Meditations on Morality in Conflict – Israel / Palestine ’23
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  • 11/12/2023

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Nuances galore - the Israel / Palestine war - is there Morality in Conflict? Let us meditate on the nuances together, shall we?

Morality in Conflict

Belief drives behavior. Behavior produces consequences.

Therefore, belief systems-especially those that define right and wrong–matter. 

If morality is subjective, if right and wrong are viewed and measured solely through the lens of feeling, and if feeling good about something justifies it, then you cannot reasonably condemn any crime based on passion. 

This leads directly and inevitably to anarchy, i.e., a lawless state where might equals right, the end justifies the means, and only the strongest and most ruthless individuals survive for a short period until they are eliminated by the chaos they helped to create. 

This is why a social contract based on a moral code is referred to as the mortar that holds the bricks of a society together. The fact that this simple reasoning needs to be articulated proves- without a single additional qualifier- that something has gone dreadfully wrong with both our educational system and the culture that embraces the evil this system glorifies. 

When a society accepts that life-altering decisions can be made without any moral reference and only the degree of difficulty and likelihood of success are considered, then we may be certain anarchy and genocide are at the door. 

In light of the current Israeli/Hamas horror which has the potential to morph into a global conflict, I pose the following questions with my personal responses. However differently you may see these issues, I believe we would all benefit from careful consideration of these questions.

meditations on morality in conflict by bill k on lost coast

What makes a Terrorist, a terrorist? 

The definition of Terrorism: From Oxford Languages:

“The use of unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians for political gain.” 

Oxford Languages

This is exactly what Hamas has stated they will do in their written charter, with the ultimate goal of the liquidation of all of the Jewish people, beginning with the state of Israel and finally, all over the world. Moreover, they have acted in perfect accord with their stated aims throughout their history. 

Israel has responded in exactly the opposite way.

They have used lawful defensive measures against avowed Hamas Terrorists to safeguard their people.

Is there moral equivalency between those who initiate violence and those who are forced to respond to violence or face the consequences?

There is no moral equivalency in this conflict because those who initiate violence against their fellow human beings choose to do so of their own free will and in doing so, force their intended victims into a choice of their own that they never asked for or anticipated. The shooter is always held responsible for the damage his bullet creates. 

What do you do when you find yourself isolated and confronted by someone who is determined to destroy you and who will not stop?

You must choose between giving up your life and permanently ending their ability to harm you. Both choices are ugly, but their actions and intent put you there. 

Why are those whose objective is genocide granted an equal or higher moral score than those who are willing to establish a negotiated peace with their enemies? 

Unfortunately, those claiming to be the arbiters of social justice- these supposed paragons of moral excellence–have made the fatal mistake of choosing sides. They have robbed themselves of the capacity to make fair judgments. Being filled with hatred and arrogance has skewed their horizon and disqualified them from making an accurate judgment.

What is the advantage of a proportional response in warfare? 

When both sides in a conflict desire peace but have not yet found their way to it, a proportional response accomplishes two things. First, it reminds the receiver of the consequences of continued conflict. Second, it demonstrates the possibility of a negotiated settlement because the enemy could have escalated but chose not to. 

However, all of this means nothing if one or both sides desire the complete destruction of their enemy. Then, a proportional response prolongs a conflict because the side receiving it uses the margin to consolidate its power for an escalated counterattack. In a pitched battle, with no quarter asked or given, a proportional response is a missed opportunity for the side delivering it and is viewed as a weakness to be taken advantage of by the side on the receiving end. It is a terrible mistake if the objective is a quick end to an ugly war. 

Is it acceptable to locate military activity in proximity to civilians in order to prevent or limit an enemy attack? 

Those who do this rely on the conscience of their enemies while they have none themselves. It is the epitome of cowardice to use anyone as a human shield. There is no justifiable excuse for this, ever. 

Is it acceptable for one side to blame the opposition for excessive civilian casualties which their actions purposefully put at risk, for a P.R. advantage? 

To put the innocent at risk to gain negative P.R. against an enemy is not only cowardly; it is inconceivably callous and cruel. Only people whose hatred has become psychopathic attempt this. I cannot imagine a more contemptible act.

If you answered YES to questions 7 and 8, would you be comfortable with your military using you and your fellow citizens in this way?

My answers to #6 and #7 should make my answer clear.

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Bill Kortenbach is a lifelong martial artist with over 40 years of active experience. He holds a 7th-Dan in Isshinryu Karate and has trained extensively in several other disciplines including 6 years of Arnis and Escrima, with additional experience in Aikido and Pentjak-silat. He has served as a Board Director for the Sexual Assault Center of Pierce County, Washington. Bill is the author of “Counterpredators: Survival Response Conditioning and the Parent/Child Connection”, the only book on this subject that targets a general audience. He is the founder and CEO of Safety First Personal Protection Strategies, a 501c3 dedicated to the safety and empowerment of people of all ages through the medium of Survival Response Conditioning. Starting in 2001 and staffed by volunteers who are themselves grads of the core curriculum, SFPPS has spent 16 years doing ground breaking work in one-on-one fear conditioning. These unique, short term workshops and seminars have changed the lives of hundreds of students and are the basis of “Counterpredators”. From 2007 through 2013 he anchored “The Street Wise Forum” on KLAY 1180 AM; a weekly radio program covering all facets of personal safety and expert advice tailored to the individual caller’s situations. Bill is a fearless and passionate public speaker. He specializes in the psychology and physiology of the adrenal environment and effective fear processing, which provides a unique perspective to his speeches on empowerment, courage, inspirational leadership, risk management, personal safety and successful mindsets. Bill’s pithy, focused presentations give his audience clarity, direction and leave them feeling powerfully motivated to create change in their lives and sphere of influence. Bill lives in Spokane, Washington and is an avid outdoorsman. He is a bush-crafter and enjoys hiking, woodworking and knife design in his spare time.
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1 Comment

  1. Carsten

    “Lawful defense measures”
    You must be joking.
    What is lawful about cutting off water and communication to a civilian population that is already imprisoned.
    Then following up with indiscriminate bombing of an imprisoned population that is half children.
    How many dead innocents is Israel willing to accept?
    Is Hamas acting alone or are they taking orders from the Zionist scum that funds them?
    Are we to assume that Hamas receives Zionist funding with no strings attached?
    Are any of your assumptions moral or logical?


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