How is Collective Punishment Justified?

October 15, 2023

Imagine you are sitting in class and one of your classmates throws something at the teacher while her back is turned. As a result, the entire class is punished for the crimes of one. This is called collective punishment.

“Collective punishment is a punishment imposed on a group for acts allegedly perpetrated by a member of that group.” The group may be an ethnic or political group or just the family, friends, and neighbors of the perpetrator.” Collective punishment, the targeting individuals who are not responsible for the wrong acts, is unjust. In fact, collective punishment is a war crime prohibited by treaty in both international and non-international armed conflicts. The law on this seems very clear.

Why then, is it okay for Israel to drop more than 1,000 bombs per day on the Gaza Strip? In case that isn’t bad enough, Israel then proceeds to turn off access to food, water, and electricity. When you consider that the Gaza Strip is an open-air prison where 2 million Palestinians have been captured for more than 15 years without a trial, they are fish in a barrel. To pour salt on the atrocities, why does the USA not only condone such behavior but also send additional arms to support it?

What is even more baffling is that I would think that the Israelis would identify with injustice at this level and do all they could to prevent it from happening ever again. What makes it okay for them to proceed with such violence, and how does it achieve justice?

Obviously, I’m not condoning the actions of Hamas in any way. Nor am I minimizing the horrific history of the Second World War. But as horrific as they are, how does it justify bombing and then starving a majority of prisoners that can’t defend themselves? The injustice here seems extreme. What am I missing?