+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Israel responds to lone attacks with collective punishment

The Defense Ministry cancels travel permits for 500 Palestinians, and work permits for an entire West Bank village.

An Israeli soldier checks a Palestinian man’s documents at a checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Hebron on June 17, 2014, as the hunt for three Israeli teenagers believed kidnapped by militants entered its fifth day. (Photo: Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier checks a Palestinian man’s documents at a checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Hebron on June 17, 2014. (Photo: Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

Israeli authorities responded on Monday with collective punishment to two attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem that left one Israeli dead and two injured in recent days. The Defense Ministry canceled special travel permits for 500 West Bank Palestinians, who had been granted permission to use Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport. (Palestinians are normally forbidden from using the airport, and must cross by land into Jordan in order to fly from Amman to their destination.) Authorities also canceled entry permits (effectively work permits) for all of the residents of the village of Sa’ir, home to a Palestinian man who attacked the Border Police officer in Jerusalem.

Authorities did not draw any connection between the Palestinian attackers and the people who had their travel and entry permits revoked.

Over the past week, Israel’s various government and military PR organs have been hammering away furiously to promote the authorities’ goodwill toward Muslims during Ramadan and their compassion in allowing Palestinians to do radical things such as pray, travel to different towns to visit their relatives [Ar] and fly abroad. Now, some of those “treats” have been canceled. And the defense minister threatened to enact even more collective punishment measures.

For the residents of Sa’ir, the cancelation of their entry permits into Israel has two ramifications.  The move does not “just” prevent Palestinians from entering Jerusalem to pray, B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli explained in a statement on Monday, it also means that those who are employed in settlements and in Israel proper are now unable to reach their places of work. Many residents of Sa’ir were turned away at entrances of settlements in which they are employed Monday morning, according to B’Tselem.

In this, and in the cancelation of permits to fly abroad, the Israeli government is meting out collective punishment, which is illegal under international law.

The use of collective punishment is routine in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank (not to mention Gaza, whose siege is collective punishment on a massive scale). Whether it is enclosing thousands of Palestinians inside a village; dousing entire neighborhoods with rancid-smelling “skunk” water; closing roads or demolishing houses, Israel has a loose, unofficial policy of punishing the collective for the actions of a few.

Punishment is, at its core, an exercise of power. And it is the exercise of power that links the provision of Ramadan “perks” to Palestinians and the collective retribution involved in taking those perks away. They are two sides of the same coin: on the one face, paternalism; on the other, domination. This is the occupation at its soft and sharp ends. Inescapable, too, is the fact that such collective rewards and punishment are distributed on ethnic grounds.

In the eyes of the Israeli government, Palestinians in the occupied territories are a homogenous entity, and what applies to the individual applies to the many. When even the most basic human rights of the occupied — by nature of the power structure, a collective group — depend on the benevolence and largesse of the occupier, it is small wonder that any supposed “perks” (which are, in reality, also basic human rights) are taken away so easily. It is also small wonder that collective punishment is such a regular feature of life under occupation. After all, what the occupier giveth, the occupier taketh away.

Newsletter banner

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. CigarButNoNice

      Well, I’ll be… I didn’t know collective punishment was bad. I mean, the articles on 972Mag always gave the impression collective punishment was a good thing. *cough*BDS*cough*

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Lone wolf attacks my foot!

        The Palestinian Arab people have been making war on us since the first quarter of the last century. In their mind, they have a reason to murder us. In their eyes, we shouldn’t be here. Heck, Hamas openly say so and at the last free elections, the Palestinian Arabs voted for Hamas in droves. The rest is wishful thinking by naive (at best) leftists.

        Lone wolf attacks since the 1920s? Not a year passed since the 1920s in which they have not been murdering us!

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Two comments:

        (1) Collective punishment is a specific concept referring to the punishment, by an occupying military force, of a population for offenses committed by an individual. It is a legal term described in the Fourth Geneva Convention, in Article 33. Things Israel does to Palestinians that constitute collective punishment include control of imports and exports, mass round ups and indefinite arbitrary detention, curfews, excessive checkpoints, house demolitions, tear gassing and skunk water spraying of neighborhoods, sniping, and bombing residential neighborhoods and civilian institutions using disproportionate weapons indiscriminately targeted. A consumer boycott on the other hand is in no way comparable to these measures in a crucial sense: proportionality. Boycott is a reasonable and proportional response: it is non-violent and does not threaten a community’s survival; it is directed at the more affluent disproportionately; it sends a specific message with plenty of space for change and opportunity to comply. To the extent that citizens profit from and endorse the actions of their government, they have responsibility for those actions. There is however a limit to this responsibility and limits to the responses that humanely apply. So bombing a population or denying it food outright would be collective punishment but a consumer boycott is a reasonable and proportional response, precisely because it is non-violent, it is gradual, it does not threaten a community’s survival; it nonviolently exerts pressure and inconveniences a population–and sends a message. As a form of gradual economic pressure meant to send a message, it is not punishment in the sense collective punishment is punishment. Boycott is simply a grassroots refusal to participate in consumption that supports an occupier’s economy, and it is meant to make the occupier’s government and its citizens realize that change is necessary; and it is a form of public protest and publicity generation and awareness promoting. It is absurd to call this “collective punishment.” Consumer boycotts arranged by Martin Luther King Jr. were not collective punishments of the Southern white population. And honestly I cannot at this point see meaningful mom-violent change happening without the gradual pressure, public protest, publicity generation, and awareness promoting that some form of boycott would entail.

