Monday, March 03, 2008

Collective Punishment and Terrorism

It is without controversy among rational people the realization that collective punishment – a tactic defined under international law as a war crime – is in no way a proper means by which to pursue conflict resolution.

Setting aside for now the moral and legal aspects of collective punishment, examining the tactic on purely pragmatic grounds, one finds that outside of the tactic being sinister and evil ethically speaking, and in breech of international law, a gross violation of human rights, the tactic is not only impractical, it is, in fact, counter productive, ensuring the opposite effect as the one so desired; the effect so desired being peace and security, or so proclaim propagandists for collective punishment. Collective punishment and the inevitable exacerbation of the circular violence which it necessarily provokes only ever serves as fuel to the fire, intensifying the internecine violence.

It is always of benefit to investigate the real-life application of such tactics and doctrines as collective punishment. Arguably the most explicit and depraved example is provided to us through the Israel-Palestine conflict, specifically, Israel’s imprisonment of, latest incursion into and siege of the Gaza strip.

Israel’s brutal and vicious siege on Gaza is intended to continue the policy of strangling the Palestinian will to resist by dolling out violent retribution to the entire civilian population based upon the misconceived notion that these actions will turn the population of Gaza against Hamas. The same policy for which the murder and mayhem wrought upon the Lebanese people is to blame, the illusory and sinister notion that by terrorizing a population for the actions of an armed resistance or a band of terrorists one can turn the population against the resistance and/or terrorists.

As the consequences of the destruction of Lebanon by Israel attest, collective punishment not only does not turn the general population against the resistance or terrorist bands – in this case, Hezbollah – it actually strengthens the resistance and/or terrorist bands; in the case of Lebanon it served beyond the wildest dreams of the Hezbollah to further radicalize the population of Lebanon, shore up sympathy and support for Hezbollah and ultimately embolden the terrorist elements within the resistance.

Returning to the situation in Gaza, Israeli leaders argue that the existence of the Hamas regime in Gaza and the firing of Qassam rockets by Palestinians at Sderot, an Israeli town on the other side of the Gaza border, leave no alternative to collective punishment. However, as Uri Avnery wrote in an insightful Counterpunch article, “[s]everal months ago, Hamas proposed a ceasefire. It repeated the offer this week [late January]. A ceasefire means, in the view of Hamas: the Palestinians will stop shooting Qassams and mortar shells, the Israelis will stop the incursions into Gaza, the ‘targeted’ assassinations and the blockade…Why doesn’t our government jump at this proposal? Simple: in order to make such a deal, we must speak with Hamas, directly or indirectly. And this is precisely what the government refuses to do…The real purpose of the whole exercise is to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza and to prevent a Hamas takeover in the West Bank…In simple and blunt words: the government sacrifices the fate of the Sderot population on the altar of a hopeless principle. It is more important for the government to boycott Hamas – because it is now the spearhead of Palestinian resistance – than to put an end to the suffering of Sderot. All the media cooperate with this pretence.”

As was the case with Israel’s murderous collective punishment of Lebanon, so too has Israel’s policy of collective punishment in Gaza not only failed, but, even further, has provoked, as anticipated by security analysts and most observant people, just the opposite effect: growing support for Hamas.

The Israeli siege of Gaza began with the complete sealing of the border, producing, in effect, the largest prison on earth. In late January the Israeli Army would not allow either fuels or medical supplies to enter Gaza, as a result of this blockade Gaza was plunged into darkness. This is collective punishment – in breech of Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention - on a sinister scale with consequences which affect the entire population.

Dr. Mona El-Farra, a physician and human rights activist living in Gaza city, described the specific consequences of this policy for the Al Shifa hospital: “I’ll give you the example about Al Shifa hospital, a government hospital and the last hospital in Gaza state. There are 100 patients in the intensive care unit, and those patients’ lives are seriously threatened because if the fuel runs out, that means the machines will go out, and they will die at that moment. Another 400 patients are facing the same destiny if the power stays cut off.”

Israel then proceeded to send ground troops into Gaza, as Jean Shaoul reports, “targeting militants in and around Jabaliya refugee camp. They killed 61 Palestinians, at least two dozen of whom were civilians, including a baby, and wounded about 200, 14 of them critically…Gaza’s streets are deserted. Universities and schools have closed.”

The operation, dubbed “Hot Winter,” has killed seventy-seven Palestinians in two days. As Amy Goodman reported on Democracy Now!, more than 112 Palestinians have been killed and “[a]ccording to Gaza health ministry statistics, twenty-two children were killed [now twenty-five according to Amnesty International]. More than 350 people were wounded. Since last week, three Israelis have died: one civilian and two soldiers.”

