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Episode #21

The Morality of the Israeli-Hamas War

Before I did AI ethics, I was a philosophy professor, specializing in ethics. One of my senior colleagues in the field was David Enoch, also an ethicist and philosopher of law. David is also Israeli and a long-time supporter of a two-state solution. In fact, he went to military jail for refusing to serve in Gaza for ethical reasons.

Given David’s rare, if not unique, combination of expertise and experience, I wanted to have a conversation with him about the Israeli-Hamas war. In the face of the brutal Hamas attacks of October 7, what is it ethically permissible for Israel to do?

David rejects both extremes. It’s not the case that Israel should be pacifist. That would be for Israel to default on its obligations to safeguard its citizens. Nor should Israel bomb Gaza and its people out of existence; that would be to engage in genocide.

If you’re looking for an “Israel is the best and does nothing wrong” conversation, you won’t find it here. If you’re looking for “Israel is the worst and should drop their weapons and go home,” you won’t find that here, either. It’s a complex situation. David and I do our best to navigate it as best we can.

David Enoch studies law and philosophy in Tel Aviv University, and then clerked for Justice Beinisch at the Israeli Supreme Court. He got a PhD in philosophy from NYU in 2003, and has been a professor of law and philosophy at the Hebrew University ever since. This year he started as the Professor of the Philosophy of Law at Oxford. He does mainly moral, political, and legal philosophy.