        (2) Let’s abandon for a moment this decisive concept of proportionality and for argument’s sake define boycott as collective punishment. You obviously support harsh collective punishment of Palestinians so you cannot have any principled objection to their exacting “collective punishment” from Israelis by the gentle, non-violent and proportionate measure of boycott. A war of collective punishments, with one side employing a much more proportionate response. I expect a reply that will scream that what Israel does in the occupied territories is not terror, how can you even compare?, etc, etc., and therefore it’s responses are “proportionate.” And this will be spoken by someone who does not live under a harsh 48-year military occupation with deliberate transfer of civilian population as a land theft device, yet would deny the occupied population the proportionately gentle measure of boycott, the only non-violent means left to it, and a measure that is designed to both bring about a fair settlement and avoid an endless cycle of violence.

        Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          Another rambling mumbo jumbo. So control of imports and export and your other mumbo jumbos are collective punishment? Hilarious! Lol….. Go find a job, moron!

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            “Collective punishment is a specific concept…”

            Why, yes, Benny dear, let me continue on your behalf, what you should have said…

            …collective punishment in the context of the I-P conflict is a propaganda tool, used by professional propagandists like you Benny.

            It is an attempt by your kind to tie our hands behind our backs and to try to prevent us from responding to acts of bastardry by your pets, the Palestinian Arabs.

            …but it won’t work! The fact is that the Arabs as a people declared war on us nearly 100 years ago and as a people, they have been fighting that war against us ruthlessly on all fronts. And therefore, whether they and propagandists like you, like it or not, they will continue to suffer the consequences of their own actions collectively or individually, every time they attempt to wage their war on us.

            Got it, Benny? No? … It doesn’t matter. We will do whatever is necessary to curb their attempts to harm us.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “So long as we are in uniform and are going to kill and die for settlements and for the occupation, then everything is fine, but the moment we break the silence, suddenly we are traitors. That’s the hypocrisy of the Israeli right-wing.”

            “What harms Israel more than anything is the occupation and what harms Israel the most is the settlement enterprise and our unwillingness to end the occupation.”

            – Yehuda Shaul, Cofounder of Breaking the Silence

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Ahhhh, Benny is on about the occupation again…

            Remember the question that I asked you before after your glib demand to end it? I am still waiting for your answer.

            Whats da matta Benny? The cat cut your tongue?
            BEN:“On the other hand, why not just end the occupation?”

            GUSTAV:”Simple isn’t it?

            End it how? Unilaterally? Without a signed peace deal? Remember our unilateral withdrawal from Gaza? How did that work out?

            Or by signing a suicidal peace deal? No thanks Benny, we won’t let up to 4 million Arabs settle in Israel proper.

            Oh, and sign a peace deal with Hamas? They won’t sign one with us. At best, they are willing to sign a 10 year Hudna (cease fire). And what will they do during those 10 years? They will prepare for war against us.

            Next, Benny, let’s hear your next bright idea…”
            As you can see, Benny, various politicians of ours tried to end it but it seems that your Palestinian friends respond only with violence or at best ignore our offers. So, Benny? Over to you. Stop your hissy fits and offer solutions instead…

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Nah, I didn’t think so. When cornered, Benny has no constructive answers. He is not here to give answers. He is here for two reasons…

            1. To malign Israel

            2. To whitewash the Palestinian Arabs.

            He is a hired hand. A pro Arab propagandist.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Well, let’s look at what’s going on here. You’re not breaking your silence about the women soldiers’ reports. Are they there to malign Israel and to whitewash the Palestinian Arabs? It’s convenient to attack me. You want to attack them? Have you served as they have on the front lines of the occupation? Perhaps you could share with us your own experience in these matters?

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Never you mind where I served Benny. I did more than they will ever do in three life times.

            Now don’t change the subject, Benny, once again, you brought up the occupation through your so called women soldiers. And once again you refuse to answer my question about it.

