Boston Globe editorials have displayed a disturbing double standard in their use of the term “collective punishment.” While strongly condemning Palestinian suicide bombings and the rocketing of Israeli towns and acknowledging that “Israel has the right to try to deter suicide bombings and the launching of missiles at Israeli towns,” a July 7 Globe editorial, “The Agony of Gaza,” nevertheless condemned Israel’s air actions, especially bombing of the power plant, as “collective punishment.” Unmentioned was the fact that Israel’s treatment of non-combatants in a hostile populace is far more careful and benign than that of most other countries.
In fact, the phrase “collective punishment” seems to be reserved by Globe editorialists almost exclusively for Israeli actions. It has not been used for the continuous Palestinian rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip into twenty Israeli towns, nor for the Hezbollah bombardment of Israeli cities and civilian centers. Nor has it been used in other military conflicts [the one exception was a Sept. 29, 1999 editorial which used the term in reference to Russia’s actions in Chechnya.].
For years, Globe editorials have employed this term to refer to Israeli military operations alone. A search of the Nexis database going back to December 1992, shows a total of only twelve Globe editorials using the phrase “collective punishment” (including the July 7 example). Shockingly, only one of these twelve editorials referred to a party other than Israel (the above mentioned Sept. 29, 1999 editorial referring to Russia).
Thus, while numerous Globe editorials over the years have criticized the punishment of populations – the non-Arabs in Sudan at the hands of the Arab controlled government, the Serbians at the hands of NATO air-power, Iraqi Kurds and Shiites at the hand of Saddam – none of these Globe editorials used the loaded phrase “collective punishment” in characterizing massive attacks on populations by governments.
The Boston Globe should review the way it uses the term “collective punishment.”