France Would Be Speaking German Today If Human Rights Groups Existed During World War II

by GIDON BEN-ZVI January 27, 2016

Since the outbreak of attacks and attempted attacks against Israeli citizens that began in October 2015, human rights groups such as B'Tselem have been rushing to the defense of Palestinian residents who are allegedly being subjected to collective punishment by the Israeli military.

In its latest breathless report, filed from occupied Hebron, B'Tselem dedicates the vast majority of its time and space to testimonials of men and women who are positively chaffing under the "sweeping restrictions imposed by the security forces on the movement of Palestinians in Hebron..."

According to the prominent group of academics and attorneys that comprise B'Tselem, "This policy of separation...constitutes collective punishment of residents unfortunate enough to live or work in areas close to where settlers have chosen to live. As such, these restrictions are immoral and unlawful."  

B'Tselem and other leading non-governmental organizations are generating much publicity of late - and much applause from their European donors - by portraying the Israeli military as a thuggish, jackbooted human rights violator that is punishing entire communities suspected of supporting terrorists.

Human rights groups around the world kick up a storm whenever elderly Palestinian women and schoolchildren are inconvenienced by the establishment of yet another checkpoint in Hebron. Yet has any war waged at any point in human history not involved the effective use of 'collective punishment'?

While defined as a war crime by the United Nations, no democracy in history has been able to refrain from the use of what's commonly termed 'collective punishment'. Similar to unintended civilian casualties of war, collective punishment is a necessary if unfortunate component of a sovereign nation's deterrence capability.

As B'Tselem continues to document and educate the public about Israel's human rights violations, one can only imagine how much more good this august group could do on behalf of repressed peoples around the world if it weren't singularly focused on the greatest evil being perpetrated in our lifetime: the conquest and subjection of the West Bank.

If only B'Tselem could dedicate a bit more time, effort and treasure to eradicating collective punishment outside of colonized Palestine. Tibet would be free. Ukraine would be reunited. Morocco would return Western Sahara. Spain would allow the Basque separatists to, well, separate.

It's a crying shame that B'Tselem and other likeminded groups weren't around during World War II, to document and draw attention to some of the most outrageous examples of collective punishment.

While the controversial fire-bombing of Dresden killed an estimated 25,000 civilians during World War II, the Allies' act of 'collective punishment' also succeeded in keeping over a million Germans out of the German army; from manning anti-aircraft defenses; from making ammunition and from doing urgent repairs. In addition, Dresden housed factories that were producing weapons and equipment for the Nazi war effort. Germany was forced to surrender three months after the Dresden bombing.

Another joint United States - United Kingdom collective punishment effort was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While the war in Europe had already concluded the Allies prepared for what was anticipated to be a very costly invasion of the Japanese mainland. The Japanese had repeatedly refused to accept the Allies' demands for unconditional surrender, even if it meant facing "prompt and utter destruction". While continuing to generate scholarly debate, President Harry Truman estimated that the bombings saved up to half a million US lives.

With the help of B'Tselem and other human rights advocates, what a wonderful world it could have been. France would be speaking German and Korea would be a Japanese province.

Fortunately, we live in more enlightened times. Unremitting attacks on the legitimate right of a sovereign state to engage in acts of proportionate deterrence against those suspected of leading, supporting or benefiting from terrorism isn't just a dream, but an undeniable reality.

In a world gone mad B'Tselem's dance card is full. Israel's measured use of collective accountability is similar to the policies and practices of the world's most liberty-minded countries.

Australia take heed. Once B'Tselem is through with Israel, your Aboriginal policy is next.

Gidon Ben-Zvi is an accomplished writer who left behind Hollywood starlight for Jerusalem stone. As a 'returning resident,' Gidon has vivid memories of playing hooky from Rene Cassin High School while strolling through Ammunition Hill. After serving in an IDF infantry unit for two-and-a-half years, Gidon returned to the United States, where he embarked on a twelve-year run of half-baked careers and wholly misguided educational pursuits. Today, Gidon is happily entangled to the prettiest, sweetest girl in Israel. The mildly unhinged Ben-Zvis aspire to raise a brood of children who speak English fluently - with an Israeli accent."


blog comments powered by Disqus


FSM Archives

10 year FSM Anniversary

More in PUBLICATIONS ( 1 OF 25 ARTICLES )