Back in November, when random acts of terror against Israeli citizens were rapidly becoming the norm, I blogged about one of Israel’s responses: the policy of razing the homes of terrorists, specifically those behind acts like the heinous cold-blooded murder of worshippers in a Har Nof, Jerusalem synagogue.
Several IJN blog readers didn’t agree with my take that Netanyahu’s policy of destroying homes amounts to collective punishment and is wrong on both a moral and practical level. A few expressed the opinion that “we’re not there, we don’t know what that threat feels like, so we can’t critique.”
One reader provided a more thorough critique of my point of view that made me re-think what I’d written.
In an encounter at synagogue, an old friend (for lack of a better term, really he’s something close to a former mentor) approached me to tell me he strongly disagreed with what I wrote, based on two points:
1. Glorification of terrorism. Often, in fact most of the time, the individuals who commit these terrorist acts don’t go down in their society as violent criminals, but as heroes, as martyrs. Streets, schools, piazzas are named for them. Marches with their images aloft take place in West Bank and/or Gaza streets. So perhaps demolition is an effective tool against this glorification; the physical contrast between glory and rubble couldn’t be more stark, so maybe it sends a message to both the families and potential perpetrators.
2. International response. My friend argued (which I agree with) that in the eyes of many in the international community, Israel can do no right. So being concerned about international blowback really isn’t a valid reason for Israel not to pursue a policy, because it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of situation. And his point that really stuck with me: the international outcry over house demolitions emphasizes the pathological imbalance when it comes to responses to the Israeli-Palestinians conflict. The world cries out about the destruction of a house, but underplays say, the constant barrage of rockets that Southern Israelis suffer.
I still think home demolitions are wrong, because, ultimately, I believe in due process, but I better understand why people support Netanyahu’s policy.