Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Collective punishment

On Sunday, Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier, who currently seems to be being held hostage in the hope of some sort of prisoner exchange. Today, Israel responded by bombing three bridges and a power station in Gaza - a clear case of collective punishment. Not only is this contrary to international law (and despite Israel's fiction, the Fourth Geneva Convention clearly applies in the Occupied Territories - and certainly does now that they're not "occupied"), it pretty much concedes the moral case against terrorism. Fighting terrorism by targetting the wellbeing of civilian populations gives you absolutely no ground to stand on when your civilians are targetted in turn.

By all means, Israel should find the people who have captured its soldier, and rescue him - but it should take care that it does not stray into collective punishment or terrorism itself. But then, when an Israeli Prime Minister feels he can say publicly that Israeli lives are worth more than Palestinian ones, then I think israel has already gone a long way down that road...


The huge wall being built through Bethlehem, dividing farmers from their land, splitting up West Bank Palestinians from the Jordan River, barriers between the east and west campuses of Old Jerusalem institutes of higher education: absolutely everything about the policies of the State of Israel are about blanket, collective, racist punishment of the "wrong" ethnic/religious minorities.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/28/2006 10:00:00 PM

It is quite a bit to expect the Israeli’s to be loving and utilitarian in the face of terrorists kidnapping their "children". But what I do hope of Israel (and the way I suggest it should be approached) is that they at least act rationally. It seems to me they tend to not really have a big plan on how to solve the crisis except some vague hope that knee jerk actions will make everything better... they are smart fellows – they should know better.

Posted by Genius : 6/29/2006 10:21:00 PM

"Gaza is three days away from a deadly humanitarian crisis unless Israel promptly restores fuel and electricity to the densely populated area after its offensive to free an abducted soldier, the UN aid chief warned today..."

What the State of Israel is doing every day in East Jerusalem (expulsions based on race/religion), the West Bank (stealing land, putting walls between farmers and their land) and having armed settlers in an around an occupied territory against all laws - it is Collective Punishment Plus.

But while it is very cruel and nasty, it won't work - in the end the Palestianian Muslims, Christians and atheists will campaign for, and ultimately win, full Israeli citizenship and equal rights within the area from the Jordan River to the Med.

That is what happened in America after 200 years of terrible cruelty to indigenous population, it is what happened here in NZ after the terrible cruelty and injustice of land expropriations etc. and it is even what happened or is happening in Australia.

What's happening in Israel is just a temporary Far Right Turn.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/30/2006 08:31:00 PM

Its collective punishment: "Water shortages threaten the health of the population, especially children, the elderly and pregnant women," - REUTERS but it is also
a coup - the hijacking of a democratic election by a bunch of U.S.-armed and protected militants called the IDF:
"Jewish state's troops abduct Palestinian ministers, MPs. Israel detained dozens of Palestinian Cabinet ministers and MP - including the finance minister and Parliament speaker - on Thursday. In a night-time blitz in the occupied West Bank, troops arrested Finance Minister Omar Abdel-Razeq and seven other Cabinet members - a third of the Palestinian Cabinet - along with 23 of the 72 legislators, Palestinian officials said. Some were blindfolded and handcuffed as they were arrested, Palestinian sources said.Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer and Speaker Abdel-Aziz Dweik were also among those rounded up."[This] ... is a pre-planned plot to destroy the [Palestinisn] Authority, the government and the Parliament and to bring the Palestinian people to their knees."

Any minute now, National's Murray McCully and ACT's Rod Hide will be demanding the government put the Israeli Racist Regime on the official Terrorist List.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/01/2006 04:53:00 AM

I think it's important to remember that when Israel disengaged from Gaza, its status as an occupying power under international law remained firmly intact. This is because Israel retained control over air, sea and land access, and the authority to enter militarily. Undoubtably, the removal of 8000 settlers was a boon to the remaining 1.4 million Gazan's whose territory suddenly expanded by a third. But the removal of settlements didn't change its status, because colonisation under occupation is illegal anyway. The terms of disengagement also meant that Israel continued to supply for a 'full price' all Gaza's electricity, water, gas and petrol. The implications of this type of dependency should be pretty clear. The bombing of Gaza's electricity is completely gratuitous because Israel controls it anyway. It's always threatening to cut it off, and sometimes does, but bombing is better because no-one can tell them to put it back on. In some ways disengagement has given Israel greater freedom in Gaza. It now conducts simulated shelling in the form of sonic booms and actual shelling, because it doesn't have to worry about its citizens.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/01/2006 05:03:00 PM

> its status as an occupying power under international law remained firmly intact.

Maybe in the next lull that should be revoked. So that new issues arising can be considered on a state to state basis.

Posted by Genius : 7/02/2006 09:10:00 AM

I'm not sure I get your drift. In the text of the document Israel only mentioned occupation once, to say that 'there can be no claim that Gaza is an occupied territory'. But this is meaningless when Gaza is still occupied in practice. Saying it is not occupied is not the same as it not being occupied, and it would not even be possible in international law to do so. Plus all past aggreements have considered Gaza and the WB one territorial unit.

Also, I’m not convinced that Israel is acting irrationally, just that there is a lot more going on here than one captured soldier. Israel uses collective punishment to make the cost of supporting militants high, which prior to the al-Aqsa intifada was relatively successful. Popular militant groups like Hamas are deeply rooted within Palestinian society and their fortunes very much depend on their ability to read the 'street'. Armed operations will only be legitimised where public fury and public willingness to endure collective punishments is high. In addition, the menacing flights of 4 F-16's over Bashar Assad’s palace were significant because Hamas’ politburo head Khalid Mishal is exiled in Damascus, and has taken a more radical line than the ‘insider’ leadership since Hamas assumed power. Hamas has put on a united front for some time, but greater divisions are now being revealed, with Mishal apparently providing the authorisation for military action and subsequently directing a hard line on the fate of the soldier. I suspect there is an element of brinkmanship here. Israel is telling the militants that they will bring down the government (which they may do anyway), and with the bombing of ‘moderate’ Haniyya’s empty office they are saying that his assassination is on the cards. It’s hard to stress enough just how perilous the situation has become. The OT’s already have the highest civilian to security personnel ratio in the world, and that is excluding semi-official militias and of course the militant groups. Since Hamas came to power its militants have been furiously procuring weapons, whilst at the same time Israel has been funnelling weapons to Fatah (or more specifically those security services loyal to Abu Mazen) What you have here is pockets of concentrated power, increasing fragmentation within the movements, quite a few warlords, and lots of men with guns. If Israel decides to destroy the PA infrastructure in a blanket fashion again (the last time was only 2002), I’m not sure what can take its place, but chaos seems an easy answer.

More generally Israel shares a common agenda with Fatah loyalists (and the US and EU and quietly Egypt and probably Jordan) in undermining the Hamas government, attempting to cause a public backlash and/or reversal of the electoral outcome. I think though at this point Kadima faces a number of choices, none of them ideal. It can bring down the Hamas government and possibly be forced to reoccupy Gaza - because frankly the US will never allow a UN peacekeeping force in - and compromise its political program in the WB. Or release prisoners as it has often done in the past (and it should do this anyway because there are at least 800 detainees who’ve not been charged). Or chip away at Gaza from the edges, whilst taking care to avert an all out humanitarian crisis. They may have put Gazan’s on a ‘diet’, as Dov Weissglass termed it, but they will not allow everyone to starve. This would generate too much attention in the West, because you know, we think all people ever need is food.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/02/2006 03:55:00 PM