The following is an excerpt from the dialogue of Steven Spielberg’s movie “Munich.” The film is a story, based on actual events, of Israeli assassins who track down and kill the terrorists who murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games.
Robert: We’re Jews, Avner. Jews don’t do wrong because our enemies do wrong.
Avner: We can’t afford to be that decent anymore.
Robert: I don’t know if we ever were that decent. Suffering thousands of years of hatred doesn’t make you decent. But we’re supposed to be righteous. That’s a beautiful thing. That’s Jewish. That’s what I knew, that’s what I was taught and I’m losing it. I lose that and that’s everything. That’s my soul.
The following are two excerpts from a recent essay by Thane Rosenbaum.
“Vengeance and justice are really the same things. Too much of the former is unjust, but there is no justice if victims are not made to feel vindicated. That’s why the language of revenge is always framed in mathematical terms: ‘measure for measure’, ‘settling the score’, ‘evening the debt’, ‘demanding payback’.”
“A mammoth debt was created on October 7th, and satisfaction is owed. Settling this score won’t be easy. The wrongdoers committed unspeakable acts. Numbers can’t be assigned. In Gaza, the math of revenge will have no equal.”
Deuteronomy 32:35 – “Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.”
I find it difficult to write about the current war in Gaza, but I also feel that I need to do so. I have several friends from the synagogue who have resided in Israel. One of them has a son who has served in the IDF. Almost all of my Jewish acquaintances have friends and/or family living in Israel. Likewise, I know several Palestinians. They also have friends and family back in their homeland. For all of these people, Israeli or Palestinian, the war in Gaza is not something theoretical. It is something that they feel in a visceral and deeply personal way. I try to see things from both sides, and I fear that I will only antagonize everyone involved because I refuse to support one group unconditionally.
For me, the situation revolves around the concept of justice. The members of Hamas did in fact commit “unspeakable acts” during their attack on Israel on October 7th. There is no question about that, and these people should be held accountable for their crimes. Have the Israelis treated the residents of Gaza badly over the years? I think that they have, but whatever oppression the Palestinians have received at the hands of the Israelis does not and cannot excuse the crimes committed by Hamas.
Vengeance and justice are not the same things. Vengeance is about getting even with an enemy, and it is something that can never be accomplished. The thirst for vengeance can never be quenched. Revenge does not bring the dead back to life. It does not bring closure. It does not heal any wounds. Vengeance generates an ever more dynamic cycle of violence. It is entirely destructive.
Justice is not so much about retribution as it is about setting the stage for possible reconciliation. Restorative justice is about making things right again. There is a much-quoted statement from Pope Paul VI where he says, “If you want peace, work for justice.” I believe that this slogan, though simple, is absolutely true. The only way for peace in Gaza is through justice, for both the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The Israelis will invade Gaza any day now. They have already been bombing it. They are politically and militarily in a position to do whatever they want. The Israelis have a choice. They can seek vengeance, or they can act justly. Perhaps they are wrestling with this question right now. Maybe that is one reason that the Israelis have not yet started the invasion.
I have always admired the emphasis on justice in Judaism. It seems to me that this focus is not only on justice for the Jews, but for justice for all people. I am deeply impressed by that.
I don’t know what the Israelis will do next. I pray that they act with justice, for the sake of the Gazans, and for their own souls.
Frank (Francis) Pauc is a graduate of West Point, Class of 1980. He completed the Military Intelligence Basic Course at Fort Huachuca and then went to Flight School at Fort Rucker. Frank was stationed with the 3rd Armor Division in West Germany at Fliegerhorst Airfield from December 1981 to January 1985. He flew Hueys and Black Hawks and was next assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, CA. He got the hell out of the Army in August 1986.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.