How To Incite Violence

November 22, 2014 § 1 Comment

In response to the murderous attack on Jews worshiping at a Jerusalem synagogue, Netanyahu ordered the demolition of the family homes of the two murderers.  He also ordered the demolition of the family homes of two others who recently committed violent attacks in Jerusalem.

All of the attackers are dead.  The razing of their homes does not punish them.  It punishes their families.  The United States has declared this reaction by Israel “counterproductive”.   Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Great Britain have denounced it.

This kind of collective punishment is a continuation of the policy that produced the war on Gaza that destroyed thousands of homes and killed over two thousand Palestinian civilians in response to mostly ineffective missiles launched from Gaza into Israel.

Here is a link to a Haaretz article that describes the issue:  Demolitions

I believe this persistent policy raises an ethical policy well known to lawyers:

A client is entitled to be zealously defended by his lawyer, regardless of how immoral or illegal his conduct has been.  But a lawyer may not, in any way, facilitate a client’s engagement in illegal or immoral conduct.  If he does, the lawyer becomes complicit in the illegal or immoral activity.

I believe Israel has placed the United States squarely in the middle of this dilemma.  We continue to furnish arms, supplies and money to Israel while Israel continues to engage in conduct that offends basic rules of fairness and  justice.  Collective punishment imposed on innocent people in response to violent acts by individuals violates international law.

This latter principle is sometimes subject to nuanced exceptions.  For example, when a drone bombs a house to kill an enemy, innocent people are often killed.  Such tragedies are excused as “collateral damage”.  In my opinion this excuse is a lame one in some instances but, regardless of that argument, the Israeli policy of home demolition is different.  The home demolitions ordered this week are specifically aimed at innocent victims.

We impose “sanctions” on Iran and Russia when they pursue policies that violate our values.  I think we should consider whether sanctions should be imposed when Israel does the same thing.

It also seems chutzpah  for Netanyahu to accuse Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas of “inciting” the violent episode at the Jerusalem synagogue.  The “incitement” is plainly related to the brutal occupation of Palestine by Israel, the expansion of illegal settlements on the West Bank, the network of checkpoints that serve as daily interference with normal travel by Palestinians and conflicts between Jews and Muslims at Jerusalem’s holy sites.  The demolition of homes of families who had nothing to do with the crimes committed by two now dead family members will certainly incite more violence.

One final thought:  Suppose, after two brothers bombed the Boston Marathon, Barack Obama had ordered the demolition of their families’ homes.  Do you have any doubt that a federal court would have granted a Temporary Restraining Order, prevented the demolition and probably ordered an immediate psychiatric examination of Obama to see if he was deranged?

During the recent Israeli war on Gaza, Netanyahu often said, “How would you Americans react if Mexico was lobbing missiles into your country?”   It was an effective argument because our history is replete with disproportionate responses to minor events.  The explosion on the Maine and subsequent war against Spain; the naval bombardment of Vera Cruz on 1914, in response to the arrest of 6 sailors in Tampico; and the assault on Ft. Sumter triggering the Civil War come to mind.  But I’ll bet he doesn’t make a similar argument about the home demolitions, because we have a legal system that wouldn’t permit it and a set of values that wouldn’t condone it.  We don’t punish the families of wrongdoers.

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