< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: Israel, Yet Again, Engages in Collective Punishment

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Israel, Yet Again, Engages in Collective Punishment

In its recent invasions of Lebanon and Gaza, Israel once again has showed how willing it is to disregard morality and collectively punish thousands of innocent people. Israel certainly has a right to defend itself (i.e. targeted strikes against Gaza militants and Hezbollah guerillas are morally justifiable), but what right does Israel have to:

1) Punish all of Gaza's residents with sleep depriving sonic boom? Several press reports have detailed the Israel Defense Force's use of sonic booms over the last two weeks to terrorize the civilian population in Gaza. I would like to know the utility such an action has in fighting terrorism.

2) Bomb Gaza's only power plant? According to the New York Times, "after the damage to the power plant, most Gazans get only six hours of electricity a day, at unpredictable times, so refrigeration of food becomes a problem. So does water supply, because many Gazans use electric pumps to get their water, and there are similar problems with sewage treatment." What crime have these Gazans committed that warrants such punishment?

3) Keep 4,000 people, some of them needing urgent medical attention, waiting in stifling heat to enter their own country? According to the New York Times, "two more Palestinians died Tuesday on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing while waiting in the heat to cross back into Gaza. According to Egyptian officials speaking to news agencies, two teenagers died: a boy, 18, from heatstroke and a girl, 19, who had recently undergone surgery in Egypt. The Rafah crossing has been closed for two weeks, and some 4,000 people are waiting there, according to the United Nations. The Red Cross said 578 of those waiting were “urgent humanitarian cases.” Israel has offered to let them into Gaza through a different crossing, Kerem Shalom, which means going through Israel. But the Palestinian Authority has refused, saying there is an international agreement allowing direct travel between Gaza and Egypt."

4) Destroy homes and force evacuations? According to the New York Times, "Like many of the people here [in Gaza], mostly poor farmers, the Edbarys have heeded the Israeli call to evacuate their homes to escape the fighting and are sleeping in United Nations schools in nearby Rafah...the Israeli incursion into the airport and its neighborhood, with tanks and armored bulldozers and artillery, destroyed some of the narrow roads and made it difficult if not impossible for farmers to get to their fields or to bring in food."

5) Kill innocent civilians? According to Reuters, "Israel killed at least 34 civilians on Saturday, including 15 children, in air strikes meant to punish Lebanon for letting Hezbollah guerrillas menace the Jewish state's northern border...An Israeli missile incinerated a van in southern Lebanon, killing 20 people, among them 15 children, in the deadliest single attack of the campaign launched by Israel after Hezbollah captured two of its soldiers and killed eight on Wednesday.Police said the van was carrying two families fleeing the village of Marwaheen after Israeli loudspeaker warnings to leave their homes. Many of the bodies were charred and broken.Other raids on north, east and south Lebanon killed 14 people and wounded 37, security sources said.At least 103 people, all but four of them civilians, have been killed in Israel's four-day-old assault, which has choked Lebanon's economy and prompted tourists and foreigners to flee."

All of the above actions by Israel are clear evidence that the county is engaged in a disproportionate response to any attacks on its soil. The rockets fired by Gaza militants and Hezbollah have not injured or killed nearly as many innocent Israelis in recent weeks or recent years. In fact, four Israeli civilians have been killed by Hezbollah bombs this week, and, according to the New York Times, "Palestinians in Gaza fired several thousand mortar shells and rockets from 2001 to 2005, killing 12 Israelis — 8 of them in Israel and 4 in Gaza, the Israeli military said…Since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the Palestinians have fired about 700 rockets at southern Israel, causing injuries and damage, but no deaths."

Israel’s obvious intention is to punish the civilian population in Gaza and Lebanon, apparently in the hope that they will cease to support militants in their country. This intention is made clear by Israel's actions: recent press reports have noted how Israel has broadcast messages in Gaza over load speakers that asked Gazans if their punishment was worth electing Hamas. Apparently the Israeli government has learned nothing since it came into existence -- that is, for fifty years Israel has used an iron fist to deal with its hostile neighbors and for fifty years they have seen terrorism and resentment against it grow, not subside. It is time for Israel to try a new approach and allow UN peacekeepers in the region. With U.S. backing, they have consistently rejected peacekeepers in the region; it makes one wonder whether they really want peace at all.