            What’s new? You are not here to be constructive. You are not here to try to solve problems. You are just here to malign US and you are here to whitewash our enemies. That makes you TOO our enemy!

            Reply to Comment
        • CigarButNoNice

          Ben wrote:

          “Collective punishment is a specific concept … It is a legal term …”

          Ooh, don’t you just love how supporters of Arab colonial aggression against the Jewish nation clothe their thoughts in the mantle of “legal” terminology! It’s almost as charming as the spectacle of a school bully hiding behind an adult’s coattails and sticking out his tongue.

          Maybe that’s just me, but I’m more concerned about the spirit of the law than about the letter as you legal sticklers are. The spirit of BDS is that of collective punishment, punishing the Jews living on the Jewish nation-state for not toeing the Arab imperialist and Marxist internationalist line.

          The line that says parts of the Land of Israel are to be ethnically cleansed (“decolonized” in whitewashing pro-Arab-imperialist terminology) of their Jewish population, and the other parts are to be demographically overwhelmed (“Right of Return” as a “legal” cover-up term) to stamp out the Jewish nation’s right of self-determination.

          The number of Israeli Jews you can fool into supporting your injustice by slapping legal verbiage on it is already small, and getting smaller with each passing day.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Ooh, don’t you just love how supporters of Arab colonial aggression against the Jewish nation clothe their thoughts in the mantle of “legal” terminology! It’s almost as charming as the spectacle of a school bully hiding behind an adult’s coattails and sticking out his tongue.”

            Actually, my argument was only glancingly legal in nature, just one sentence of it referring to legality, and the entire rest of it an ethical and moral argument about proportionality, based in reality. Nice try. But no cigar. But hey, that’s pretty good cheap rhetoric! May I borrow it, turn it around, and uncheapen it for you? Because your words about letter and spirit recall many a “conversation” here. Thanks so much.

            Dear Ginger Eis:

            Ooh, don’t you just love how supporters of the illegal 48-year belligerent occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem clothe their thoughts in the mantle of “legal” terminology! It’s almost as charming as the spectacle of a school bully hiding behind an adult’s coattails and sticking out his tongue.


            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav


            Pull the other leg, Benny dear…

            There is nothing sincere about you. You are a propagandist.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Givara

      Well written. Perfect article.

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

        “Givara” huh? I’m falling out of my chair rolling on the ground laughing may ass off. We will get to that at a different time, Brian…eh…”Givara”. Lol….

        Reply to Comment
    3. Pedro X

      The problem with the Palestinians is that a large core of its population does not accept Israel as a nation state of the Jewish people and supports the destruction of the Israeli state and the killing of Jews. Palestinians have no problem with collective punishment of Israelis and Jews. For Israel the problem is how to stop this core of Palestinians’ population from carrying out their deepest wishes.

      Palestinian Public Opinion Poll number 55 taken between March 19-21, 2015 from 1262 Palestinians in face to face meetings revealed that 28% of Palestinians desire to see the destruction of the Israeli state or the destruction of the Israeli state and the killing of most of the Jews. More Palestinians support violence (37%) than support negotiations (29%) as the best means to attain statehood. In absence of viable negotiations 48% favor return to an intifada.

      The poll also found that only 39% of Palestinians support recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people in return for an Israeli recognition of Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people.

      How Israel prevents Palestinians from carrying out their deepest wishes, is by both maintaining a presence in the West Bank and seeking to make lives better for Palestinians living there. Israel permits over 50,000 Palestinians to legally work in Israel while another 30,000 are employed in Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. 115,000 people are allowed into Israel each year for medical treatment in Israel or abroad. Palestinians in the West Bank are free to import and export everything but weapons and explosives.

      Each year Israel allows hundreds of thousands of visits by Palestinians into Israel and some other special visits. If Palestinians resort to murder and other acts of violence they can expect to have their privileges to access Israel curtailed.

      Reply to Comment
    4. BigCat

      What Natasha calls “collective punishment” is not collective punishment”.

      So, what is “collective punishment”?

      Not all acts of the State which are experienced as punishment by the individual are “punishment” under the law. “Punishment” exists if the action taken by the state is intended by the state to inflict pain/pain on the recipient. If the intent of the state is NOT to inflict pain or injury (both material and immaterial) the there is NO “punishment” even if the recipient feels pain/injured by that specific State-act and believes in his mind that he is being “punished”. When a psychiatric patient is locked-up the same way convicted criminals are locked-up, because he is a danger to others, that is not a “punishment” within the meaning of the law, because the intent is not to punish. When someone is arrested and detained in jail awaiting trial, the pre-trial detention is also not “punishment”, because the reasons for the pretrial detention, i.e. flight risk, danger of collusion, etc., are not to punish. The state may, for example, close down JFK-airport if there is a security breach/threat and thereby cause tens of thousands of people to miss their flights, appointments, etc. at enormous economic costs and personal inconveniences. That also is not punishment, because, again, the intent to punish is absent.

