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November 30, 2004

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as media stories on the issue never do, that the checkpoints only exist in their current form because of the need to prevent suicide bombing murders

Let's also remember, as media stories on the issue never do, that the checkpoints are illegal under the Geneva Conventions: punishing (sometimes lethally) an entire population for the crimes of a few is a war crime.

Checkpoints are illegal under which Geneva convention?

Are you asserting that checkpoints are primarily a collective punishment rather than a security measure to keep terrorists out?

If thugs in my neighbourhood resulted in greater numbers of police patrols, and some members of the police began beating teenagers or harrassing people on their daily business, I do hope that others wouldn't say it was my own fault because the crime in my neighborhood resulted in a higher police presence in the first place. That would be assigning collective guilt for the acts of a subset of my neighbors.

If thugs in my neighbourhood resulted in greater numbers of police patrols, and some members of the police began beating teenagers or harrassing people on their daily business, I do hope that others wouldn't say it was my own fault because the crime in my neighborhood resulted in a higher police presence in the first place. That would be assigning collective guilt for the acts of a subset of my neighbors.

And if you and the other people in your neighborhood cheered the thugs on, threatened and attacked the police when they showed up, and generally provided all sorts of support for the thugs, would you think you had some responsibility for the thugs' behavior?

Before the Palestinians began engaging in this "tactic,"...

I'm wondering if Slart and Seb (and the other posters who are knowledgeable on this) could comment on this assertion. Was it 'the Palestinians' (which seems to imply that it was a collective decision on the part of the whole population) who began this tactic or is there a smaller, identifiable subset and the tactic has spread?

We are getting distracted. Checkpoints are not punishment, collective or otherwise.

And if you and the other people in your neighborhood cheered the thugs on, threatened and attacked the police when they showed up, and generally provided all sorts of support for the thugs, would you think you had some responsibility for the thugs' behavior?

If I did not cheer them on, then no, I do not think that I would have responsibility for the thug's behavior. Did I say that I was cheering them on in my scenario? Or are you generalizing the actions (thuggery or cheering on of thuggery) of some of the Palestinians into ALL of the Palestinians?

It goes almost without saying ....
.... That, whatever standard you wish to apply, the Palestinians have been among the worst-led people on the planet. What blame for this should fall upon the Palestinian people -- and I'd say quite a lot -- is perhaps open to question.

Debatable, if not hyperbolic. Off the top of my head, I'd offer up the North Koreans or those poor unfortunates in Mississippi or Alabama.

Note if you reverse the logic of the statement so that suicide bombings are a consequence of Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians, the resulting text is quite creepy.

Suicide bombings are not a self-defense measure. The checkpoints are. Which is not to say that everything that happens at a checkpoint is justifiable self-defense, and I think Bernstein's historical account about how open Israel used to be to Palestinians is open to dispute, though, to put it mildly.

I do not think the press should report in a news story about abuse at a checkpoint that "these checkpoints only exist because of Palestinian suicide bombers" any more than they should go on at length about how illegal an Israeli settlement was & whose olive vines were torn up when they report that a ten-year-old settler was murdered--not in the quick, factual newspaper story about the incident.

It is very important to know the context, but "context" can shade into excuse and bias if done badly.

(But it's not even that simple, because if the checkpoints opened because of a bombing that week it should be noted, and if the murderer's brother had been killed by settlers that should be noted. I suppose I approve of "context" if it might be a direct cause or contributor of some particular bad event, but not if it's some collective excuse or condemnation, and not if it's information that is already very well known. It's bad journalism to report on the Fallujah mosque shooting without noting that the soldier had been shot the day before and false surrenders are common and had led to a death in the soldier's unit. But it's also bad journalism to never report on Abu Ghraib without pointing out how much worse Saddam Hussein was and Syria and Iran and insurgent-controlled Iraq still are.)

dpu,

Did I say that I was cheering them on in my scenario? Or are you generalizing the actions (thuggery or cheering on of thuggery) of some of the Palestinians into ALL of the Palestinians?

No. You did not say you were cheering them on.

Yes. I am generalizing, because I believe the genralization is a reasonable one. To stretch your scenario to the breaking point, I would find it difficult to be too hard on the police if, say, 90% of the people in your neighborhood were pro-thug.

Katherine,

Bernstein's historical account about how open Israel used to be to Palestinians is open to dispute, though, to put it mildly.

Bernstein may be exaggerating a bit but I don't think he's wildly off the mark. Lots of Palestinians did work in Israel.

I remember hearing from Israeli friends that one particularly lucrative area of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation was car theft. The Israeli thief would locate an attractive target, and his Palestinian partner would steal the car and haul it off to safety in the West Bank for dismemberment, resale, or sometimes ransom.

Heartwarming when you think about it, as long as it's not your car.

There are self-defense measures which are nevertheless not justifiable. There are some things one may not do even to defend against terrorism.

The holding of an entire population of several million mostly innocent people as prisoners in their own homes and lands is among those measures. The checkpoints are a significant part of the infrastructure of that collective imprisonment. It's really not relevant whether they are intended as punishment or not: their effect is one of punishment, and they punish far more ordinary decent people than terrorists.

I think it's useful to distinguish the roadblocks that let people from the West Bank into Israel proper from those that protect Israeli roads and settlements in the West Bank. The former are, in my mind, legitimate protective measures, although I think one can get into all sorts of arguments about how exactly they should be run, and whether the reality corresponds to that ideal, or even to some sort of acceptable minimum. The latter, to my mind, are not.

As I wrote in the last Israeli/Palestinian thread, I spent a while in Israel, and have a lot of sympathy for a lot of people, on both sides (including the Palestinians who do not cheer, and who do exist; also, while I disagree with them, with those who did not cheer for the first decade or so in which they had the chance. Also, for an awful lot of Israelis, including, but not limited to, the totally demoralized peace movement.) But I have no sympathy (or at least: none beyond the sympathy I make myself have for any human being) for the West Bank settlers. Some of them are people who accepted heavily subsidized housing and decided to ignore the fact that it was built on occupied land and that those subsidies were being used to create 'facts on the ground'. Others are people who decided, for religious reasons that seem oddly disconnected from actual religious Judaism, that it was incumbent on them to leave their homes in, say, Illinois and take up residence in armed outposts in the middle of Arab lands.

It is because of them, and the need to protect them after they have voluntarily placed themselves in a situation in which they need this protection, that most of the roadblocks exist. In particular, most of the roadblocks that divide village from village, and villagers from their lands, are of this second kind.

May I recommend this site?

It has the stories of Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories. Quite a number of them scared of what they turned into once they were there. No big stories about killing children, but daily harassment that lead for quit a lot of them to the refusing of serving in the occupied territories.

I have great admiration for people that recognize that they did wrong and that have to come to terms with accepting that they are not the 'good' person most of us want to be in our hearts. I have even more admiration for people who do so whilst knowing that speaking out will gain them more hardship than admiration. True courage is not always recognized.


I share hilzoy's attitude towards the settlers. In addition to creating the problems she mentions, their defense is a significant economic burden. Having strongly criticized Palestinian leadership, I must also say that that the expansion of these settlements has been and remains very bad policy. Israel must come to grips with a political system that grants way too much power to its own ultra-religious factions.

This applies to its domestic policies, as well as to its activities in the West Bank.

hilzoy: agreed that there is a significant moral distinction between the two types of roadblocks. A practical and forward-looking distinction, too: the Israel-to-West-Bank type could theoretically, if a two-state agreement ever got hammered out, become part of an ordinary, peaceful international border at which the rights of those passing through were respected as much as they are at any other such border; the latter are obstacles to the drawing of such a border.

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