Rockets are collective punishment

on 44 Comments

Last week Bradley Burston published a column in Haaretz, “To the leftist who has no problem with rocket fire on Israel,” that cited a piece on our site. Annie Robbins then responded to Burston in a post, “When victims retaliate.” Burston sent along the following response.

Annie, You make a number of excellent points in your post “When victims retaliate,” a response to my article “To the leftist who has no problem with rocket fire on Israel.” 

Among them are these:

Israel’s brutal, decades-long occupation spurs people under occupation to want to respond instinctively and violently. Absolutely true. Targeted assassinations of people not engaged in combat are forbidden under international law. That law applies to the assassinations my government carried out recently. Absolutely true.

“Civilians are, moreover, protected against acts that constitute collective punishment. Collective punishment, intentional attacks against civilians and extrajudicial executions constitute war crimes in IHL.” Absolutely true.

You also wrote that when I spoke at a synagogue in Marin County before the last election, I evaded your questions about the violent settlers and how much of a problem I thought they were for Israel and Palestine. Again, absolutely true. Specifically, among the questions I ducked, you asked how many of the settlers there were the violent ones.

So let me begin with a sincere apology for evading your questions, and with the answers as I see them.

Settler violence against Palestinians and their property is terrorism, nothing less and nothing else. It is much worse than the news media report, and it is growing in scope as the years go by.

Violent settlers are one of the primary issues barring any conceivable solution – one state or two – to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is the specific purpose of much of the violence, to render any solution impossible.

Violent settlers – if I had to hazard an admittedly guesswork figure – represent 1-2 percent of the settler population, 5,000 -10,000 hard core zealots, many, if not most of them, armed.

To return to the issue of rockets, it seems to me that your citation regarding collective punishment, intentional attacks against civilians, and extrajudicial executions, sums up, in fact, the point I was trying to get across.

We might even be in agreement on this.

It boils down to this: Extrajudicial assassination is wrong. No matter who carries it out. Collective punishment and intentional attacks on civilians are wrong, no matter who practices them or why.

The rockets are collective punishment. The targets of the collective punishment are not unlike the targets of the siege of Gaza, which I abhor and entirely oppose: working people, the elderly, children, pregnant women. Anyone. Arabs as well. Leftists as well.

One more thing in this regard. Although they have entirely understandable reservoirs of rage and bitterness, the rocket crews are acting on policy. Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Resistance Committees are among the more well-disciplined hierarchical military forces in Israel/Palestine. They are much more disciplined than many of the Israeli Border Police that occupy the West Bank. The rocket crews act on orders.

You wrote that “human nature is fighting back when someone is trying to kill you. That said, I support non violent resistance. I do not support killing civilians.” I agree with every word. Just one more thing. It seems that whenever I’m mentioned on Mondoweiss, someone feels it necessary to point out that I live in the “Jewish settlement of Gilo.”

Just this once, I’d like to state for the record that I do not. I never have. For what it’s worth, I live on the 1948 side of the Green Line, and have never lived across it. I live nowhere near Gilo.

I wish you only the best.I wish the people of the Holy Land a large measure of justice, democracy and personal safety. I learned much from your response, and am thankful. You are certainly not the problem. You may, in fact, be part of the solution.

    Leave a Reply