Friday, October 26, 2007

Discussions About Collective Punishment

Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday authorized the use of collective punishment by shutting down the electricity in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia for two-hour periods, should the shooting of Qassam rockets continue from there. It is not at all clear if the electricity really will be turned off or if the authorization is part of a psychological warfare effort - time will tell. The whole issue underlines the fact that Israel is supplying electricity to Gaza, not a surprise to anyone who knows the reality, but somehow never mentioned by the Guardian and the rest of the Gaza-is-an-Israeli-prison brigade. (Israel also supplies some of Gaza's water, and therein lies a tale, but not today).

Anyway, the group for whom this measure will or won't be taken, the civilians in Sderot, are not of one mind about it. Some think it's not enough, others think it's merely a sop to them but will bring no respite from the rockets, others think it's a bad idea. Listening to their responses is so interesting precisely because none of them are into ideology. They're not thinking about colonialism, or hegemonic power struggles, or fascism, or international law. They're getting shot at, they belong to a highly experienced society and at the moment they're bearing the brunt of the conflict, and their considerations are practical. This is what an educated discussion about warfare sounds like.


Lydia McGrew said...

From the article, I'm getting that they think it's a bad idea just because it won't work and is a childishly puny gesture. Is this about right? I certainly didn't see any of them bringing up shall I say it...more "soft-hearted" or "pro-Palestinian" considerations.

Well, I'm with them. They're right. Here are international people moaning and whining about how evil it would be to turn off the electricity for two hours (for goodness' sake!), and really, when we're talking about missile attacks and a response to them, that looks like nothing at all.

By the way, who is _paying_ for this electricity? I've been wondering this for a long time. Just the Israeli taxpayer? Or are the Gazans buying it with international aid money (in which case it's the EU taxpayer)? Or what?

Yaacov said...

What I found interesting in the article was that quite a number of the people of Sderot find nothing of value in theatrics. They aren't in favor of hurting the Palestinians across the fence just because they too are hurting, and actually seem to feel that if hurting the populace of Beit Lahia won't help, it shouldn't be done at all.What most of the voices had in common was a pragmatic search for a solution, not an ideological one. The whole discussion was far more clear-minded than almost everything that gets written from afar.

Electic bills: I'm not sure, but my impression is that the Palestinian bills (water bils, too) are deducted from customs collected in Israeli ports for the Palestinians. Or that's the way it may have been before the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.