Absolving the Casualty

‫בס"ד‬

Absolving the Casualty
In the world at large and in the blogosphere in particular, there seems to be quite a bit of confusion as to how to tell the "good guys" from the "bad guys". So let's work on this together. We will play some word games and set definitions for commonly used terms:

Terrorist vs. Combatant
A terrorist is an armed aggressor who predominately targets unarmed civilians or even armed fighters who are not currently engaged in combat. His intentions are never defensive. Only aggressive. Other terms for terrorist are aggressors or thugs. A combatant is an armed fighter who engages in combat with other armed fighters. His intentions are not necessarily aggressive. They may be defensive as well. A primary distinction between a terrorist/thug to a combatant is that the terrorist/thug is interested in harming persons who are not interested in harming them. A combatant is only interested in harming his opponent to the extent that his opponent is interested in harming him.

Attack vs. Confrontation
An attack is a physical assault with the intention of inflicting physical harm and subduing a foe. As a rule, it is not preceded by any negotiable confrontation, demands or ultimatum. There is also such a thing as a verbal attack which is similar on all counts. As with a physical attack, it is not preceded by any negotiable confrontation, demands or ultimatum. Its purpose is to inflict emotional damage and subdue a foe. Hence, it is quite difficult to forestall an attack. Attacks are perpetrated by terrorists, thugs, or hostile forces. Pearl Harbor was an attack. 9/11 was an attack. A confrontation is an establishment of contact with another party with the intention of accomplishing a stated goal. It may be friendly and it may be hostile but typically it is not immediately physical or violent. The focus is on the goal to be achieved and there is no immediate intention to cause harm or damage to the other party. It is generally a presentation of demands, ultimatums, and an opening for negotiation which are intended to forestall the need for physical force to accomplish the goal. Physical force is generally not its goal but is resorted to if the confrontational demands or ultimatums are not met. In many cases, the grounds for the confrontation are quite legitimate. Thus, one who confronts another and presents demands or ultimatums are not automatically terrorists, aggressors, or thugs. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation that could have escalated into physical hostilities but did not. After that, John F. Kennedy was attacked. A confrontation between combatants may be violent at the outset. But typically, both sides know that they are engaging in a confrontation, are equally armed, and have ample opportunity to avert the confrontation with negotiation or flight. As such David and Goliath was a confrontation as was the rumble between the Jets and the Sharks. Nobody was forced to show up and nobody was spontaneously attacked.

© 2009 Yechezkel Hirshman

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Absolving the Casualty

‫בס"ד‬

Massacre vs. Rout (Wipe-out or Fatal Defeat)
When an aggressor (terrorist) attacks an unarmed or non-aggressive party and kills them, we say that they were massacred. When two combatants or bands of combatants have a deadly confrontation and one wipes out the other we may say that it was a rout but it is not accurate to call it a massacre. This is especially true in a situation where if one combatant does not rout the other, the other will rout him. Leaving aside what led to the confrontation, once it began, the parties are not fighting as aggressors but for survival. Perhaps, if a confrontation developed into a rout and one side offered to surrender and cease hostilities but was still killed out, we may say that it evolved into a massacre. Such may be the case at Little Big Horn but there was nobody left to tell us. Terrorists attack civilians and massacre them. Combatants confront each other and rout, defeat or wipe out their opponents.

Victim / Casualty
A victim is typically an unarmed or non-aggressive party who was the target of an aggressive event (attack) and was physically, financially, or emotionally harmed (as in massacred). A victim is one who had no personal control over the situation and did not have the resources, the opportunity or the presence of mind to avert or flee the scene of the harmful event. Typically, a victim was not confronted and presented with demands and ultimatums before being attacked. Someone is truly victimized when they have done nothing of substance to contribute to the event that harmed them. A true victim is somebody who was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Conversely, one who knowingly and needlessly exposes themselves to a hazardous situation or willfully engages in a physical confrontation (e.g. General Custer) and is harmed, is not known to be a victim but a casualty. Terrorists attack civilians and those civilians are victims of a massacre. Combatants confront each other and inflict casualties. We say that one is a victim of an attack but we do not say that one is a victim of a confrontation. In a confrontation, one is not a victim but a casualty. Thus I have a very hard time calling General Custer and his men victims. Nor would I call Riff of the Jets a victim of Bernardo. Especially since he is the one who called the rumble. So, to sum up, terrorists attacked the Twin Towers and massacred many victims. Armed forced – combatants – confronted each other at Gettysburg and inflicted many casualties. We would not call David a terrorist but a combatant. We would not call their fight an attack (who attacked who?) but a confrontation. We would not call Goliath a victim but a casualty. Nor would we call his death a massacre but a fatal defeat.

A Closer Look at Victimhood
We now established that victims are targets of attacks by terrorists or thugs. They are not the subjects of confrontations that escalated by mutual input and eventually turned violent. It may be said that one can be victimized by an aggressive confrontation, but if the confrontation was foreseeable and avoidable, we must hold

© 2009 Yechezkel Hirshman

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Absolving the Casualty

‫בס"ד‬

the casualty responsible for not foreseeing it and avoiding it. It greatly reduces his standing as a victim. Thus a modest housewife who is snugly at home and is sexually assaulted by an intruder is a rape victim. But a young attractive woman who dresses seductively and voluntarily hangs around the all night taverns on the seedy side of town and finds herself on the receiving end of a sexual assault is more a casualty than a victim. Of course, there is such a thing as a willing victim, a complacent victim, or a selfimposed victim. But these modifiers merely serve the purpose of distinguishing these from an absolute victim and reducing the degree of sympathy that they deserve. The Torah does not look kindly upon those who contribute to harmful events. The Torah tells us in a number of places not to be a victim. Do not contribute to the harmful event. Because one who contributes is responsible for their contribution no matter how heinous was the actions of the "aggressor". Where do we see this? One example is from Dina. Dina went out to town with the purest of intentions but she was attacked and molested. Though she was certainly not an active party to the event, the Torah does not fully exonerate her. It says: VaTeitzei Dina – Dina ventured out. Chazal label her a Yatzanit bat yatzanit – a venturer daughter of a venturer. The Torah's message is: Do all you can to avoid becoming a "victim" and do not depend upon the kindness, nor the virtue, of strangers. Ventureat Emptor! But, hey, look at this! The Torah (Devarim 22:23-27) discusses a betrothed woman who was sexually assaulted. If it happened in an isolated spot she is acquitted. But if it happened in an urban area, she is executed along with her rapist. Granted that, according to Chazal, she is only executed in a very extreme case where she eventually consented to the act, yet the Torah words it in a very accusatory fashion and clearly sets the scenario where she initially had no intention of sexual transgression and was overpowered and yet she is executed. In both cases the actions of the rapist were the same. But in the case of the urban attack the Torah faults her for not taking the precautions to avert the incident. Rashi (Devarin 22:23) says it in black and white: Hence he molested her as a breech beckons a thief. If she would have remained in her house nothing would have happened to her. All of the laws of Yichud are based on this principle. The Torah is sending us a message about victimhood: A victim is only a victim if they contributed nothing of substance toward the event. When the "victim" knowingly contributes anything to the event, he or she is responsible to the extent of the contribution! It does not lessen the evil of the perpetrator but, if readily avoidable, the perpetrator's evil does not exonerate the "victim". This is because whenever you contribute to something, good or bad, G-d writes a receipt out to your name for your contribution. Whether you like it or not.

© 2009 Yechezkel Hirshman

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