The rampage of the Arab tractor-drive this week in Jerusalem, which killed several people and wounded many more, is rightly condemned. Yes, it is important to try to understand motives, and yes, it is important to think rationally on how to prevent the reoccurence of such events. But understanding is not excusing, much less justifying. You can say the same thing for the rampage of the student at Virginia Tech last year, which killed more people. Even if a person is driven to do something by mental illness, or by some sort of exculpating factor, the harming of innocents is to be condemned. The motives are not relevant. Death by Caterpillar is death.
But no less condemnable are the acts of revenge contemplated by Israeli officials against innocents, either the tractor-driver's family (destroying their house) or his neighborhood (revoking their residency.) In fact, they are arguably more barbaric because they are premeditated actions of a state, illegal by international law, and immoral by any morality save that of the mafia.
What is chilling about the contemplated acts of revenge by Israel politicians like Barak, Netanyahu, Oimert, Ramon, is that they are just that – revenge. Nobody is even trying to argue that destroying or sealing up the family's house is punishment or deterrence. Nobody holds the family or the neighborhood responsible (are we back in the Bible?), and since 2005, the IDF has explicitly said that blowing up houses is not an effective deterrent.
So the only reason for hurting Palestinian innocents, according to the Israeli government, is the same reason that the truck-driver presumably had for hurting Israeli innocents (which could easily have included Palestinians) – revenge. We know even less about the truck-driver's motives than those of Barak, Netanyahu, and Ramon.
Just read the following statement from the Haaretz article today
Ramon also told Army Radio that he felt, as opposed to the prime minister and his fellow ministers, that demolishing the home of the terrorist's family would not prevent the next terror attack. However, he said that the house should be demolished anyway, if the law allows it.
"I doubt that demolishing the house will achieve what it aims to achieve, though if possible, the house must be razed. The laws must be made to fit the policy and we mustn't give up," Ramon said. "What we are permitted to do, we must do as soon as possible."
What Ramon seems to be saying is that because Israel legally can demolish the house, it should demolish the house, despite there being no purpose in destroying the house. We've got a much bigger tractor than that guy did, and it is legally registered.
The Arab perpetrator drives a tractor; our perpetrators run the government. I can't see any other difference.
And please don't argue that one is under occupation and the others aren't. That gets to the understanding part, not the justifying part. Not for me, anyway. Please check your Fanon at the door of this blog.
P.S. Of course, if punishing innocents were an effective deterrent, it would still be patently immoral, wouldn't it. If you don't think so, please re-read Kant.