Punishing the people in Gaza feeds extremism

Published2/3/2008 11:56 PM

How would Jews feel if a large segment of their population were under siege for months by a more powerful military government because of the actions of a few? If they can't feel, maybe I can help them by saying what Israel's government is doing to the 1.3 million civilian residents of the Gaza Strip is a disgrace.

While the Gaza Strip is not comparable to Warsaw, Berlin or other European cities of the past, imprisoning, economically strangling and then severely curtailing fuel supplies and electricity to civilians, as Israel is doing, is outrageous. Why wouldn't some of the people living in the Israeli-imprisoned Gaza ghetto strike out in anger and hatred against a people right across a border who live in relative comfort?


Gaza is a complicated problem, made more complex because Israel unilaterally withdrew its soldiers, giving the world the false impression it gave the ghetto-like desert a form of independence. It's never been independent as we see from reports broadcast mainly by Middle East and European media, which have been far more objective and comprehensive in covering the crisis there.

I admire the Palestinians who destroyed segments of Israel's wall that surrounds the land mass. It evoked images of the imprisoned people of East Berlin destroying the Berlin Wall (or should we call it a fence?) to break free of oppression, too.

I understand Israel's illogical logic: punishing all the people living in the Gaza ghetto might force them to turn against Hamas, the terrorist organization that, thanks in large part to Israel's policies, grows in popularity and strength. But "collective punishment," a cornerstone of Israel's policies in the Gaza ghetto and in the West Bank, which is diced up into multiple ghettos, is a violation of international law and basic morality. You don't fight crime by punishing a criminal's siblings, parents or grandparents, nor by also destroying the homes of relatives and neighbors. "Collective punishment" reinforces collective resentment against Israel, which unlike the Gaza ghetto and militarily- occupied West Bank, is a sovereign government governed by principles and laws.

Peace between Palestinians and Israelis will not be achieved by inflicting more pain on Palestinians, or turning a blind eye to the continued annexation of Palestinian lands. Peace will come when Israelis begin to show their compassionate side that has been shelved because of the failures of peace, the disappointments of incomplete concessions, and a reluctance to give the Palestinian people what Jews around the world demanded in a similar fashion for themselves.

Palestinians must be ready to take power and use it not to allow continued attacks against Israeli civilians, but rather to seriously move toward and acceptance of the reality that there is no going back to 1948. They must crack down on individual militias that continue to fire rockets into Israel, and arrest those who refuse to respect the rule of law. The rule of law doesn't just apply to Israel's actions. It also applies to Palestinians.

There are two futures. One of continued conflict and death. The other of peace based on justice and real compromise and the creation of two states that are equal in treatment, authority and pride.

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