So you think this is collective punishment?
Israel is constantly being blamed by so-called pro-Palestinians of engaging in collective punishments against the Arab residents of the so-called “Occupied Palestinian Territories”. Here are just two examples of that canard:
Collective punishment – cowardly Israeli Occupation Force’s pirates attacking, stealing, killing, vandalizing Palestinian fishers off the coast of #Gaza #Palestine @UAWC1986 pic.twitter.com/uycVrB6CSQ
— Freedom Flotilla (@GazaFFlotilla) August 11, 2019
🇵🇸#Palestine : Collective Punishment. .
Israeli occupation forces blew up the house of the family of Palestinian prisoner Khalil Jabbarin in Yatta city in the southern of Hebron .. #10yearchallenge pic.twitter.com/Ww0xE0Dd34
— Shehab News (@ShehabAgencyEn) January 18, 2019
Let me now show you the undiscriminating collective punishment that nobody is talking about, such as this missile attack on an end-of-summer event in Sderot:
We can consider the following murders to constitute collective punishment:
- 17 YO Rina Shnerb (out swimming with her father and brother),
- 19-YO Dvir Sorek (returning home from his Yeshiva),
- 45-YO Ari Fuld (out shopping),
- 48-YO Mahmoud Abu Asba (in his apartment when missiles were fired from Gaza),
- 13-YO Hallel Ariel (asleep in her bed),
- 15-YO Malki Roth and Michal Raziel (having pizza together in Jerusalem), and too many more to name.
These murders were not personal. Any other Jew would have done just as well and, if the victim happened not to be a Jew, well he or she should have known better than to side with the Jews. (See the memorial list here for all those killed in terror attacks.)
Jews are collectively punished, not as a form of resistance against a supposed “occupation”, but because we had the temerity to come home. We were killed in Tel Hai and Nebi Musa in 1920, in Jaffa in 1921 and 1936, in Tzfat and Hebron in 1929, for example, while Israel came into being as a modern state only in 1948. But we had the gall to start coming home in larger numbers toward the end of the 1800s. Unforgiveable. Deserving of punishment.
Jews are collectively punished when we are murdered in our synagogues in the United States and Europe, in a kosher supermarket in France, or in a community center in Argentina. The individuals murdered were not killed because of anything they had done personally, but just because they were Jews. Their crime? Being Jewish. Being part of the Jewish collective.
When It is Personal
On the other hand, when a house is destroyed in Judea and Samaria because it was the residence of a terrorist who murdered Jews, that is personal. It is not collective at all. And if it means putting the entire family out, that is also personal because the family either did not prevent the terrorist act or actually encouraged it.
One could argue (as does PhD candidate Colonel (Res.), Adv. Liron A. Libman) that parental responsibility can only be substantiated if there is evidence of actual incitement on the part of the parent. I would argue that when we have a case of parents notifying the security forces that their son was missing and seemed to have set out to commit an act of terror, we have an example of a parent taking responsibility to prevent a crime, even if they were too late by design or by accident (it is not clear).
In that case, if the lateness was an accident, the home should not necessarily have been destroyed, but that is hard to know, and in this case, it was torn down. If the parents were innocent here, this may be considered an example of collective punishment and perhaps convince other parents that there is no point in warning the security forces of future impending terrorist attacks in time to stop them.
On the other hand, we can see the subtle ways in which parental incitement works as well as the more overt ways of raising a child to be a terrorist. Is this evidence that can be brought to a court of Law? I do not know. I leave it to the lawyers to figure it our and the legislators to decide whether to make it possible.
When a Gaza fishing boat is impounded by Israel, it is personal – it is likely because the boat was outside the permitted fishing zone. Whether or not this can be considered smart or legal in all its permutations is a separate issue, but it is very personal – against the very fisherman who went beyond the limit set by Israel. No other boats were targeted. In other words, as opposed to Jewish victims whereby any Jew could stand in for any other Jew, no other fisherman could stand in for any other fisherman.
When it is Collective
However, the very imposition of changing fishing zones according to changing levels of Hamas hostilities against Israel could logically be called collective punishment. Let us turn to the definition of collective punishment as proferred by Libman:
…any step that may directly harm the rights of an individual due to an act for which the individual cannot be held responsible and that is carried out solely because of the individual’s belonging to a particular group—such as a family, a village or an ethnic minority—of which another member is held to be responsible for the act in question.
If reduction of the fishing zone limit seeks to get the fisherman to pressure Hamas into reducing their hostilities against Israel when they are not responsible for such hostilities, then that is a form of collective punishment. And our security cabinet apparently believes this tactic can save lives. Is it effective? Is it reasonable? I have not seen any analysis of this.
But reducing and expanding fishing zones do not provide good photo ops; Israel caught on film impounding boats and all equipment on board makes for excellent images that are the gold standard of propaganda. The very personal act of taking in individual boats disobeying the zoning limits and calling it collective punishment provides material for colourful tweets that raise the ire of those who promote their own particular brand of human rights.
I set out writing this article to prove that Israel does not engage in collective punishment of the citizens of the Palestinian Authority. As I got deeper into the subject, I found out that sometimes we do, as the fishing zone issue shows. It is not so blatant as the propaganda would have us believe, but it is there. As part of the war against terrorism and missiles pounding down upon Israeli citizens. As part of the fight against the indiscriminate collective punishment against Jews in Israel and around the globe.
For it certainly is clear that murderous terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens and against Jews in other countries fall within the definition of collective punishment. We need to start labeling these as such at every opportunity.
This is a slightly modified version of the op-ed first published in Israel National News on 29 August 2019.