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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Where, oh where, has the 'collective punishment crowd' gone?

In the past when I, or any commenters, have suggested employing broad measures to punish the Palestinians for their continued tolerance/support of terror, the group I have come to think of as the 'collective punishment crowd' invariably comes out of the woodwork wringing their collective hands over how unjust it would be to impose a collective punishment on all Palestinians for the bad acts of a very few.

So you can imagine my confusion and dismay when I see pretty much no negative reaction from the 'collective punishment crowd' in the wake of yesterday's announcement that the Israeli government (via the IDF) has decided to revoke Jewish access to Joseph's Tomb (one of Judaism's ancient holy sites) as a collective punishment upon the settlers for not having offered a strong enough condemnation of recent bad acts allegedly carried out by settlers.

Joseph's Tomb has been the site of countless acts of Arab vandalism (it was mostly destroyed by the Arabs during the second Intifada) as well as lethal attacks against Jewish civilians and soldiers.  Yet few outside the religious settler community seem to notice or mind that while Arabs enjoy safe access (full autonomy, actually) to all of their holy sites... Jews must petition the authorities for special access to their holy sites because of the inherent danger. 

Not only is removing access to Joseph's Tomb ridiculously unfair considering that Arabs worship at their beautifully maintained and safe holy places... but there is also the added issue of collective punishment being meted out against the settlers.

To begin with, those living outside the 'Green line' are not some monolithic population that thinks and/or acts in concert any more than those living within the green line.  The cultural population of Jews living over the green line spans the entire gamut from secular to religious... and their political make-up extends from just left of center to as far right as you care to imagine.  So to force this segment of Israel's population to be held responsible for a few bad actors in their midst is ludicrous.

Not only that, but the so-called 'leadership' of the settlers is not in any way shape or form in a position to speak for this population (as convenient as it might be if it were so).  In fact, the 'leadership' is self-appointed and is viewed with heavy suspicion by much of the population of Judea and Samaria because of a consistent failure to act in the best interest of the people they claim to represent.

However, the most troubling thing (for me) is the fact that the government and it's appointed representatives (in this case, the IDF) see no problem in meting out collective punishment against the settler community (actually, mostly just the religious settlers) even though that group bears no collective responsibility for a few very isolated criminal acts. 

To emphasize the extent to which ideology and agenda have entered into the government's decision-making processes, consider what kind of reaction the government has offered when mayors of various communities in the center of the country have been targeted by criminal elements with grenades and bombs. 

Obviously most law-abiding citizens are outraged by that sort of thing.  But it is safe to say that the President, Prime Minister and pretty much every cabinet member didn't come out on the same day to offer hysterical condemnations of those attacks, nor was it necessary for representatives of those communities to publicly condemn the acts in order to be perceived as being against them. 

To be sure, in those criminal cases the police were given clear marching orders and extra resources to bring the perpetrators to justice.  But there was little in the way of public outcry and grandstanding by government officials in the wake of the actual attacks.  Why?  Because being anti-mafia is a non-partisan position and offers no particular political advantage.

But when an opportunity arises for Peres, Olmert, Livni and others to publicly condemn the wicked sons (the settlers), there is suddenly a headlong rush to the podium to decry 'ideological attacks' in front of the eagerly waiting media.

Access to Jewish Holy sites should also be a completely non-partisan issue.  Yet again and again we have seen how protection of, and access to, these ancient places has been used by our own secular elites as a carrot and stick (mostly stick) to punish those they view with both suspicion and hate.

I am disgusted by our cowardly government that holds our precious heritage in such disregard.  But I am more disgusted with the 'collective punishment crowd' who now remain silent when it is Jews being collectively punished instead of Arabs.

Two oft-quoted sections of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 13) are the following:

"(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state."

This is most frequently employed to point out the injustice of denying Palestinians free movement within Israeli-controlled areas.  Yet when the freedom of movement is denied to Jewish residents... that is somehow not a human rights issue.  Strange, no?

"(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."

This is usually used to support the right of displaced Arabs (and their descendants) to return to what is now Israel after having left and/or been forced to leave.  But there is no statute of limitations on this basic human right... so why is it that the Jews (who were exiled from this land almost two thousand years before anyone had heard of a 'Palestinian'), are not allowed to return to it?  Very strange!

To my fellow Israelis who have no problem with these double standards, I can only reiterate what I have said many times before:  Your right to live in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Hertzlia evaporates like so much smoke the moment you deny the most basic Jewish claim to our historic land, as well as to our ancient holy places in Hevron, Schechem and Bethlehem.

Without the legitimacy conferred upon the entire Zionist enterprise by the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Temple Mount and the tombs of Rachel and her son Joseph, those living comfortably in Israel's crowded center are nothing more than 'illegal occupiers'; an angry epithet that is routinely tossed at a diverse group of patriotic people whose only 'crime' is having followed their government's call to return the land to which we have the most ancient and legitimate claim. 

