[In 1981 Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad. The world was shocked by this aggressive act. However, the destruction of this threat to Israel did not entail the loss of human life, as the Israelis struck on a weekend when the plant was empty of personnel and only one person was injured. I found myself approving this action in the face of much criticism by human rights friends who feared that it set a dangerous precedent. It did, as we have seen with the Iraq war. But sometimes in applying valid principles of morality and law exceptions arise that may be justified by circumstances. I saw this as one of them.

Now again I am going to go out on a long limb.

The report below that Israel may cut off basic supports for Gaza in response to the continued firing of rockets into Israel raises another moral dilemma.

Thus far the responses to these rockets by Israel has been counter military actions which in all too many instances have risked harming innocents caught in the crossfire. What, then, are the pros and cons of the latest announced measure from the Israeli cabinet? As some have already pointed out the cutting off of basic services to Gazans — already suffering terrible deprivations — would be an instance of collective punishment which is an aberrant practice from the perspective of human rights standards. One can imagine emergency surgical operations being halted mid critical moments by a cutoff of light. Clean water is essential to human life. Other consequences need little imagination to envision.

But the tit for tat military response is as deadly and possibly even more so — particularly if it escalates in time.

Suggestion for the Israelis to try:

As they used the most moderate tactic in halting Hussein’s nuclear program, there are possibly comparably modest measures that may end the stupid rocket attacks by Gazan extremists blindly fireing into Israel. I am not an expert in such matters or what their effects might be in detail, but it strikes me that a new form of non-violent tit for tat could be set up by the Israelis — say each time a rocket is fired into Israel from Gaza, the lights in Gaza might be turned off for a limited period — say 12 hours. One would assume that the Gazans would be induced to halt the rocketeers in their own interest and no military retaliation would be involved that almost guarantees the killing and wounding of innocents in Gaza over the long run.

What do you think? Ed Kent]



Security cabinet declares Gaza Strip an ‘enemy entity’

Move enables Israel to cut off electricity, water and fuel
UN: Collective punishment of Gaza residents violates int’l law; Barak opposes major offensive; Hanegbi: Ground incursion unavoidable.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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