Collective Punishment and Israeli State Terror

The abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers is a contemptible crime. But the Israeli government’s response has been to engage in a violent crime spree of its own.

When someone commits a violent crime against another person, the perpetrator should be held accountable. Not the perpetrator’s family or roommates, not those of the same race or nationality, not those with similar political views, not those who live in the same geographical area. Collective punishment is immoral. It is a war crime under the Geneva Convention and it constitutes aggressive violence that all who care about individual rights should abhor. But in response to the deaths of these teenagers, the Israeli government chose to engage in it.

Israeli soldiers demolished the homes of Marwan al-Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh,  suspects in the abduction and killing of the Israeli teenagers. This punishment was inflicted without trial. The demolitions terrorized innocent family members and neighbors and damaged their property. According to Reuters, “Before blowing up the house, soldiers shattered the windows and threw sofas to the ground. Toilets and sinks, along with every step in the staircase, were smashed with a sledgehammer. Sugar, yogurt and bread were thrown across the kitchen floor.”

This gratuitous destruction didn’t help apprehend the suspects, nor did it provide restitution to the families of the victims. This is senseless destruction that terrorizes a neighborhood and makes the world less prosperous.

The collective punishment doesn’t end there. According to Amnesty International, the Israeli government “launched at least 34 air strikes on locations across Gaza on the morning of 1 July. There have been reports of Palestinian injuries.” Such actions predictably harm innocents by causing injuries, death and property destruction indiscriminately.

Amnesty also reports multiple deaths at the hands of Israeli security forces since the search for the abducted teens began. While the Israeli government alleges that one of the dead, Yousef Abu Zagha, hurled a grenade, the Associated Press reports that “his family said he had been carrying eggs home for a predawn meal before the daylight fast for the Ramadan holiday.”

Collective punishment is not a new practice for the Israeli state. That state has long forcibly kept the people of Gaza in poverty with a draconian blockade which separates families, deprives individuals of the freedom to seek medical care, and forcibly prevents peaceful trade that could produce mutual benefit and prosperity. The UN has condemned this blockade as a violation of human rights.

The Israeli state arbitrarily locks up Palestinians, according to Amnesty, “with at least 364 Palestinians currently under administrative detention, the highest number in years.”

Checkpoints are used to restrict Palestinians’ freedom of movement. Palestinians’ homes are demolished as the Israeli state forcibly displaces them and steals their land.

The Israeli government seeks to justify all of this violence in the name of fighting terrorism. Yet the Israeli state is engaging in violence against civilian populations in order to terrorize those populations and thus achieve their political aims. Israeli state violence is terrorism.

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