Saturday, November 22, 2008

Proportionality

I should open this up by pointing out that I do not support the practice of house demolitions in response to terror attacks. It does not appear to be particularly effective. It is not just; it is not a safe assumption to say that just because an individual is a terrorist, his family is responsible. (Nu, think about it...you do not know anyone who has taken a more "radical" route in life or a completely different route in life than his or her family? Such as becoming baal tschuva or converting or moving to Israel?) And, perhaps most importantly, we do not use it on Jews who commit similar crimes. Just last week, a car bomb was used to kill a member of the Israeli mafia. Three innocent bystanders were injured in the attack. Did we demolish the houses of those responsible? Yes, yes, the average Israeli wants to. Nu, but did we?

Why am I thinking about this? A friend of mine lent me The Attack. I am reading it in what is my usual fashion--namely flipping back and forth and reading random bits of the book, including the end. At some point or another, I may actually read the entire book. Or I may not. Anyway, one section I read included a house demolition.

This morning I woke up with an interesting thought in my head. Israel often gets slammed for our "disproportional" response to Lebanese, Palestinian and terrorist attacks, right? In a twisted sort of way, house demolitions are proportional. Consider the following:

Suicide bomber walks into a crowded restaurant and detonates his explosive. In an instant, and with absolutely no warning, the lives of random people and their families are demolished.

As described in the book: Israeli soldiers approach the home of the terrorist and inform the family members that they have 30 minutes to vacate. Thirty minutes later, the lives of those living in the house are demolished.


One demolishes the physical home. The other demolishes the individuals making up a home. The only difference is that our choice of lives to be ripped up is not random. This is nothing if not proportional.

Is it fair? As fair as a suicide bombing.
*****
Completely unrelated addendum....I do not agree with Olah Girl on all things, but this was very well said and expressed a lot of what I was thinking.

23 comments:

Savtadotty said...

Gila, regardless of whether the response is proportionate or not, your Eurocentric attitude toward individualism and individual responsibility is showing in this post. In other cultures, including the Arab culture, the family and clan have a much greater influence and impact on a person's decisions than in the West. Family honor is a prime value, whereas in the West, individual honor was superseded by Rule of Law by the time duelling was outlawed. It's really a different mentality at work in the Middle East, and Western logic and ideas of justice don't work as they would in the West. Israel is an anomaly here, and the conflict is as much cultural as it is political and territorial.

Maus said...

If you go on like this you will never get a precious blog award.

Gila said...

Savtadotty--good points. To clarify--you would argue that house demolitions are an therefore an appropriate/effective response?

Maus--Yeah, well, I'll survive.

Savtadotty said...

I don't know whether house demolitions of Palestinian suicide bombers are effective - we can't know how many would-be suicide bombers are deterred - but they are appropriate.

RivkA with a capital A said...

oh, I really should be sleeping....

instead I am opening pandora's box and mentioning the two Jewish houses that were demolished last week with ZERO time to pack up any belongings.....

half an hour might not be long, but it's long enough to take out you wedding album and your grandmother's candlesticks (unless you are me, and can't find your wedding pictures because of the huge chaotic mess, and never got your grandma's candlesticks....)

definitely gotta go to sleep....

Asher said...

Savtadotty, Hi!
appropriate - could well be

effective - I don't think so

RivkA - you don't distinguish between a temporary home set up to make a point and a family's permanent home. Those extremists on the "outposts" are full-time activists who know what they're doing.

Gila, could you make your link to OlehGirl a bit more obvious, I missed it first time round

Gila said...

RivkA--Nu, dai kvar. Your comment would be relevant, had I been writing an article discussing dismantling of settlements. But I was not. I compared an action and a reaction. Period. If you would like to comment on that, great. The issue of settlements and dismantling of same is an entirely different subject matter.

Asher--the link to Olah Girl was added on as an addendum.

Maus said...

Proportionally speaking, you being a rising star in the Israeli blog world, how is things going on the dating-frontline.

And now for something completely different, how many stitches does it need to fixate a button, I am going again into wearing braces.

tafka pp said...

Just weighing in to say that Gila doesn't need a blog award: She's got talent, lots of readers and her own niche blog already which is popular in it's own right: Blog awards don't matter in her universe.

Right, off to look for my grandma's candlesticks.

Gila said...

Tafka--thank you thank you! You are right...I am having too much fun with my little writing hobby to spoil it by doing whatever I would have to do to get an award.
Incidentally--apartment search has been promising.....

Maus--dating is non-existent (but do not particularly care right now) and buttons--go around enough times that it is solidly in place, but still can move a bit.

Anonymous said...

Sufficiently taken aback by this last post (since I've actually gotten around to reading!) to respond ... You ask whether bombing a terrorist's family's home is a proportional response to a terrorist attack. Your implication seems to be (bolstered also by other comments) that proportionality would make it appropriate. So you're asking whether so long as a state action is no *worse* than a terrorist attack, it's alright?? I assume you don't actually think terrorism is a just or ethical approach ... so why would a comparably-venal official rejoinder ever be defensible? (For the record, I consider such a response neither ethical nor appropriate, and laughably certain to be counterproductive. But what do I know?)
I know our politics are different ... but I really hope I'm just misinterpreting your meaning!
All that aside, hope you've recovered from your ride!
-mer

Gila said...

Mer--apparently you did not read all that well! I start out by saying that I do not consider house demolitions to be just or effective AND the method is not equally applied to all groups. What struck me was the irony of the situation.

That being said, Savta Dotty (you would like her--if you ever come for a visit, I will bring you to one of her soup salons) raises some valid points. Simply put...we are not in Kansas anymore.

Of course, back in the day, Kansas was also rather violent. So maybe we are?

