Times letters: Moral legitimacy of military action in Gaza

31 Oct 2023. Nigel Biggar for The Times.

Sir, to be fully proportionate, Israel’s response to Hamas’s deliberately indiscriminate slaughter of October 7 needs more than the prospect of military success and a reconstructed Gaza (“Is this a just war? Let’s apply some tests”, Philip Collins, Oct 30). It needs to belong to a political strategy aimed at peace.

In 1923 the radical Zionist Ze’ev Jabotinsky candidly admitted that the claims of Jews and Arabs upon Palestine were incompatible. His solution? That Israel should build an “iron wall”, against which Arabs would knock their heads. Eventually exhausted, they would come to terms.

Hamas’s atrocity has proven Jabotinsky terribly wrong. Far from disposing them to peace, a century of head-banging has driven some Palestinians mad with nihilistic rage. If Israel’s military retaliation is to be wholly proportionate, it needs to be more than yet another assertion of an iron wall.

Nigel Biggar

Regius Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology, University of Oxford

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