--JB

7 Comments:

Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

JB, I understand your concerns, but considering the history of the conflict I think Israel has been very tempered in their response. The Palestinian people have elected a terrorist organization to lead them and now they are reaping the consequences.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous JB said...

Jonathan:

What about the history of the conflict makes Israel's response tempered? Are you referring to the fact that the Israel Defense Forces have actually acted more brutally in the past? If so, then I agree with you (all one has to do to understand why I agree is read about Israel's treatment of civilians during their last significant invasion of Lebanon in 1982). If you can, please tell me how each of the Israeli actions I detailed in my original blog are tempered -- or even better, please tell me how they are morally justified.

If I understand your argument correctly, it is that everything Israel has done thus far in their latest invastion into Gaza is justified because the Palestinians elected Hamas. First of all, the children in Palestine had nothing to do with electing Hamas, so why should they have to deal with the consequences? Justify the deaths of innocent Palestinian children for us, if you can.

It is also important to realize that the Palestinians did not elect Hamas because of their stance towards Israel (if that were the case, whey did they recently elect Mahmoud Abbas, a man who has consistenly condemned attacks on Israel, to be prime minister?) You should also realize that Hamas was elected at a time when they were engaged in a cease-fire with Israel -- this is significant because it shows that Hamas' avowed desire for the destruction of Israel was not central to their campaign message (if it were, then they surely would not have been engaged in a cease-fire while campaigning). Hamas was elected because of the social programs they run in the occupied territories and because Palestinians were sick and tired of the corrupt regime run by Fatah and its Arafat hold-overs. My point is that the Palestinians did not elect Hamas because of its stance towards Israel -- opinion polls show the majority of Palestinians want peace with Israel. So tell the blog why ALL Palestinians should have to reap the brutal "consequences" like you say they should.

Your response also neglects to say anything about Israel's invasion into Lebanon. The Lebanese people did not elect Hezbollah to lead them (they in fact have elected an arguably pro-western government to lead them) -- tell us why the people of Beirut deserve to be punished by Israel.

--JB

4:48 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

JB, first let me say that I appreciate your humanitarian concerns. I do not blindly endorse everything that Israel does and I strongly believe that all human life is precious. Now, your questions. Israel’s response is tempered because they could have treated Hamas’ action as an act of war, which it was, and initiate of full invasion of Gaza. They initially tried diplomacy which did not work. Consequently, their only option was to perform precision strikes to (1) cripple Hamas’ capability and (2) to show the Palestinians that life under Hamas hurts them rather that helps them. It is actually amazing that Israel has been able to keep the fatalities to a minimum.

You are correct to say that Hamas has offered the Palestinian people strong incentives for election. However, that does not negate the fact that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Do you dispute this? Do you think the Palestinians are not aware of this? As for your polls, well I cannot say I believe them. The only peace the Palestinians want with Israel is for them to be out of the region. I agree with Charles Krauthammer’s recent article from the Washington Post:

occupation was a mere excuse to persuade gullible and historically ignorant Westerners to support the Arab cause against Israel. The issue is, and has always been, Israel's existence. That is what is at stake.

All you have to do is watch the Palestinian television, just the children’s programs, to understand that the Jews are to be pushed out of the Land. To think that Palestinians want a peaceful state beside Israel is not reality.

As for Lebanon, they failed to abide by the UN resolution to guard their southern border from Hezbollah after Israel withdrew. Being fed militarily from Syrian and Iran, Israel has to defend itself from these attacks and to give the Arabs “incentive” to prevent these attacks in the future. The fact that people are caught in the crossfire is an unfortunate fact of war. However, they should be thankful that Israel does not bomb indiscriminately like Hezbollah.

I know this will sound harsh to your ears, but the terrorists only know one means of resolution: force. IMO, if they hit Israel once, Israel should hit back with ten times the force. There must be a cost for attacking the freedom of Israel and threatening her sovereignty. Every attempt at appeasement (withdrawal from Gaza and withdrawal from Lebanon) has only proven a staging ground for more attacks. Why? Because, as Krauthammer’s article indicates, the Palestinians aren’t interested in having a little piece of land back, or Jerusalem, or two states, their goal is to remove every Jew from the Land.

