Noam J. Zohar

Oct 24, 2023

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF)'s Ethical Code

A Discussion with Noam Zohar

New Books Network 2023

In the past week, the entire world has been focusing on the murderous attack by the Hamas organization against the State of Israel and Israel's response to these actions. Hamas has killed 1,300 civilians and soldiers, including children, the elderly, and women. Furthermore, the methods used by Hamas in their killings have displayed an unprecedented level of cruelty, including acts of desecration of the living and the dead, sexual violence, and harming children. Additionally, they have abducted 199 civilians and soldiers. Hamas proudly boasted about these actions, publishing videos on their Telegram channel, exposing the world to their brutality. 

Israel's response was swift, with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launching airstrikes of an intensity not seen before, and there is also the possibility of a ground incursion into Gaza. The IDF takes pride in being a moral army, and to ensure this, several philosophers and theologians have written the IDF's ethical code, which every soldier and officer carries in their pocket. Due to the criticism and intense debates surrounding the conduct of the moral army, I have invited Professor Noam Zohar, who was part of the advisory committee for writing the code, especially focusing on the 'Purity of Arms' section. Together, we will embark on a journey to discuss questions of ethics and warfare in the Israeli military context.

Professor Noam Zohar is a distinguished scholar celebrated for his pivotal role in advising the development of the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) new ethical code, with a particular focus on the critical concept of 'Purity of Arms.' He serves as a Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute and is a member of the Military Ethics Research Team. At Bar-Ilan University, he holds the position of Associate Professor of Jewish Philosophy, chairs the General Philosophy department, and directs the graduate program in bioethics. His research and teaching encompass a wide array of fields, including rabbinics, philosophy of halakhah, moral and political philosophy, and applied ethics, with a specific emphasis on bioethics and moral considerations in warfare.

Noam Zohar is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy in Bar Ilan University, and has received visiting fellowships at Harvard University and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His research and teaching are in the fields of Moral and Political Philosophy, with an emphasis on Applied Ethics – particularly bioethics and the ethics of warfare; as well as the fields of Rabbinics and Philosophy of Halakhah. His publications include numerous essays and several books in the above fields, and (with Michael Walzer, Menachem Lorberbaum and others) he is editor of the series The Jewish Political Tradition (Yale University Press: Volume 1: Authority [2000]; Volume 2: Membership [2003]; Volume 3: Community [2016] and Volume 4: Politics in History, [forthcoming]).

Dr. Yakir Englander is the National Director of Leadership programs at the Israeli-American Council. He also teaches at the AJR. He can be reached at: Yakir1212englander@gmail.com

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Yakir Englander

Dr. Yakir Englander is the National Director of Leadership programs at the Israeli-American Council. He also teaches at the AJR. He can be reached at: Yakir1212englander@gmail.com

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