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Priests and Palestinians, Extreme Solutions

Extreme Solution 1: Priests

The old movies used to feature a priest walking alongside the condemned man towards the scaffold, offering last seconds of comfort, plea-bargaining strategies with St Peter, a bolstering hand under the elbow. Some time in the next decade the tableau may be reversed, with a lay counselor assisting the condemned priest as he totters towards that final rendez-vous with the executioner.

The death penalty is being vigorously touted as the best way to deal with child molesters. And as the world knows, the Roman Catholic Church has sheltered many a child molester. On the cutting edge here are three states noted for the moral refinement of their legislators: to wit, Montana, Louisiana and Alabama. The first two states have already put Death for Molesters into their statute books and when the legislators of Alabama convene again next year they will press forward into legislation from an overwhelming vote last year in favor molester executions from its House of Representatives.

The Montana law allows a person previously convicted of “sexual intercourse without consent” with a person younger than 16 in any state to be sentenced to death if convicted of that crime in Montana. The law was passed in 1997 but no one has yet been charged under that provision. Louisiana has had a law on the books since 1995 that allows people convicted of raping a child under the age of 12 to be sentenced to death. A handful of people in the state have been charged under the law this year alone, but no one has yet been convicted and sentenced to death

Alabama’s bill, would authorize the death penalty for people convicted a second time of having sex with a child younger than 12. No other states have the death penalty for a sex crime. ABC News quoted Marcel Black, the chairman of the Alabama House Judiciary Committee as saying “The very serious meaning of this is to send a message to child molesters that it is a bad thing to do”.

Molesters can take comfort in the fact that these laws would probably not survive challenges from higher courts. The US Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that the death penalty is excessive punishment for rape. But who knows, in the current atmosphere anything is possible. Maybe that’s why Pope John Paul II, a far-seeing man, shifted the Church towards opposition to the death penalty.

Extreme Solution 2: Palestinians

Two years ago less than eight per cent of those who took part in a Gallup poll among Jewish Israelis said they were in favor of what is politely called “transfer” – that is, the expulsion of perhaps two million Palestinians across the River Jordan. This month that figure reached 44 per cent. This week the US Congress sent an explicit message: Make our day.

Professor Martin van Creveld is Israel’s best known military historian. On April 28 Britain’s conservative newspaper The Telegraph, published an article outlining what Van Creveld believes Sharon’s near-term goal: “transfer”, otherwise known as expulsion of the Palestinians.

According to Van Creveld, Sharon’s plan is to drive two million Palestinians across the Jordan using the pretext of a US attack on Iraq or a terrorist strike in Israel. This could trigger a vast mobilization to clear the occupied territories of their two million Arabs. Van Creveld notes that In September 1970, Van Creveld recalls, King Hussein of Jordan attacked the Palestinians in his kingdom, killing perhaps 5,000 to 10,000. Sharon, serving as Commanding Officer, Southern Front, argued that Israel’s assistance to the king was a mistake; instead it should have tried to topple the Hashemite regime. Sharon has often said since that Jordan, which, according to him, has a Palestinian majority even now, is the Palestinian state, and thus a suitable destination for Palestinians to be kicvked out of his Greater Israel.

Van Creveld writes that Sharon has always nourished the idea of driving all Palestinians out.A US attack on Iraq sometime this summer would over appropriate cover. Sharon himself told Secretary of State Colin Powell that nothing happening in Israel should delay a US attack on Iraq. Other pretexts could include an uprising in Jordan, followed by the collapse of King Abdullah’s regime or a major terrorist outrage inside Israel.

Should such circumstances arise, according to Van Creveld, then Israel would mobilize within hours. “First, the country’s three ultra-modern submarines would take up firing positions out at sea. Borders would be closed, a news blackout imposed, and all foreign journalists rounded up and confined to a hotel as guests of the Government. A force of 12 divisions, 11 of them armored, plus various territorial units suitable for occupation duties, would be deployed: five against Egypt, three against Syria, and one opposite Lebanon. This would leave three to face east as well as enough forces to put a tank inside every Arab-Israeli village just in case their populations get any funny ideas.”

In Van Creveld’s view (he does say flatly that he is utterly opposed to any form of “transfer”), “The expulsion of the Palestinians would require only a few brigades. They would not drag people out of their houses but use heavy artillery to drive them out; the damage caused to Jenin would look like a pinprick in comparison. He discounts any effective response from Egypt, Syrpia, Lebanon or Iraq. “Saddam Hussein may launch some of the 30 to 40 missiles he probably has. The damage they can do, however, is limited. Should Saddam be mad enough to resort to weapons of mass destruction, then Israel’s response would be so ‘awesome and terrible’ (as Yitzhak Shamir, the former prime minister, once said) as to defy the imagination.”

But what about international reaction? Van Creveld thinks it would not be an effective deterrent. “If Mr Sharon decides to go ahead, the only country that can stop him is the United States. The US, however, regards itself as being at war with parts of the Muslim world that have supported Osama bin Laden. America will not necessarily object to that world being taught a lesson – particularly if it could be as swift and brutal as the 1967 campaign; and also particularly if it does not disrupt the flow of oil for too long.”

Israeli military experts estimate that such a war could be over in just eight days,” Van Creveld writes.”Ifthe Arab states do not intervene, it will end with the Palestinians expelled and Jordan in ruins. If they do intervene, the result will be the same, with the main Arab armies destroyed. Israel would, of course, take some casualties, especially in the north, where its population would come under fire from Hizbollah. However, their number would be limited and Israel would stand triumphant, as it did in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973.”

And just as Sharon prepares this mostrous act of ethnic cleansing, the US Congress votes unqualified support for anything Israel might do. Here are the lonely dissenters.

Only 2 No votes in the US Senate:

Hollings
Byrd

21 No Votes in the House:

Abercrombie
Hilliard
Obey
Bonior
Inslee
Paul
Boucher
Jackson (IL)
Petri
Condit (We guess the outgoing congressman from Modesto now feels free to disclose his true feelings about the Levy family.)
Kleczka
Rahall
Conyers
Lee
Rohrabacher
DeFazio
McKinney
Smith (MI)
Dingell
Miller, George
Stark.

29 Wimpy “Present” Votes, meaning that persons of conscience like Dennis Kucinich (recently consecrated by Studs Terkel) or Marci Kaptur, also from Ohio, could not quite muster the moral fortitude to do the right thing. We guess there’s no place for Palestinians in Kucinich’s latest prayer.

Baldwin
Kaptur
Peterson (MN)
Barr
Kilpatrick
Rivers
Becerra
Kind (WI)
Sabo
Bishop
Kucinich
Sanders
Brown (OH)
McDermott
Solis
Capuano
Mink
Thompson (CA)
Clayton
Mollohan
Thurman
Farr
Moran (VA)
Watt (NC)
Hostettler
Oberstar
Woolsey
Jones (OH)
Payne.

 

More articles by:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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