On Collective Punishment

When I was in Basic Training, the sergeants knew that a good way to build esprit de corps was to give everyone a common enemy. This was easily accomplished by imposing mass punishments. If one soldier’s boots are scuffed, everyone does pushups. If one soldier is smiling at an inappropriate time, the whole platoon does flutter kicks. If someone’s not marching in step, everyone stands at parade rest for half an hour.

Outside of Basic Training, collective punishment was out of favor. Obviously, it’s not fair.

I remember one E6 congratulating himself on his great idea for catching the person who was stealing light bulbs out of the day room. Mind you, it could have been handled by just providing us with the light bulbs that we were entitled to. No, this guy had a great plan of marking the light bulbs in the day room with a secret mark, and then when one went missing, to wake up all two hundred soldiers in the middle of the night and inspect their rooms until he found the missing lightbulb. I asked him if he thought it was a vast lightbulb-stealing conspiracy that everyone was in on. No, he didn’t think that. He just thought it was a great idea to rouse two hundred hard-working soldiers out of their sleep in order to catch one lightbulb thief. I told him he thought like an officer.

It also didn’t occur to him that someone from outside of our barracks might have been the one stealing lightbulbs.

But back to the point. Mass punishment just makes a whole lot of people really mad at you.

This is why sanctions are not a good way to get a country to agree with you. Starving a whole town is not a good way to get them to embrace your ideals.

So you wonder why Israel keeps doing it.

The UN in the Gaza Strip says it will run out of food aid in two days unless Israel’s blockade – which it describes as “shameful and unacceptable” – eases.

The UN refugee agency Unrwa, which distributes food to half of Gaza’s 1,5m people, called the blockade “a physical as well as a mental punishment”.

In a statement, Unrwa spokesman Christophen Gunness said food distribution operations would end on Thursday unless Israeli authorities allowed deliveries of wheat, luncheon meat, powdered milk and cooking oil without delay.

“It is a further illustration of the barbarity of this inhuman blockade.”

“It is also shameful and unacceptable that the largest humanitarian actor in Gaza is being forced into yet another cycle of crisis management,” Mr Gunness added.

Most of Gaza City was plunged into darkness on Monday evening after the Nusseirat power plant – the only one inside the territory – was forced to shut down because fuel shipments had been blocked by Israel for nearly a week.

The Gaza strip has been described as the world’s largest open-air prison, except the prisoners have not been tried or convicted. They’re just guilty by association.

The UNRWA spokesman is at the end of his rope.

“This has become a blockade against the United Nations itself,” UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness said, citing a long list of supplies, including food., which have yet to be delivered.


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