Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Justice for Tom Hurndall

An Israeli soldier has been convicted of manslaughter for the killing of a British peace activist in the Gaza strip in 2003. Tom Hurndall was escorting children away from Israeli gunfire when he was shot in the head; he died nine months later, having never awoken from his coma.

This is a victory for justice and for the principle that even soldiers are accountable for their actions. But at the same time, it highlights the ongoing injustice faced by the Palestinian people. Tom Hurndall's killer was only prosecuted because his victim was British, and because his family and the British government pressed the Israeli government to investigate properly and enforce the law. By contrast, those who shoot unarmed Palestinians escape prosecution. As a consequence, the only justice available to the Palestinians is the lex talionis, "an eye for an eye", the "justice" of the suicide bomber. But that's not justice - it's just bloody, indiscriminate vengeance, and exactly what justice systems exist to prevent.

This is essentially Locke's formulation of the classic Hobbesean problem, and the answer is the same: justice. Israel must prosecute those of its soldiers who murder civilians, and do so in a fair and open manner whose impartiality cannot be questioned - because without justice, there can be no peace.


Suicide bombing isn't a strategy, it's an act of desperation. I don't support what they're doing, but I do think it's a pretty good indication that their people are being treated intolerably.

The Israeli government is fully responsible for the attrocities being committed against the Palestinian people, and Israeli civilians share that responsibility to a degree. In contrast, the attocities carried out against Israeli civilians are performed by individuals, and there is no justification for punishing the entire country for their actions.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 6/28/2005 11:30:00 AM


This is something I have thought for a long time. I know it's totally impossible, but I have dreams of a "Mum UN".

"Now, Israel, stop bulldozing those houses this MINUTE! Palestine, put those suicide bombers AWAY! Sit down both of you and count to 10."

At this point I don't think it's even useful to say who is in the right or wrong over all, but to condemn each individual action of violence. Of course, that's not going to happen and neither Islam or Judaism has any of that "Blessed are the meek" religious idealism. Not that Christianity has such a great record of course. But it is worth noting that both the Torah and the Koran have a take-no-prisoners approach to the Holy Land.

I agree with Icehawk, extremism is the killer on both sides, but how exactly do you moderate between Gaza Settlers and Palestinian fighters? They each think the other is the scum of the earth, they would even kill the other's children.

I must admit to religious flights of fancy and the thought that this is one of the most fought over pieces of land in human history. Three world religions, have been birthed from that tiny stip of land. Jerusalem has existed and seen fighting since the Bronze Age. So much blood spilled over one small "mount".

New Zealand is so new by comparison, here the oldest owners are the kakapo and the kea. I just can't emotionally identify with people whose family and geographical identity has lasted in one place for the last 4000 years. Heck the Jews are still grieved about slavery in Egypt - that's one long institutional memory.

Sorry for the long post, I've just been mulling this over for a while now.

Posted by Muerk : 6/28/2005 04:29:00 PM

Icehawk: precisely. And if you want justice, you have to start somewhere. Every atrocity by either side helps perpetuate the cycle of violence. The way to end that cycle is to ensure that those committing atrocities are punished, regardless of whose uniform they wear or whose side they are on.

The same goes for the Palestinians, of course - but this isn't something which requires both parties to act simultaneously. Israel acting independently to pursue justice will be beneficial in its own right, as would the Palestinian Authority acting independently.

Alternatively, I'm sure the UN or iCC would be happy to provide neutral and impartial justice if the two sides can't.

Ghet: the Stanford Prison Experiment tells us what happens when you give people power over others: there are inevitably abuses. It also tells us how to reduce such abuses: oversight and enforcement. Israel's laxity on this front approaches officially condoning those abuses.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/28/2005 05:41:00 PM

Sock Thief: "Heavy handedness"? What you are talking about is the murder of unarmed civilians. If you believe, as I do, that that is a crime when done by a suicide bomber, then you must also believe it is a crime when done by a teenage conscript with a rifle.

Or does your "decent left" now believe in collective responsibility, reprisals against civilians and the murder of the innocent?

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/28/2005 05:49:00 PM

"The suicide bombers are not a result of any Israeli actions..." Sure, it's not like the Israelis invaded and occupied their land or anything - oops, actually that's exactly what it is like.

We're not talking about two different countries having an argument here. One of them is a nation state with an army, a police force and a justice system, and the other is an occupied people with a few rival guerilla movements. So one of them we can put pressure on, and the other we can't. The good part is, the one we can put pressure on is the one that needs to withdraw back to its '67 borders and let Palestine exist. The bad part is, that side doesn't give a toss what the UN thinks. I don't see anything good coming out of this anytime soon.

Nice result on the court case, though!

Posted by Anonymous : 6/28/2005 10:56:00 PM

Sock Thief -

Saying their is "no" moral equivalent is a bit rich if your child has been shot in the head by an Israeli soldier or had his limbs blown off by a suicide bomber.

No moral equivalent? None? Not at all? I seriously think that you are being dishonest if you can't see _any_ moral equivalent when the final outcome for the individual is the same - a brutal, violent death.

Posted by Muerk : 6/29/2005 10:05:00 AM

I wouldn't go so far as calling it a victory for justice. He should have been convicted of murder, and so should have his superiors.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/02/2005 09:54:00 AM