Hasbara Central appears to have sent out a directive instructing the social media brigade to point to the disgusting picture of Gazans dragging the body of a suspected collaborator through the streets of Gaza tied by a rope to a motorcycle. They circulate stories of others executed for such alleged ties to Israeli intelligence. These stories are supposed to document the savage, uncivilized nature of Hamas. They’re supposed to support the notion that any movement that would treat other human beings so despicably must be fought tooth and nail by Israel, which represents the epitome of decent western values. It also somehow justifies the 162 Gazan dead, over half of whom were civilians. Secondarily, we’re supposed to understand, I suppose, that Islam, which underpins Hamas, must be a religion of hate and violence to permit such behavior.
Before I address myself to these questions, let me point out that no human being should be summarily executed for any crime, even in wartime when the norms of civilization are sometimes dispensed with. To the extent that a society permits such actions, it indicates fundamental dysfunction. The rule of law must always be paramount, even when society is under greatest threat. Indeed, Hamas’ leadership published a statement excoriating these executions, saying they did not represent Hamas and “must never happen again.”
Now, let’s get back to Hamas’ supposed violations of the norms of western civilization, which render it a moral pariah. Is it true that only Hamas behaves in this way? No, of course not. During the 1948 War, both the Palmach and Lehi executed alleged spies. They did so at times without any form of justice. At times with haphazard, slipshod forms of due process. In the most infamous case of Capt. Meir Tobianski, the IDF executed someone who was completely innocent. Here is Wikipedia’s description of his capture and execution:
After arriving at Tel Aviv on 30 June 1948, Tobianski was taken into custody by Shmuel Granizi in the Carmel market. Contrary to the Chief Military Prosecutor’s order to arrest and interrogate Tobianski for 10 days, Tobianski was driven from Tel Aviv to Hulda and then to a deserted school building…where he was subject to a drumhead court-martial. During the court-martial, Tobianski was interrogated by Isser Be’eri, David Kron, Binyamin Gibli and Avraham Kidron…
Be’eri, who was late for the trial, had already prepared a firing squad of six soldiers from the Palmach Yiftach Brigade, which was in control of the Jerusalem corridor zone.
Tobianski was found guilty and executed in Bayt Jiz, where his body was buried. He had received neither a lawyer nor the right to appeal, and his case was not reviewed by a higher court.
Though Tobianski was later acquitted of any involvement in spying and his rank was restored, punishment was meted out to only one of those who carried out this heinous act: a single day in prison. The others subsequently rose to high political and military rank. Their deed was viewed as an unfortunate mistake done in the fog of war. This is one of the early examples of the flouting of law and due process in Israeli military and state justice. It hasn’t gotten much better.
Not to mention other instances in which Israelis suspected of spying were abused in a manner that flouted the rule of law. Marcus Klingberg was a distinguished professor of epidemiology and assistant director of Israel’s chemical and biological warfare institute at Ness Ziona. Suspected of being a Soviet agent, he was kidnapped by the Shin Bet, held incommunicado and interrogated brutally for ten days, then sentenced secretly to 20 years in prison. The secret police would not even allow the family to tell anyone what had happened to him. They were forced to stick to a cover story saying he was in a psychiatric hospital in Europe. Even after he was released from prison, he was put under modified house arrest and guarded by IDF military security and had the pay the salaries of his jailers.
Let’s return now to Hamas and the present day. As bad as the execution of collaborators is (and it is), how much worse is it than U.S. and Israeli targeted killings of militants in Palestine, Yemen or Pakistan? How much worse is it than the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists? Do we know the crimes of which these people are suspected? The evidence against them? What right of appeal do they have? Do we seriously believe that they are all guilty of whatever secret evidence exists to condemn them? Remember Tobianski. How well did that episode turn out?
As bad as the murders of six collaborators by Gazan militants is, Israel and the U.S. murder thousands without any form of judicial process. Yet we are somehow civilized, while Hamas is brutal and uncivilized. What is this double-standard? Of course it’s hypocrisy and racism. But it’s even worse. It’s bad enough that we consider Gazans savages for such acts, but we’ve swept our own crimes under the rug. And our crimes are so much worse.