Posted by: Liza Rosenberg | March 15, 2006

When the ends don’t justify the means

I averted my eyes from the television last night, so that I would not have to watch the humiliation of Palestinian prisoners being paraded in front of the cameras in their underwear, hands held high over their heads in surrender. The Israeli military raided the Jericho prison yesterday in order to retrieve those believed responsible for the assassination of former Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Zeevi, as well as Fuad Shobaki, the man allegedly responsible for organizing a shipment of illegal mass weapons to the Palestinian Authority back in 2002. As far as I understand it, the raid was triggered by the newly elected Hamas government’s promise to allow these individuals to go free, despite brokered agreements with international parties, and closely followed the hasty departure of the on-site British and American authorities responsible for ensuring that the agreements were carried out properly.

As usual, I’ve got mixed feelings here. On the one hand, these individuals were most likely mixed up illegal, murderous activities, and should not be given their freedom based on the whims of a new government whose views are not quite in line with those of the previous government. I can’t imagine that the planned release sat well with foreign governments that had possibly hoped that the new Palestinian government would actually act like a government and keep to previously brokered agreements. I’m thinking that it doesn’t really bode well for any kind of talks with those governments that attempt to reach out. Or maybe the foreign governments don’t really give a damn. I don’t know.

There are a number of issues pricking my conscience over this act, though. What could possibly be served by the underwear parade? Granted, these individuals are prisoners, incarcerated for an assortment of illegal activities, I should imagine. However, I cannot understand the need for such humiliation, and in such a public way, no less. Seeing this parade (or not seeing it, for I really couldn’t bear to watch it) and knowing that it was being beamed around the world for all to see made me ashamed to be an Israeli. Capturing Ahmed Saadat and Fuad Shobaki, et al. is necessary, and given the nature of the playing field, there will most likely be collateral damage, unfortunately. And now let me play the devil’s advocate here. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that there was some reason that it was indeed necessary to relieve these prisoners of their clothes (remember, devil’s advocate talking here). Why the public parade? How will it serve Israel’s interests? How will this scene of humiliation improve our standing in the world? No media pundit am I, but I daresay that it won’t be too helpful, that these images will not portray Israel in a positive light. Any sympathy or understanding we may have received will certainly not be forthcoming, in view of the way in which the action was carried out.

Which brings me to my next conscience-pricking issue. Is this to be the final nail in Mahmoud Abbas’s role as Prime Minister? Can Israel possibly emasculate him any further? Granted, he wasn’t very effective when his own Fatah party was in charge of things, but won’t yesterday’s actions push the Palestinians even further into the arms of Hamas? While he is certainly not blameless with regard to his inability to lead the Palestinians, did the Israeli government not have a hand in creating that inability to lead? By choking their economy and thwarting and rendering him irrelevant in what little he tried to do, it is no wonder that the Palestinian people voted for Hamas. What happened yesterday only affirms this, as we once again marginalized the little that remains of the final shreds of moderation in the current Palestinian political arena. Granted, I’m not sure how this whole affair should have been handled vis a vis Mr Abbas, and maybe there really was no other way to go about it, but it still bothers me to some extent.

And to what end? So that Ehud Olmert could show the Israelis and the world that he won’t be soft on terror? To show the world that he is capable of making his own security-related decisions? I, for one, am not impressed. The ends do not always justify the means, though I suppose I do owe Mr Olmert a debt of gratitude, as he has helped me to conclusively decide that any fleeting thoughts I may have had about voting for him and his Kadima party have been completely eradicated from my brain. A politician who allows people to be humiliated just for the sake of scoring a few points at the polls is not a politician I want to represent me. Not that I have a clue as to who I will vote for – only who I won’t vote for.

So. Who should I vote for and why?



  1. Wow…that’s a tough one. I believe that whatever reasons are provided to defend the parade you witnessed yest. will not be good enough. How could they be? It sounds as if you are ashamed to be an Israeli (in this instance) as I have often been ashamed to call myself an American…

    You make some good points here. I hope that there are more Israelis questioning the actions that their government takes on their behalf and, more importantly, the reasons behind those actions.

  2. My suspician is there were two “reasons” for the underwear parade (although I too feel shame that it happened): 1) prevent smuggling of hidden weapons…these guys had cushy conditions and probably access to all kinds of dangerous stuff. 2) the opinion E. Ohlmert cares about just now is Israeli and possibly Arab world, to rattle his sword. He’s probably written off the rest of the world for the time being. Anyhow, I’m sure the takeover was coordinated with the Yanks and the Brits (although maybe not the underwear part).

  3. Couldn’t have said it better. I too feel extremely embarrassed by the lack of respect Israel showed to human beings. And as an Israeli/American I am very concerned about how this act is going to reverberate around the world. All I keep thinking is, “Why?”

    In the big scheme of things, these kinds of actions are not good for anyone.

  4. My understanding from watching the SkyNews channel as events unfolded was that there was a lot of concern about the possibility of surrendering prisoners actually being armed because many of the guards who fled simply left their weapons inside while other guards stayed and fought (and hence may have passed out spare weapons to exiting prisoners with the idea of attacks against soldiers happening outside).

    It did just put my teeth on edge to see the poor guys stripping down. Most of them were just in jail for petty theivery and so forth. I read in one report that the IDF released (freed onto the streets) all but the 6 wanted men, anyone have any confirmation of this from other sources?

  5. You would think that if they had the time to strip them all down to check for weapons that they could have let them get dressed again after any hidden weapons were confiscated….

  6. Slightly off-topic election gripe – just got an automated phone call from Avoda at 5.15PM on a Friday. Last Tuesday I got one from someone else (I hung up before I heard which party) at 10.35PM.

    Is there no limit to when parties feel they can harrass you to vote? (I know there isn’t legally, I was thinking more about generally accepted guidelines).

    Do they not think that calling at these times might actually turn people against them?

    Grumble, grumble…

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