Posted by David Bogner on September 28, 2008 | Permalink

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Very well put, David, as usual. May this be a year when finally, we see a Jewish government in the land of Israel that sees things the way they should be! Shana Tova to all of you...

Posted by: Marsha in Englewood | Sep 28, 2008 3:02:25 PM

This is indeed well put. Our holy places are the inheritance of all of us, religious and secular, wherever we may be living.
I just wanted to point out, along the lines of what you are saying, that Rashi says the same thing in his commentary on the Torah. He points out that the Torah goes to great lengths to detail the purchase of the Machpelah (Cave of the Patriarchs), Shechem (Kever Yosef) and the Temple Mount, so that in the future when the nations of the world call us "thieves", we can remind them that we purchased them "fair and square".
An additional irony about this is that this alleged attack happened on Shabbos, as pointed out by Israel Matzav. This means that even if it was a Jew that did this (there is no proof of this so far), it was certainly not a religious Jew. And yet it is still being used as an excuse to punish all religious Jews. Kever Yosef is sacred to, and visited by all kinds of religious Jews, and not just "settlers" by the way.
The depths of loathing for their own identities and tradition is not only tragic, but frightening to the rest of us.

Posted by: Yosef | Sep 28, 2008 6:16:04 PM

Also, you don't even have to go back 2000 years to find Jews living in Shechem, or Hevron for that matter. All these places have had Jewish populations since time immemorial, with rare exception (Hevrons being the years between 1929 and 1967, after much of the Jewish community was massacred in a pogrom by axe wielding Arabs, until the 6 day war when they came back).

Posted by: Yosef | Sep 28, 2008 6:17:57 PM

You've forgotten. Jews are the oppressors and Jewish blood is cheap.

Write it 50 times on the chalkboard, 'kay?

Posted by: triLcat | Sep 28, 2008 10:08:44 PM

When you add the modifier "and their descendants", section 2 allows some other interpretations that I find strange. My ancestry is Scottish, Irish, English, and Dutch. So, does that mean I should be able to freely "return" to those countries? While it is true that England (for instance) would let me in as a tourist, I think they might take exception to me staying past my visa, or claiming that it is "my" country.
I am a Zionist because G-d made some extra claims that I believe extend beyond an appropriate interpretation of section 2. He doesn't need the UN to back him up.

Posted by: Channah | Sep 29, 2008 1:14:38 AM

Al regel echad, and admittedly WITHOUT a full knowledge of your views on the matter, it seems to me that both sides (you and the left) are engaging in the same willfull blindless. Do YOU oppose the imposition of collective punishment of the Palestinian population? Do you consider it to be a fair and/or effective strategy? If you consider it to be reasonable, why the outrage when the strategy is extended to other populations (read "your own")?

What is good for the goose is good for the gander. If collective punishment is considered a fair and effective method of dealing with the current chaos in the Palestinian communities, than it is also fair and appropriate in dealing with chaos in our own communities (right or left). On the other hand, if we consider it unfair, unwarranted and unjust when applied to ourselves, this really should force us to take a very good look at the application of such policies in respect to the Palestinians.

This is not to take a far left-wing stance and say that all restrictions currently in place in respect to the West Bank and Aza are completely unwarranted. Sometimes people really do want to kill you, and while many Palestinians are probably normal people who just want to live their lives in peace, so long as they cannot control their more radical elements, we have no choice but to do it for them. However, the same can be said in regards to our own backyard. There are people who really are interested in harassing Palestinians, driving them from their homes and annexing as much of the West Bank as is humanly possible, and the current Palestinian residents be damned. If the communities from which these individuals come cannot control these radical elements than, just as in the case of the Palestinians, there is an argument for the government doing it for them, and even for the government using the same, broad methodology imposed on the Palestinian population.

Posted by: Gila | Sep 29, 2008 9:27:22 AM

Marsha in Englewood... Sadly It looks like Olmert and his protge, Livni, will be with us for the forseeable future.

Yosef... I don't think all (or even most) secular Israelis are self loathing when it comes to religion and Jewish identity. But the majority of our decision makers certainly are.

triLcat ... So I'm told. :-)

Channah... CHristian Europe, surprisingl, is uninterested in our biblical claims.