Amnesty International reports that “Israeli forces also destroyed houses and property across the Gaza strip, including at least two medical facilities…” Amnesty International went on to observe that “the Israeli military air strikes and artillery attacks on the Gaza strip were being carried out with reckless disregard for civilian life” and that “Israel has the legal obligation to protect the civilian population of Gaza…These attacks are disproportionate and go beyond lawful measures which Israeli forces may take in response to rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups.”

Amid all of this violent chaos, the Israeli puppet Mahmoud Abbas has himself suspended peace negotiations and cut off all contacts with Israel; demonstrating beyond any reasonable doubt the counterproductive consequences of the policy of collective punishment. Now not only are the populations of the Occupied Territories not turning against Hamas, but even the traditionally sniveling Israeli puppets, like Abbas, are turning more and more against Israel.

The policy of collective punishment and the consequences which it necessarily entails demonstrates that the term “collective punishment” is simply a transparent euphemism for terrorism. To violently punish an entire population for political ends, to, say, completely seal the Gaza border, to cut off entry of fuel and medical supplies, to then invade Gaza and indiscriminately murder innocent men, women and children noncombatants in the stated desire to elicit from them revulsion of Hamas and a desire to accept any unjust solution to the conflict so long as the destruction and murder ends, is the elementary, textbook definition of terrorism.

11 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

Hamas keeps playing into the Israeli's hands. If Hamas didn't exist, they would have to invent it.

Even Abbas has been forced to cut off talks, in order to save face.

JDHURF said...

That even Abbas was pressured to distance himself from Israel's latest actions is quite a suggestive fact.

Anonymous said...

JDHURF,

This is PERFECT. Another thoughtful, well-written, morally centered essay.

Collective punishment is just plain immoral. And like your essay says, it's also clearly ineffective. I will never understand why world leaders and decision makers refuse to get it through their heads that if something is a complete failure, it makes NO SENSE to just keep doing it.

Israel's government is clearly corrupt. The attack on Lebanon was a tragedy, and the latest actions in Gaza are a horrifying reminder that peace will not happen until major changes are made. Bush's last-ditch attempt at some sort of Middle East legacy is a joke. His administration lacks the moral authority to be a bridge between the two sides and lacks the conscience and understanding to even accept the Palestinians' basic humanity.

Collective punishment is evil, it's a war crime, and it makes things worse for everyone.

GREAT essay!!

--MellonCollie

melloncollie said...

And speaking of collective punishment, the recent act of barbaric savagery at the yeshiva school in Jerusalem should be condemned just as strongly as the acts we described here.

A huge problem is that hardly anyone sees the humanity of both sides of people. People either side with Israel and hate Palestinians and/or Arabs or they side exclusively with Palestinians and hate Jews. Those who pretend to be fair will make tepid, lukewarm statments decrying the violence perpetrated by those they side with, but it's always followed by a "but." The left is just as guilty of this as the right.

Even though I have considerable emotional stake in these events being a sabra, I have the maturity and compassion to write what I wrote about Israel's government being corrupt. I love Palestinians and Arabs as much as I love anyone. Unfortunately, I'm not hearing a lot of sympathy from the far-left for the innocents murdered at yeshiva.

It's a shame.

JDHURF said...

More reactionary rhetoric against “the left” which conveniently went without evidence. The Yeshiva school shootings, which were heinous, no one should have to live through these sorts of acts, were immediately pounced upon by reactionary Israeli’s elsewhere as a pretext to increase, I repeat,increase, Israeli atrocities in the Gaza strip; promoting and exacerbating exactly the sinister circular violence I described and condemned here.
I have no idea what specifically you’re talking about when you again start making generalized and vague claims about “the left” loving Palestinians and hating Israelis, a tired ad hominem that has yet to be sufficiently supported with a coherent definition of what one even means by “the left.” Possibly you refer to comments in response to Israeli’s responding to the massacre by advocating an even greater massacre in Gaza, if that is the case, you need to do some reflecting.

melloncollie said...

My post was calm and rational, and it followed a glowing critique of your essay, which I even agreed with. I made one point about the extremes on both sides being unfair, and you go ballistic because I'm not allowed to say the slightest negative thing about the precious, apparently faultles Left. That sounds hilariously like those reactionary pro-Israel people who say you can't say anything negative about the Jewish state. I'm sure the irony will be lost on you.

