So you think this is collective punishment?
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”. Just two examples of that canard can be seen here and here.:

Let me now show you the undiscriminating collective punishment that nobody is talking about:

We can consider the following murders to constitute collective punishment - ignored because the perpetrators are not Jews, while the victims are::

  • 17-year-old (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. 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 accident (it is not clear). 

In that case, if the lateness was an accident, the home should not necessarily be destroyed, but that is hard to know, and in this case, it was. This may be considered an example of collective punishment. The court that allowed the demolition perhaps let down, not just the Jabarin family, but other parents who may have seen reason to notify security forces, possibly in time to prevent the crime. We do not know what the IDF discovered. Will we get a second chance to do it right?

On the other hand, we can see the subtle ways in which parental incitement works as well as the more overt ways. 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 is in order 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 use of this tactic is considered by our security cabinet only because they believe it can save lives..

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 (PA). As I got deeper into the subject, I found out that sometimes we do. It is not so blatant as the propaganda would have us believe, but it is there. However, it is always with the goal of saving lives, a value that supercedes all others.

One thing, however, remains clear and it is that murderous terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens and against Jews in other countries fall clearly within the definition of collective punishment. We need to start labeling these as such in all of our pro-Israeli propaganda.