Gila... Nice. I share nothing in common with these criminals but geographic location and the presumption that they are also religious (though that is far from proven). They are not advancing my agenda nor attempting to harm people I wish to see harmed. By your logic, when a secular person from Tel Aviv knifes someone in a club or puts a grenade on some mayor's porch, all secular Tel Avivis should be punished (including you) for not doing more to stop them. Is that what you are saying? Is it??? Could you be doing more to stop drug dealers, criminals and mafiosos in Israel's center?? Well I have just as much power over the criminals over here. And if you are looking to the 'settler leaders' to actually do something, you will wait a long time. They are not elected officials and have absolutely no power to enforce their empty rhetoric. In short, I think you are dead wrong. Not one redeeming thing about your comment except a sad revelation of your knee-jerk dislike for all things and people over the green line.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Sep 29, 2008 12:31:28 PM

Interesting that Olmert, Livni etc. are now up in arms about a single incident - no matter how serious - and claiming to much of the international media that the "right" poses an extreme threat from Israel. Things have changed in the past 13 years and attitudes that were on display prior to Rabin's assassination are kept hidden. And yet this one isolated incident (so far) becomes an indictment of a whole sector of society.

But when terrorists attack Israeli and their leaders range from equivocatin to encouragement, Israel's leadership betrays no similar outrage. No brushing with a broad stroke - though in that case it's much easier to draw a line between the "moderate" Abbas saying that Jews have no national rights and one of his subjects driving a bulldozer through the center of Jerusalem.

No they ignore this and cite the tired mantra that one makes with one's enemies. Of course, the way this seems to work is that one makes peace with one's enemies, but one's political opponents are fair game and deserve even less forebearance.

Posted by: soccer dad | Sep 29, 2008 5:12:29 PM

"Well I have just as much power over the criminals over here."

How much power does the average Palestinian have over its criminals?

First and foremost, I really did not mean to offend you or to rip all settlers/ right wingers/ etc. I obviously did not make my point clearly. My point was not that I felt that the punishment imposed was fair or not fair. Rather, I felt that your argument propogated a double standard. Again--if WE (all of us) as a society are not willing to endure collective punishment in response to OUR radical, criminal and violent elements...how can we then turn around justify implementing them over another population? To my eyes, your comments about drugs or violence in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem prove my point (not just Tel Aviv-sorry). Do I feel that a collective punishment would be appropriate? NO, not at all. As such, how can I NOT ask myself where the hell I get off supporting without reservation collective punishment in the West Bank and Aza?

It should be pointed out that you and I are perfectly free to publish the names of and boycott mafia-owned businesses, to lobby and demonstrate for better government, to hold public demonstrations against attacks by the morality patrol and to vote in elected officials who will reform the Rabbinical courts and put some serious teeth in the laws against drug-dealing, trafficking in women, corruption in government and violence in clubs. I could be wrong, but I don't think that the average Palestinian has quite the same level of freedom of movement or expression within his society. (West Bank Mama wrote about this very eloquently at http://westbankmama.wordpress.com/2008/09/24/a-tale-of-two-sons/).

My point is this--rather than asking where the "collective punishment crowd" is...shouldn't we all be asking myself where we are? Hillel said it best: what is unpleasant to you, do not do to another person...that is the whole Torah the rest is commentary. It is bad and unpleasant if you do it to me, but it is just fine and dandy if we do it to another population?

Even if we determine that we have no other option (and we may well determine that--I cannot think of another one myself) we should be upset by this state of affairs. We should be bothered. We should be sitting there and thinking "what if this were me". We should be constantly looking for some other way. When we hear the "collective punishment crowd" start to scream and yell, even as we defend our position, we should acknowledge...and acknowledge publicly, that they have a point.

Shana Tova

Posted by: Gila | Sep 29, 2008 6:37:43 PM

Gila,
It is hard to make a parallel between criminal actions in Israel and/or isolated acts of radical settlers, and then terrorism on the other hand. The main reason, is that we have already seen from the Arabs is that the ideology exists, and has been put into practice in an organized and deliberate manner in the past to simply commit mass murder on as large a scale as possible. There is no comparison with anything else here, even with the acts of violence from settlers (with the possible exception of the massacre in the Machpela years ago).
Incidents such as the one that happened in Yitzhar, whether they make you uncomfortable or not, were carried out as a response to a murderous attack, when the residents felt that the army wasn't creating enough deterrent to the Arabs not to attack their community. Their "rampage" was, in their eyes, an act of pre-emptive defense for the sake of reminding those who would try to attack them that they would not tolerate passively attempted murder.
I am not condoning or condemning that incident, but just pointing out that it is ludicrous to make a parallel here, because there really is no parallel. No Arabs in Israel live in fear of Jews committing mass murder against them. We, on the other hand, have seen to much to be naive about the fact that there are those among the Arab population who would like to do nothing more (and have been in the past facilitated by their political leadership as well).
While they still may (or may not) be a minority, they are far more dangerous and sadistic than any Jewish "equivalent".

Posted by: Yosef | Oct 2, 2008 11:48:08 PM

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