Maybe you should look up "reactionary."

melloncollie said...

And you posted things about "Israelis" in your response without citing any evidence, too. Maybe that's because you were writing a resonse and not an essay.

I think it's amazing that I said Israel's government is corrupt, its actions are immoral war crimes, and that the attacks on Lebanon and Gaza are tragedies, and still I'm treated like a far-right Zionist expansionist simply because I think it's also sad when Jewish children are killed.

I cry for both sides, and to suggest I only cry for my ethnic group without knowing my heart is hateful.

JDHURF said...

Melloncollie said:
”My post was calm and rational, and it followed a glowing critique of your essay, which I even agreed with. I made one point about the extremes on both sides being unfair, and you go ballistic because I'm not allowed to say the slightest negative thing about the precious, apparently faultles Left. That sounds hilariously like those reactionary pro-Israel people who say you can't say anything negative about the Jewish state. I'm sure the irony will be lost on you.”

It will be lost on me, as it is, because you have completely fabricated it, as you always do.

You said: “The left is just as guilty of this as the right.” Where is the evidence? Here is some evidence to the contrary, which you are already aware of because we have had this debate before about Iran and “the left”:

http://as101.subvert.info/newswire/display_any/6329

http://as101.subvert.info/newswire/display_any/274

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/may2000/iran-m04.shtml

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/nov2001/iran-n20.shtml

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/jun2000/iran-j13.shtml

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/sep2000/iran-s23.shtml

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/nov2002/iran-n21.shtml

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/oct2001/iran-o30.shtml

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/sep2002/iran-s06.shtml

http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article1148&var_recherche=Iran

http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article927&var_recherche=Iran

http://www.isreview.org/issues/09/iran_at_crossroads.shtml

http://www.socialistworker.org/2007-1/614/614_12_Osanloo.shtml

http://www.socialistworker.org/2003-2/458/458_05_Iran.shtml

http://www.socialistworker.org/2004-1/488/488_08_Iran.shtml

http://www.infoshop.org/inews/article.php?story=2007091008070093

http://www.infoshop.org/inews/article.php?story=20061002111252393

http://www.socialist.net/marxists-cannot-support-islamic-fundamentalism-hamas.htm

http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article1012&var_recherche=Islam

http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article638&var_recherche=Islam

http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article622&var_recherche=Islam
As I have explained to you before: “Your problem is that you refuse to make elementary distinctions and instead continue to construct a fallacious and absurd generalization and caricature. The organized left is clear on such issues, very clear.”
”And you posted things about "Israelis" in your response without citing any evidence, too. Maybe that's because you were writing a resonse and not an essay.”
Or maybe it was because I already established so much evidence in my original post it would have been superfluous to repost it.

”I think it's amazing that I said Israel's government is corrupt, its actions are immoral war crimes, and that the attacks on Lebanon and Gaza are tragedies, and still I'm treated like a far-right Zionist expansionist simply because I think it's also sad when Jewish children are killed.”
Complete fabrication. If you had only said what you just said here, I would have posted nothing but praise and agreement, it is not only sad when Jewish children are murdered, it is an outrage, it is of the utmost evil to target innocent civilians and it is, in my view, a bit more evil when these innocents are children. Which is why the Yeshiva massacre is such an egregious affront to humanity, just as was Israel’s bombing of a Palestinian soccer field which maimed several children, decapitating one in front of his friend, and blowing the legs and flesh off of others, is so grotesque. We both are in complete agreement that such acts are despicable, the killing of innocent children, whether Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish or Arab, is heinous. But to divert attention away from, say, Olmert and his escalation of violence in Gaza, which had the anticipated result of provoking terrorism in Israel, just as my blog post stated, and the Palestinian terrorists and instead condemn some vague and amorphous left boogeyman, because one just cannot stand the left apparently, at every available instant one cannot refrain from slandering the so fashioned boogeyman, is a failure of objectivity and common decency. The “left” isn’t killing children, the left isn’t escalating the violence, the left is provoking murder, the left, in fact, has the most coherent and sensible solution to the conflict, in fact, it is this fact which stimulates such virulent animosity against the left and I wish otherwise smart people such as yourself would come to understand this.

melloncollie said...

Oh! I guess you did already read it; my mistake.

Thank you for discussing this privately with me, and I understand what you're saying now. We are in agreement.

J.L. Hinman said...

you have no concept of what atheists have done to me. sorry this is off topic but I can't find an email address for you.

Metacrock@aol.com

JDHURF said...

hinman:

You can reach me through email at jdhurf@hotmail.com