authority or against its own citizens, those who have
the misfortune to not be Jewish, in any case.
Israel has spent the last seven years aggressively building settlements in
precisely those places it supposedly was handing over to Palestinians. This
was in direct violation of (just to point out one supposedly binding
agreement) Article 31, Paragraph 7, Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement
on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,
28 September 1995:
"Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status
of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent
So Israel plants (illegally) these provocative, extremist, heavily-armed
and well-protected (by IDF) settlers in the midst of millions of
Palestinians, and then uses their presence as justification for armed
attacks against a largely unarmed population, over which Israel has no
What do I conclude from all this? That the Israel Defense Force is not only
killing Palestinian men, women and children, it is also murdering them.
Hey, and even if you have legal jurisdiction over hundreds of thousands of
children, I still say that when a child throws a rock, or a dozen rocks,
and you respond by shooting him in the head, then when that child dies, you
have murdered him.
In conclusion: I very much thank the many Hebraic scholars who have
deepened my understanding of the Torah. And I very much hope that their
nuanced perspectives on killing and murdering do not allow them to rest
easily as they support the continued, deadly IDF attacks on Palestinian
....the latest FeuerThought from Steven Feuerstein
You are allowed and indeed encouraged to pass this message on to others.
Anyone can join FeuerThoughts by sending an email to:
You can remove yourself from the FeuerThoughts distribution list by sending
an email to:
Individual posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Jannah.org, Islam, or all Muslims. All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the poster and may not be used without consent of the author.The rest © Jannah.Org