      In recent days innocent Israelis have been murdered by Palestinians who abused Israel’s generosity to allow tens of thousands of Palestinians and their families to enter Israel for the Ramadan. Some of the murders, their accomplices, those who sent them, their mentors, etc. come from Sa’ir and are still being sought. Canceling the permits of the residents of Sa’ir to enter Israel or leave through Israeli airports is a measure to prevent the criminals from escaping and catching them. This might inconvenience other residents of Sa’ir who are innocent. But the cancellations are not “punishment” according to the law.

      Maybe Natasha should first understand the law before actually trying to write about the law and misleading folks.

      Reply to Comment
      • In this case, BigCat is right on point, ignoring the personal slight. There is a difference, however, between canceling and suspending entry/exit permits. One would hope the permits have been suspended only, but I don’t know. One doesn’t know if a larger network is involved in the attack; that is, whether the attack is multi-pronged. Nor can one be sure that those involved will not try to exit via permits. If, however, permits are not resumed after resolution of the murder, it will be hard to deny that residents are being punished as such. And it is quite easy for these closures to become permit policy really for goals beyond solving the murder.

        Suspending the airport entry program employs similar albeit stretched logic. It might be that some of those to be allowed through Ben Gurion are network accomplices or copycats, but the probability goes down if not from the village. The issue becomes one of racial profiling.

        If you are ever going to get beyond this polarization, controlled risk needs to be engaged. I read in the Times of Israel of a proposal to allow Palestinian doctors vehicle permits to enter Israel. They undoubtedly would be security vented. But doctors of some standing are committed to saving lives and so probabilistically are less likely to engage in terrorism. The probability is not zero, however, considering the lives they are forced to live. This is controlled risk. It’s not blanket entry but targeting a population category to see how things go. Further, certainly Israeli police will stop a car with Palestinian license plate, so there will be internal security checks. The experience will not be all pleasant for the doctor, but he will have access to Israeli facilities and medical professionals, and might even be able to drive a patient to an Israeli medical appointment.

        If this program went well, it might suggest other forms of targeted risk. Otherwise, the specter of “terror networks” will continue the walled polarization which will ultimately yield terror networks. What the collective punishment critics are telling you here is that not all Palestinians exhibit the same probability of violence or support of such. Obviously some decision makers in Israel understand this or they would not open the gates for Ramadan entry, although there is an understanding that otherwise pent up frustration and anger, given the religious coloring, might yield incidents elsewhere. Targeted risk operates similarly: if nothing is done, pressure builds to explosion. How can some ease be employed while controlling risk. This is your only way out–and the only way some on the national right will listen to call for (some) change.

        Reply to Comment
    5. David Grant

      Thanks to Natasha for writing this article. This sounds a lot like Operation Protective Edge when it was a lone wolf that killed those three teenagers and provided the pretext for the invasion which killed about 2,000 people and maimed and injured others. How long will the West tolerate this kind of behavior before they say enough is enough. This would never be tolerate in other places. At the very least, there would be harsh denunciations from the ambassadors will talk of closing embassies. This is why the BDS is important but it is also important that the activist community educate the public as the reasons why it is important to take such action. I was on vacation in Chicago last week and I had a conversation with a liberal Jewish woman who was surprised that I mentioned my disgust at Prime Minister Harper’s continued support for Israel and was surprised when I mentioned that there is a lot of racism in the country. I quoted the reports from Amnesty International, B’tselem and other human rights that have documented Israel’s racism and barbarism, but she stated that it was “complicated”. There doesn’t seem to be anything complicated at all here. Israel is using its power to punish and humiate the Palesitinians into submission so they will leave. While Hamas has committed human rights abuses(look at the most recent report by Amnesty International)the Israeli government is the guiltier party as it has the power. It is high time that the world realizes this so that efforts can be taken to pressure Israel to change.

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

        Another rambling mumbo jumbo from Brian alias “Ben” alias “MuslimJew” alias “Giora Me’ir” alias “Givara” alias “David Grant” alias etc.

        Go take your meds, find a job to support yourself, focus on the problems of your own country FIRST and maybe e.g. Syria where not 2000 most of whom are terrorists, but almost 300.000 has died and quit this disgusting, this manic fixation on- and obsession with Jews and Israel, you psychotic moron!

        Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Yeah right…

        Lone wolf attacks, almost every year, dozens of times every year since the 1920s. How do they breed idiots like you David? Or are you too just a plain malicious apologist for your Palestinian Arabs? I mean seriously, you guys are too stupid to even come up with half believable propaganda. What a clown, LOL.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Click here to load previous comments