Thursday, August 31, 2006

Collective punishment kind of works

Don’t try this at home. And try to keep it under your hat.

It seems that collective punishment kind of “works”. Well, up to some finite and fallible point, anyway.

In an article published in a Palestinian newspaper, Mr Ghazi Hamad, a former Hamas newspaper editor and the spokesman for the current Hamas Government, reportedly has “deplored the collapse of Gazan life into chaos and has said that much of the blame belongs to Palestinians themselves”.

It gets more interesting. No surprise, of course, that Mr Hamad, as a Hamas government spokesman, would “argue for armed groups to follow the Hamas decision to halt the rocket fire”. But then Mr Hamad questions “the point of firing rockets into Israel that cause few casualties but result in many Palestinian deaths when the Israelis retaliate”.

Mr Hamad’s frank admission of faltering resolve might be seen, from an Israeli perspective, as a vindication of Israel’s apparent policy of full-on over-the-top retaliation, which has often been criticised as disproportionate and/or amounting to collective punishment. The Israeli government is likely to be encouraged to continue or even increase this lethal pressure.

From a Palestinian point of view, Mr Hamad’s comments could be taken in essentially one of two ways. Hardliners will denounce his statement as defeatist and as giving comfort to the enemy. However, the more pragmatic of his compatriots may hear in his comments a wake-up call, that a renewal of the political process may be the only way to avoid an endless cycle of violence and stalemate, in which the prospects for the Palestinian people become ever more bleak.

If this pragmatic view seems “defeatist”, then perhaps it points to a reality in which hardline Palestinian nationalism is indeed all but defeated, given the overwhelming forces arrayed against it. A more pragmatic nationalism may well be the only hope that a viable and prosperous Palestinian state can be salvaged from the rubble of a half-century and more of brutal conflict. And a lasting peace?!

The catch to the apparent “success” of collective punishment, of course, is that the pain inflicted by the Israelis upon Palestinians seems in the main to ramp up the hatred towards Israel. Thus the unintended consequence is to hopelessly derail any progress towards a political solution.

And so it goes. Oh well, nothing really new in any of these observations. No doubt just another impotent lament for a lacerated tract of humanity.


Post a Comment

<< Home