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Petty revenge: government mulls destroying terrorist family house

Punishing terrorist’s family by destroying their house is illegal. It is not even a collective punishment, but retribution against completely innocent persons. “Let Rome fail but law prevail” is not our motto, and the law can be twisted if necessary. But that isn’t necessary.

Decades ago, demolition of terrorist houses was only a part of the collective punishment. Palestinian terrorist families were severely repressed, summarily exiled to Jordan, abused. In some instances, family members were killed in orchestrated squabbles with the army. Such policy didn’t deter all terrorist wannabes, but probably a lot of them. In any case, it was a respectful punishment for a serious crime.

Gradually, punitive exile was suspended, houses were quickly rebuilt with Saudi many and Palestinian labor, and terrorist families received subsidies from the Palestinian Authority (thank you, Israel, for the tax transfers). House demolition remained a token vengeance which soothed Israeli public opinion and gave an impression that the army punishes perpetrators.

Overwhelming, exceptionally cruel retribution stops aggression, but token retribution only provokes it. No terrorist would be deterred by the prospect of his family house’ being demolished – because Palestinians would take care of his family. Weak retribution is not just worthless, it is actually harmful: it irritates the enemy. New terrorists feel themselves avenging yet another Israeli wrong, destroying the innocent family’s house. A burden easy to overcome is attractive, and terrorists even impart their families with heroics: their house would be destroyed but they will get through the ordeal unscathed.

I would support any strong retribution, however illegal. Hanging the terrorist’s entire extended family – great. Skinning them, burning alive – great. The world would scream, but the exceedingly harsh measure will discourage many terrorists. House demolitions, they are wrong.

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Many years ago, revenge of the Israeli government was of a different order: assassination rather than demolition

Alex 03 May 2009

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