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Terrorism and Collective Punishment

War by Remote Control

By Israeli journalist Meron Benvenisti
November 3, 2005

As opposed to the expectations of many, the disengagement has not brought about real progress toward peace, but undoubtedly caused a revolutionary change in the way war is conducted. The violence of body touching body and eye meeting eye, the friction saturated with hatred at the checkpoints and in the alleyways, and the sight of spilled blood – the intimate violence of conflicted communities – is changing in front of our eyes, and has become a push-button war, shooting via TV screens, robots and computers, and long range artillery.

There’s no more need to occupy territory and fill it with soldiers; it’s possible to position a battery of cannons and mark out “killing zones” that are no less effective than the occupation in practice, and allow sticking to the fiction that “the occupation of Gaza is over.” Land forces are envious of the air force, and also want to fight by pushing buttons. They also want to feel like the former air force commander and current chief of staff, who said, “I feel a slight knock in the plane as a result of releasing the bomb, and a second later it passes and that’s all.” True, innocent people are killed, but on the TV screen it doesn’t look so terrible.

Therefore, the commanders of the ground forces devised a driverless armored vehicle, which patrols under remote control command and opens fire on the order of a youth sitting in front of a TV screen, who “identifies the enemy.” Spanish TV recently broadcast a report on the arsenal of robots – on land and sea and in the air – that is turning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a kind of computer game, of course, on condition that you’re on the Israeli side. And if you’re Palestinian, you should be grateful that at least you won’t have to see the occupier at the Rafah crossing.

The occupier is also happy not to have to brush up against the Palestinian; it’s enough that a television monitor shows who enters and exits, and includes the Palestinian’s identification details. In the Prisons Authority they call it electronic handcuffs. There’s no limit to the creativity of the Israeli high-tech industries financed by the Defense Ministry, which enjoys unlimited resources, and nobody dares to criticize the waste of enormous sums of money, because after all, it saves soldiers’ lives.

Its devastating effects on the lives of the Palestinian enemy is not taken into account. On the contrary, the progressive technology is presented as being good for the occupied. Fact, Israel is insisting that the donor nations pay for the technology-rich “international passages” that will replace the checkpoints, saturated with human friction, and “ease conditions for the Palestinians.” After the electronic-technological disengagement from Gaza, the efforts at “separation” are being directed to the West Bank. There’s a process under way of paving new bypass roads, digging tunnels and building bridges. Now it is focused on defining the boundaries of the Palestinian cantons, which will enable deployment of the technological developments developed for the canton of Gaza, which serves as a testing ground.

Along with the technological efficiency and advantage of remote-controlled violence, the virtual war is meant to frighten and deter the Palestinians. But its success has not been so great, since the Palestinians deploy primitive weapons like old Kalashnikovs and suicide bombers against the advanced technology. Despite Israel’s efforts to turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into one between defined territories, which allows the use of remote-controlled weaponry, the conflict remains in its original form – in other words, a war of communities living inside each other.

Under those conditions, the chances of success for a sterile, technological war, are limited, and ultimately, the real battlefield remains the primitive meeting of body against body. There, the advantages of technology and robotics cannot be decisive, nor can conventional artillery shelling. The clashes between the advanced technology and the primitive weaponry will end in a tie, and there will be no winners, only losers. Isn’t it a shame that the intellectual effort after the disengagement is aimed at upgrading death?

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The History of Terrorism
Videos & Multimedia

British TV Documentary – Dispatches: The Killing Zone

VIDEO: Palestinians Document Settler Violence

VIDEO: West Bank attack filmed

Video – Gaza: A humanitarian implosion

Video: Old Palestinian Man Describes Being Shot

Video – The Easiest Targets: The Israeli Policy of Strip Searching Women and Children

Audio Interview – Psychology of Suicide Bombings

Video – Soldiers Explode a Portion of a Palestinian Home, Killing the Mother

Video – Soldiers Force a Palestinian to Play Violin at Roadblock

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Additional Resources

The Gaza Strip: A humanitarian implosion

Back to a Routine of Torture – Torture and Ill-treatment of Palestinian Detainees during Arrest, Detention and Interrogation – September 2001 - April 2003

Amnesty International – Israeli Settlers Wage Campaign of Intimidation

Booklet – ‘No Exit’

Amnesty International – Under the Rubble


Public Committee Against Torture in Israel

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