Imagine if rogue neighbours on your street fired off some protest rockets towards the nearby parliament; you probably wouldn’t be too happy about it, and there would be national outrage, and rightly so. Action against the perpetrators would follow swiftly.
What would not happen, though, is any form of collective punishment against all of the people living in the street and surrounding districts. The air force definitely would not be called in to bomb residential and community buildings in the area. And yet that is exactly what Israel has done to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Yet again, I might add.
All two million or so Palestinians living in the besieged Strip are being punished by Israel for the actions of a tiny minority. They now face only four hours of electricity a day after the Zionist state cut the number of diesel fuel shipments in half, damaging Gaza’s already severely limited electricity supply even more.
Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinians will have a dire effect on hospitals, schools and other public services. It is almost certain to lead to loss of life among the sick, elderly and frail, especially with the temperature currently in the low thirties Celsius.
Such punishment meted out upon a whole society shows very clearly what Israel thinks of the most recent ceasefire agreed between the de facto government in Gaza run by Hamas and Tel Aviv after negotiations pushed by Qatar, Egypt and the UN.
Here in Britain, the peace process involving different groups in Northern Ireland was continually hampered by the rogue actions of a few, but massive and devastating military retaliation was never considered to be an option. No British Prime Minister ordered missile strikes on West Belfast. Despite the many grievances and injustices on the ground, there was no collective punishment. Other countries around the world have also risen to the challenges of rogue actions without punishing everyone living within a 25-mile radius of even the worst of the outrages.
Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif Qanou accused Israel of exporting its own “internal crisis” in a reference to Benjamin Netanyahu’s election campaign, and there is a feeling among Middle East observers that Israel’s collective punishment inflicted upon the Palestinians is designed to increase the number of votes that he will get in next month’s General Election. Qanou described the retaliatory Israeli action as “counterproductive”.
It remains to be seen if the international mediators will remind Israel to stick to the terms of the latest negotiated ceasefire. Meanwhile, the peaceful protests held every Friday since the end of March last year on the nominal border between the Gaza Strip and Israel will continue, and will do so until the Israeli-led siege ends.
Not everyone in Israel is happy with the state’s collective punishment. Lawyers at the Israel-based NGO Gisha, also known as the Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, have responded in a critical letter urging the restoration of Gaza’s electricity. The letter was sent to Netanyahu as well as the Attorney-General, Avichai Mandelblit, and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the [Occupied Palestinian] Territories, Brigadier General Kamil Abu Rukun.
The letter makes clear that the power cuts will cause one of the plant’s turbines at the only power station in Gaza to stop operating, making the shortages even worse, probably up to 20 hours per day. Qatar has supplied fuel for three of the power plant’s four turbines since last year.
While the Israeli military accuses Islamic Jihad of firing the rockets from Gaza “in the service of Iran” its aircraft retaliated by striking Hamas targets, including the headquarters of a battalion commander. So not only is Israel carrying out collective punishment, it is also targeting the de facto ruling body which it acknowledges had nothing to do with Sunday night’s rockets.
Hamas has condemned the rockets and Israel’s military response, whereas Abu Rukun basically mocked the people of Gaza in an open letter: “Deteriorating stability and damage to security will bring destruction and harm to the residents of Gaza as they continue to walk without light, and the guilt lies with those who are imposing terror and darkness on the Gaza Strip.”
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Observers no doubt find it extraordinary that not only is collective punishment hurting Gaza’s two million residents, but the ruling group is also targeted despite not being responsible for firing rockets towards Israel. Sadly the Palestinian people are used to this kind of brutal injustice.
Under the 1949 Geneva Convention, collective punishment is a war crime: “No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible.”
Once again the Palestinians are suffering from the illegal actions of their tormentors in Tel Aviv, but the world is staying silent and looking the other way, so that Benjamin Netanyahu can “prove” that he is the tough guy who Israelis can rely on to defend them. The fact that innocents must suffer in order for him to garner votes and be re-elected is unlikely to mean anything at all to the war criminal Prime Minister of the rogue state that is Israel and his supporters in the West.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.