It is a perfect time for the Israeli government to commit a war crime on the miserable civilians of the Gaza Strip. The US primary season has created a news blackout on US television about foreign news (apparently the public of the world’s sole superpower is not estimated by corporate news executives to be able to handle more than one story). So most Americans will never even know that the Israelis have cut off fuel to Gaza’s power plant, depriving tens of thousands of people of electricity.
I sympathize with Israeli civilians who have been subjected to illegal bombardment by Hamas. (That bombardment has not recently resulted in loss of life, but it is traumatizing, especially for children.) But one has to ask whether the Olmert government has behaved toward Gazans in such a way as to try to achieve peace. (The unilateral withdrawal of colonists has been followed by frequent bombardments and incursions and arrests, political meddling and a placing of the whole Strip in a kind of geo-penitentiary.) Israeli deployment of excessive force in recent weeks has resulted in dozens of deaths in Gaza. Even if military action were justified, it is only legitimate for the Israelis to punish Hamas fighters doing the firing, and big bombs should not be dropped near civilian apartment buildings. Don’t they, like, have SWAT teams?
Just a reminder that electricity is life and death for some people. The low is 48 degrees F. tonight; it is cold without electricity. And another reminder that the children of Gaza, who I suspect are 2/3s of the population, haven’t done anything wrong, to be punished by this blockade:
‘ Health Ministry official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain warned that the fuel cutoff would cause a health catastrophe. “We have the choice to either cut electricity on babies in the maternity ward or heart surgery patients or stop operating rooms,” he said.’
Here is what wikipedia has to say about the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Note that “protected persons” are just non-combatants, i.e. innocent civilians such as children, women and unarmed or injured men:
‘ Article 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
Pillage is prohibited.
Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.
Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions collective punishments are a war crime. Article 33 states: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” and “collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”
By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and II. In the First World War, Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity. In World War II, Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance. Entire villages or towns or districts were held responsible for any resistance activity that took place there. The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentary to the conventions states that parties to a conflict often would resort to “intimidatory measures to terrorize the population” in hopes of preventing hostile acts, but such practices “strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice.”
Additional Protocol II of 1977 explicitly forbids collective punishment. . . ‘
Wikipedia is just the common sense of the blogosphere. The Geneva Conventions were intended to avoid a repeat of the atrocities of WW II.
The Israelis are going to have to live in the midst of the Palestinian people for the rest of the century. The Palestinians are not going away. The Israelis cannot wish them away or intimidate them into accepting statelessness, dire poverty, foreign domination and a condition analogous to slavery.
Moreover, Israel itself requires, in order to flourish, extensive economic and other relations with the outside world. If it is going to behave like this, the outside world will become less and less willing to have those relations. The Israeli Right is their country’s own worst enemy.