The images making their way out of Gaza are achingly familiar, the broken bodies of children especially so. So far over 1,000 have been killed in Israel’s assault. While not unprovoked, Israel’s bombing campaign and invasion are totally disproportionate to Hamas’ ineffective missile attacks, which had resulted in 7 Israeli deaths in 2 years. And while inexcusable, those missile attacks themselves were hardly unprovoked.
But we have seen this before: in every bombing campaign of populated areas in history there has been a disproportionate number of civilian deaths.
While the Church decries the destruction, her official teaching condemns only the deliberate targeting of civilians. As no nation admits to deliberate targeting of innocents, this leave room for the usual casuistry: “double effect” and “collateral damage” are the terms most often used to excuse the horrors of modern warfare.
Isn’t it time for the Church to define more precisely what is and is not acceptable in conflict? Shouldn’t the Church’s teaching on war and violence be applied with the same rigor that her teachings on sexuality and abortion are? Aren’t bombing campaigns in populated areas a glaring violation of proportionality?
In the coming weeks and months I will be contacting theologians, bishops, activists and thinkers, to try and generate a movement within the Church to urge the magisterium to define that in war it is always immoral to inflict death on the innocent when that is foreseen and inevitable, whether or not that is one’s primary intention.