Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
July 2, 2006
For sixteen months, Hamas honored its unilateral cease-fire.
And just in the last few weeks, Hamas came around to acknowledging the possibility of a two-state solution.
Then, provoked by Israeli killings of civilians in Gaza and ongoing Israeli assassinations, Hamas and other Palestinian groups responded in kind. They launched rockets into Israel, kidnapped and executed a settler, and burrowed into Israel to kill two Israeli soldiers and hold another one captive, Gilad Shalit.
The taking of captives is an act of barbarism, and the execution of the settler was grotesque.
And these actions played right into Israeli hands, for the Israeli government doesn’t want to negotiate with Hamas. It doesn’t want a decent and just and fair resolution to the conflict. Every time Palestinians move a step closer, Israel slaps them back farther.
And so Israel seized on these latest actions to show the Palestinians who’s boss and to further derail any hopes for a negotiated peace.
Israeli forces detained eight members of the Palestinian cabinet and a couple of dozen members of the Palestinian parliament. On Sunday, the Israeli air force attacked the office of the Palestinian prime minister. All of these action were Israel’s subtle way of saying you’re not even close to being an independent country.
Even worse, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert opted to destroy the civilian infrastructure of Gaza, bombing bridges and Gaza’s sole power plant.
A public health and humanitarian disaster is facing the Gaza Strip, said Dr. Moustafa Barghouthi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the founder of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society. Water supplies and the sewage system have been critically affected, he said on June 30.
Israel’s actions constitute collective punishment, outlawed by the Geneva Conventions, Amnesty International says.
“The wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure and property and the disproportionate restrictions imposed on civilians by Israeli forces amount to collective punishment on the entire population of the Gaza Strip, a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits punishing protected persons for offences they have not committed,” said Amnesty International, which also denounced the hostage-taking by the Palestinians.
If you read the press coverage in the United States, you get a misleading idea about the balance of violence. But, as Amnesty International notes, “Since the beginning of this year, Israeli forces have killed some 150 Palestinians, including some 25 children, and Palestinian armed groups have killed close to 20 Israelis, including two children.”
None of those Israelis, none of those Palestinians, none of those children should have died.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government, Israel’s chief sponsor (to the tune of more than $3 billion in aide a year), does nothing except to give Israel a wink and a nod.
“Let the Palestinians sweat a little,” one U.S. aide told the Israeli paper Haaretz.
Israel’s policy of collective punishment is reprehensible.
So, too, is U.S. support for it.
And they are both shortsighted, besides.
They don’t make Israel any safer. Quite the contrary. They stir up hatred in Gaza and on the West Bank.
And they further sully the reputation of the United States in the Arab and Muslim world.
Wake up and smell the Mediterranean coffee.
It’s time for peace—not more bullying, not more bloodshed, not more collective punishment.