Op-Ed: Collective Punishment?
Dr. Philip BrodieThe author worked at the University of Pittsburgh where he received his...
It is over two weeks since three Jewish boys were kidnapped.
Hamas and Fatah officials say the boys are soldiers. They are not. They are students.
Two are sixteen years old. One is 19. They are not military personnel. They are simply our children.
Israel unites. Secular and religious unite. Political Parties unite.
We unite because we are all Jews. Whatever our differences, these boys are our children.
We unite to pray. We pray for their safety. We pray for their lives.
Several days ago, the media reported that the Palestinian Authority (PA) charges Israel of terrorizing ‘a captive population’ by searching the area house by house. This follows an angry condemnation of the Israel Defence Force (IDF) from the PA’s Mahmoud Abbas (“Abbas Lashes Out at Netanyahu Over Hamas Crackdown”, Arutz Sheva, June 22, 2014).
Hanan Ashrawi, a PLO official, made the accusation. She said that the Israeli operation ‘is a reign of terror directed against a captive Palestinian population. This is not a systematic search for three abducted boys but collective punishment’ [my emphasis].
"Collective punishment’ is a war crime. It is prohibited by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.
The Arab war-plan against Israel has always been simple: start with an act of terror against Israel. Then accuse Israel of war crimes when Israel responds. Then go to the United Nations to use International Law to criminalize Israel.
They’ve done this before. They’re doing it again with this kidnapping.
However, this kidnapping was not executed by individuals who were pariahs within the Arab community. This kidnapping was supported by the Palestinian Arab community.
The idea of kidnapping Jews has been part of the Palestinian Arab collective narrative for months. During this time, it was never opposed by the population. It was never opposed by the leadership. Quite the reverse: for months, PA officials have joined with Hamas to call for more kidnappings, not less.
The entire Arab collective has been discussing the positive benefits of kidnapping Jews. The Arab collective wants to see Jews kidnapped. The Arab collective has given kidnapping its overwhelmingly support.
Now, three Jewish boys have been kidnapped. What has Arab leadership done? It has urged the Arab collective to destroy any evidence that could lead to the kidnappers’ capture.
When you aid a criminal to avoid capture, you become an accessory to that crime. You become liable.
Arab leaders reject that responsibility. Instead, they accuse Israel of a war crime--collective punishment.
Unfortunately, it’s how the world works.
The world’s laws are flawed. Martin Luther King is reported to have said that there are two kinds of laws in this world, man’s law and G-d’s law; and until man’s law becomes consistent with G-d’s law, there will be no justice in this world.
The use of the term ‘collective punishment’ for trying to find kidnappers who are supported and aided by a collective, proves Reverend King’s assertion. Certainly, there is no justice for Israel in the international arena. There will be no justice for Israel so long as man’s laws are used to demonize Israel—and G-d’s laws are rejected.
It is immoral for a Palestinian Arab to incite his community to kidnap Jews and then claim ‘innocence’ when Israel acts because its Jewish citizens have been kidnapped.
Collective punishment is a moral concept. It says you cannot punish every member of a group just because someone in that group has done something wrong. But in this context, the moral concept—like so many other moral concepts the Arab world uses against Israel—is inappropriate. It assumes that the ‘group’ is innocent of the crime(s) committed. But what happens if the group is as guilty as the transgressor(s)?
Common sense suggests that a group’s collective responsibility should justify collective punishment. But that is not how the world sees it.
Collective responsibility isn’t in international code. It’s not part of International moral law. The Fourth Geneva Convention clearly states that no persons may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed; collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Collective responsibility is not mentioned.
This would mean that the prohibition against collective punishment is an absolute.
The writers of the Fourth Geneva Convention were not thinking of an Arab war of terror against Israel when they wrote its code, in 1949. They were thinking of Nazi atrocities in World War Two.
Arab terrorism against Israel has become a moral hole. No one wants to address it. It simply fills up with man-made laws which are full of lacunae, inconsistent, flawed and ill-equipped to address what is called ‘asymmetric war’, or, war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differs significantly (Wikipedia).
The Arab-Israel war is asymmetric. Israel has the power. The Arab uses the law. Because of that disparity, Israel will forever be beaten with ‘collective punishment’.
And what makes this accusation even more immoral is that it doesn’t even apply to this kidnapping. What Israel is doing is far from "collective punishment".