My questions to you:
Do you have no criticism for the terrorists who started the conflict in Gaza and Lebanon?

Do you have no criticism for the terrorists who have lobbed hundreds upon hundreds of indiscriminate missiles into Israel?

Do you have no criticism for the terrorists who have killed Israeli civilians, namely children?

What do you think Israel should do when their soldiers are kidnapped and murdered?

At what point do you think force is necessary? For example, do you think force was necessary to topple Hitler?

Sorry the response was so long.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

JB?

2:34 PM  
Blogger Colorado Coalition for Human Rights said...

Jonathan--JB is on vacation and left just before your last comment, but I'm sure he will respond when he gets back in a couple of weeks.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JB said...

Jonathan:

The important thing to note about your post is that you failed to justify the actions taken by Israel that I noted in my original post (i.e. you said nothing about the sonic booms or the bombing of Gaza's only power plant or Israel's responsibility for Palestinian deaths at check points)

You wrote that Israel "initially tried diplomacy" with Hamas but that did not work. I know of no contacts between Hamas' leadership and Israeli leadership. What diplomacy are you referring to?

You wrote that Israel only option was to engage in "precision strikes to (1) cripple Hamas’ capability and (2) to show the Palestinians that life under Hamas hurts them rather that helps them." How was this their only option when, as I have already noted, Israel steadfastly ignored a diplomatic route?

I do not dispute that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. No sensible person could believe that Hamas could, however, achieve their objective. Israel has, I believe, the 4th largest armed force on the planet. How exactly could Hamas threaten Israel's existence?

You state that "the only peace Palestinians want is for Israel to be out of the region." Again, you've just made a blanket comment about the wishes of three and a half million people without any evidence. I already explained the reasons Hamas won, but you apparently didn't understand so I will re-post:

The Palestinians did not elect Hamas because of their stance towards Israel (if that were the case, whey did they recently elect Mahmoud Abbas, a man who has consistently condemned attacks on Israel, to be prime minister?) You should also realize that Hamas was elected at a time when they were engaged in a cease-fire with Israel -- this is significant because it shows that Hamas' avowed desire for the destruction of Israel was not central to their campaign message (if it were, then they surely would not have been engaged in a cease-fire while campaigning). Hamas was elected because of the social programs they run in the occupied territories and because Palestinians were sick and tired of the corrupt regime run by Fatah and its Arafat hold-overs. My point is that the Palestinians did not elect Hamas because of its stance towards Israel.

You stated that "the only peace the Palestinians want with Israel is for them to be out of the region." My original post explained to you why this statement is wrong. Either you didn't read it, or you didn't understand, so I'll ask again: if all Palestinians want Israel to be destroyed, why did they recently elect Mahmoud Abbas, a man who has consistently condemned attacks on Israel, to be prime minister?

To your questions:

Yes, I do have criticism for all parties that violate human rights. It just so happens that Israel has violated the rights of thousands of more people than any other party in the current conflict. (I could site statistics on all the people Israel has displaced, murdered, and made to suffer right here, but I have little confidence in such statistics making you question the morality of Israel's actions, so I won't waste my time).

What do I think Israel should do when their soldiers are kidnapped and murdered? First, I think it should look to diplomatic routes to try and free its soldiers. Prisoner swaps and negotiations were immediately rejected, however, despite that fact that Israel has thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners in its custody, some of whom are minors. I do not believe the destruction of an entire country can be called a proportionate, moral response to the kidnapping and murdering of a few soldiers.

At what point do you I think force is necessary? When diplomacy has no chance of succeeding. We, of course, don't know whether or not diplomacy had any chance in this current conflict because Israel refused to negotiate with any party.

My final question to you: Can you cite one instance where Israel has engaged in an activity that you would call immoral during this conflict?


--JB

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I need to make a correction to what I wrote above -- Israel only has 15 Lebanese prisoners in its custody. I implied they had thousands. I was referring to Palestinian prisoners when I wrote "thousands".

--JB

8:35 AM  

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