Turn off the lights in Gaza

Making the case for zero tolerance for terror

This morning, I called a medical colleague in Ashkelon to ask his thoughts on Gaza – and whether we should cut off the power supply to Gaza. I was about to tell him we should cut off its TV and radio programs as well. As we were talking, I could hear the sirens going off, and he cut the conversation to make it to his sealed room. Half an hour later, he told me, yes, we should. This is from a doctor who was a pioneer in the campaigns to eradicate polio and measles from the Gaza Strip many years ago. Minutes later, I heard about the three deaths in Kiryat Malachi from rocket attacks.

It is wrong, pathetically so, for Israeli leaders to say that its goal in Gaza is to reduce (tzimtzum in Hebrew) the number of rocket and terror attacks. Israel’s goal – even if not immediately attainable – should be elimination of these attacks, and its policy should be one of Zero Tolerance for Terror (ZT4T) directed against the entire population. These rockets attacks need to be recognized for what they are: genocidal terror, because its aim is to intimidate, terrorize and kill members of an entire population defined by their national, religious, ethnic or racial origin.

It is no easy decision to cut off electricity from a land mass with population of some two million people. But it is even worse to tolerate rocket terror attacks turning everyday life upside down for some million citizens in Israel’s south – already killing three – and to wait for more rocket attacks reaching every farther north. This reach is the equivalent of some 40 million of 300 million US citizens subjected to daily rocket attacks. These rocket attacks are from the area ruled by Hamas, their chosen elected political representatives.

Rocket attacks from Hamas ruled Gaza directed against Israel’s population are Crimes against Humanity. Even Richard Goldstone, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and BTselem said so after Operation Cast Lead – but not in the eight years of rocket attacks preceding it – when, by being by and large silent, these NGO’s were in effect complicit bystanders. to Hamas’s rocket attacks.

But Israel cannot wait for the wheels of justice to turn. The wheels are rusty. There is next to no international justice and if the wheels do turn, it is not certain they would turn in the right direction. I call upon the government of Israel to immediately initiate proceedings to bring Hamas’s leaders and their operatives to justice for these crimes. But there is the court of international public opinion, and this is where the battle to eradicate terror from Gaza will be won or lost.

The case for cutting off the electricity to Gaza is that it does not produce the staged photo-ops of blood (or ketchup) which genocidal terrorists use to drive their agenda’s asymmetric warfare, lawfare and wordfare. Yes, the population should be given advance warning, so that hospitals can get their generators up and running. But there is a certain coherence to cutting off the electricity to a region whose leaders are making life hell for a million Israelis.

Scholars of genocide and mass atrocity crimes know that these outcomes result from human choice and bystander indifference. It follows that what happens in the next few days, weeks and months will be determined by the degree to which public diplomacy will make the case for holding the perpetrator, Hamas, accountable for this latest round of crimes against humanity – the rocketing of civilian populations with intent to kill, maim, injure, destroy and intimidate. But what the bystanders do or do not do may be even more important: The US has to make aid to Egypt conditional on it reining in on Hamas.

But terror requires perpetrators. Hamas uses schools, TV programs, summer camps, and mosques to propagate genocidal incitement, itself a crime against humanity.

So there is a powerful case for cutting off Gaza’s power supply and its TV and radio transmissions of the language of hate and death. These are the cornerstones of policy of Zero Tolerance for Terror and, ultimately, eradication of terror.

About the Author
Dr. Elihu D Richter is a founder of the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention