I’ve written about the death penalty before, check it out here.
The subject came up again recently after Hamas-led gunmen publicly executed several men in Gaza who were allegedly guilty of collaborating with Israel.
A Facebook friend wrote:
Hamas’ recent execution of a number of people whom they deemed traitors shifted their image into a very bad place. “Bad optics” does not begin to describe it. I sympathize greatly with Gaza.. but I have zero respect or trust in Hamas. Too bad the people of Gaza do not have another leadership option. How does one stand up to people who will summarily shoot you if they decide you are not on their side?
My Facebook friend continued:
In civilized societies – there are trials, with witnesses and defense – before punishment. Lining people up and shooting them was a horrendous PR mistake, if nothing else – but it was also a criminal act.Any “uncertainty” I had about Hamas – mean
ing, any chance I was leaning their way, evaporated immediately. I am anti-Zionist – but now just like with the mess of Syria – there is no good side to be on, other than the side of the civilians who are victims caught in the fighting.
I share my friend’s visceral opposition to public executions, but that’s where our agreement appears to end.
I oppose the death penalty in all forms, whether carried out by #1 — “civilized societies” behind a glass window in an execution chamber after the requisite due process has been provided, or #2 — by the military superpowers (the U.S. and Israel) summarily executing people on the streets or in the desert by a drone strike (where’s the due process there?) or #3 — by masked Hamas gunmen who shoot suspected collaborators on the street.
In each case, the executioner provides justification for taking the life of another, but in my book only God/Allah has the responsibility to make life and death decisions, not humans.
I’m no sissy. Severe punishment (life imprisonment without parole) might be appropriate in some cases, but never the death penalty.
So let’s be consistent. If we’re going to condemn Hamas, as my Facebook friend did, then lets condemn the United States and Israel. Striking and killing a grandmother in Pakistan without warning or due process, or blowing Palestinians to smithereens with a drone strike on the streets in Gaza, are no less abhorrent than lining up suspected collaborators and killing them in front of witnesses.
My Facebook friend asks: “How does one stand up to people who will summarily shoot you if they decide you are not on their side?”
This statement belies the truth. There’s absolutely no evidence that Hamas summarily executes people it decides are not on their side. The men who were killed by Hamas gunmen were suspected collaborators who had been recruited by Israel as spies. Read this very good piece by Jonathan Cook about collaborators.
I’ve written about the rule of law in Gaza, see here. Americans can best help strengthen the rule of law in the Gaza Strip by calling upon Israel to abide by the rule of law.