Friday, June 10, 2005


Non-violence and Collective Punishment

There is an interesting article by Meron Rapaport in today's Ha'aretz about the emerging non-violent protest movement that has become focused on the wall that is being built by Israel through the West Bank. I think it is an overwhelmingly fair portrayal of the protests and the actions taken by Palestinians and Israelis to try to build a non-violent protest movement and the actions taken by the IDF to try and cut this off at the knees and perpetuate the mythology that Palestinians are somehow incapable of non-violence -- that they are bloodthirsty and irrepressible in their lust for violence. There are some interesting and illustrative quotes from IDF Lieutenant Colonel Tzachi Segev, commander of the 25th Battalion of the Armored Corps who have been responsible for dispersing the demonstrations near the town of Bilin.
From Segev's point of view, activity against a village that demonstrates against the fence does not end with the dispersal of the demonstrators and the stone throwers. "If no terrorist activity and no interference with the fence works come out of the village, we do not interfere with it," Segev says. "If they interfere with the fence, we harass it in its daily routine."

What form does that harassment take?

"Maybe harassment is not a good word. The stronger the activity against the fence, the stronger our operations will be. We reserve the right to enter the village at any hour ... Sometimes there is no escaping collective punishment, even if it has a negative impact. Collective punishment is closure, prohibiting people from entering a certain village, blocking the Bilin-Safa road [referring to the neighboring village] as a lever of pressure if the village does not behave properly."

But there were also cases in which the organizers of the demonstrations fought against the stone-throwers and removed them from the scene. What message are you sending the Palestinians who prevented stone-throwing at soldiers? That they are stupid?

"It is true that were such cases, and the question of collective punishment is a difficult issue. But the punishment is not something abstract. It is meant to say: Guys, we have means that can hurt you." ("Closure is not collective punishment, it is an operational activity," Colonel Yoni Gedj, the brigade commander, will say afterward, correcting him.)
Of course, because collective punishment is specifically prohibited in the 4th Geneva Convention (see articles 33 and 53). So for PR purposes there is an official denial -- but the truth of the matter seems pretty obvious.

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