Assisting the Perpetrator of an Evil Deed

One violation of the biblical injunction not to "place a stumbling block in the path of the blind" is aiding and abetting an illegal or unethical transaction.

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As long as the armaments are meant for self-defense, there is no halakhic problem, since a man is obligated to take steps to protect his own life. The armaments industry is an important part of that obligation both at the macro- and the microlevels. In Israel, the creation of a military industrial complex is an acceptable and essential part of that self-defense in view of the constant state of war imposed by her Arab neighbors and the repeated armament embargoes that have been placed upon her in the past. Part of the export trade is essential to this independent armament industry, because it lowers the per unit cost of each item and therefore makes the self-defense more easily realizable.

The problem however arises when the trade in armaments becomes a business just like any other. Then despite its highly profitable nature, it becomes morally questionable. This moral problem is heightened even more by the fact that the regimes buying the weapons are not always those of Western Europe or the United States. Often they are regimes that are either immoral or that violate the basic rights of people. As often as not the weapons are used against their own citizens or in aggression. The aspect of lifnei ivver in the armaments and allied industries is obviously not limited to Israel, except that the independent Jewish state would seem to provide greater scope for implementing this Jewish moral injunction.

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Dr. Meir Tamari

Dr. Meir Tamari, former chief economist in the office of the Governor of the Bank of Israel, is director of the Center for Business Ethics at the Jerusalem College of Technology. His books include Al Chet: Sins in the Marketplace (Jason Aronson) and Jewish Values in Our Open Society: A Weekly Torah Commentary (Jason Aronson).