(Clearly, Mom did not do nearly enough reading comprehension quizzes on you, the way she did with me).

Anonymous said...

Eh, you do start off by stating your position ... but as a caveat, lest one misinterpret your stance based on the logic of what follows. And what follows does seem to contradict your initial stance. Anyway, will assume you're just musing through the logic of how one might possibly try to justify a state's violent retribution against the families of offenders, purely for argument's sake. As for the question of context -- I don't consider the moral and ethical considerations at stake to be context-sensitive. If it's wrong to terrorize non-combatants (however you stereotype that individual's family structure), then it's wrong. And I can't begin to conceive of a situation in which that would be an efficacious policy, even if state decision-makers were so determinedly amoral as to set aside ethical considerations for purposes of convenience. (Um, yeah, no plans to visit anytime soon ... ;) )
I'm clearly violating the terms of your blog, plus likely seriously irritating many of your more dedicated readers, so I'll shut up now!
-mer

Gila said...

Since you are family (despite the fact that I have yet to meet the chef AND you never visit), you get special, expanded commenting rights.

No, I was not looking at the question in the way you presented "gosh, how could a state twist itself so!". However, I will admit that some context would be helpful.

As follows:

Damned if we do.
Damned if we don't.

In short, the question comes out of frustration.

For example--take the missles that are constantly lauched at our southern cities. (As in, things that fly through the air, hit things and people, and then blow up). If we aim at the guys shooting the missles, it is disproportional--in part because we have much better abilities when it comes to things like "aiming" and in part because the terrorists (or militants, if you prefer) have this charming practice of doing their dirty work near or from civilian population centers/ private homes. If we shut down the borders, it is disproportional. What would be proportional? Building up a stock of our own rockets--the same size and strength, and each time someone shoots over a rocket, we shoot one back. Don't aim, don't think about what is doing to be on the other side--just get that sucker airborne and moving in the general direction of Gaza.

Any other Israelis who have ever found themselves considering this option at some point or another...and liking it? Another one I have considered: open the borders, get rid of the various barriers, normalize relations as much as we possibly can, work seriously toward an agreement ...and we will control our "radical elements" to the exact same measure that the Palestinians do theirs.

But, again, this is coming out of frustration. This does not mean that I necessarily agree with what we are doing now or that I support violent measures. On the other hand, it does not mean that I have any better ideas. The "damned if you do, damned if you don't" applies to any interactions we have with the Palestinians just as much.

BTW--I presume that the various issues you have studied/ deal with in SE Asia are complex. So are ours.

Risa said...

Gila,
You don't need more on your plate now, I know, but there's no one left so I'm tagging you.
http://isramom.blogspot.com/2008/11/tagged-in-or-out.html
You can do this or not.

Anonymous said...

I don't support the concept of proportionality. I am more "Roman" in my thinking.

You hit your enemy so hard that your enemy doesn't have the means and even more importantly the will to fight back.

So, obviously that will mean the use of disproportionate violence.

"Did you know that two thousand years ago a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world free of the fear of molestation. He could walk across the earth unharmed, cloaked only in the words 'Civis Romanis', I am a Roman citizen. So great was the retribution of Rome, universally understood as certain, should any harm befall even one of its citizens.

Proportional Violence just leads to more violence. For violence to work it has to be disproportional.

And, to the rest of the world who "don't approve of your methods" well they aren't from Israel.

Ellie Lavi said...

For some reason my posts dont seem to post here.
I agree with SD, in more specific and intellectual terms it is what I sadi.
I dont know what Eurocentric means here....?

aliyah06 said...

I just know that I would hate to be held responsible for what my teenaged stepdaughters had done....since most of the time I didn't find out what they were doing until well after the fact.

SD makes some good points, but I have also seen quite a bit about numerous Arab parents who had NO idea their kid had been recruited to be a suicide bomber (the two who stick out most in my mind at this late hour were (1) the mother of a mentally handicapped boy recruited to blow himself up at a checkpoint, but fortunately intercepted and (2) the father who had to be forcibly restrained from killing the Hamas chieftan who came to "congratulate" the father for his son's "martyrdom."

We should add to their grief by destroying their homes? Revenge is sweet--but these are the wrong targets.

Every time a suicide bomber hits, find another Sheik Yassin (or whoever the guy at the top of the terror foodchain is) and kill HIM. It's far more satisfying and in my humble opinion, far more just.

Anonymous said...

aliyah06, life isn't fair. It seems like a trite statement, but it is also devastating profound.

And, one of the most unfair things you can find in life is war. War is not about being fair. It is about destroying your enemy.

Please get the following movie if you are able to. It is called "the Untouchables", with Kevin Coster and Sean Connery.

Also, of course watch the most recent Batman movie. All Israelis as well as all Americans (well actually the whole free world) should see that movie.

But back to Untouchables and how do you get Capone. You don't get Capone by being "fair". You don't get the Joker that way either.

sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
aliyah06 said...

Hmmmm....I don't think I said anything about being "fair" -- to clarify: killing the planners and dispatchers of suicide attacks seems more just than destroying the family home of the bomber. It's proportional, they're military targets and not civilians, and it goes to the heart of the problem. Hamas hunkered down and got reeeeeaaalll quiet when we started taking our their leadership from the top.

We should try that again instead of the non-cease-fire 'cease-fire.'

Anonymous said...

Forget the whole "proportionality" thing. You want the violence to be disproportional!

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Oh Gila, of course it is a terrible thing to do - to destroy the bomber's home. It just breeds more hatred. Which leads to more terrible things. It's like cutting off the mother's hand of the thief. It is brutal, senseless, and disgusting.

Where is compassion in all of this? Where are basic human rights?