BORDER POLICE Lod 58.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Police suspect that “honor” is the motive behind a spate of killings in Lod that
have left two men and two women dead.
None of the victims had a criminal
record; police believe that the four might have been two couples whose
relationships shamed their respective families.
Public Security Minister
Yitzhak Aharonovitch has said that “preventing murders, especially ‘family honor
killings,’ will not be achieved through increased enforcement, but through a
change in culture, education, legal deterrence... Police cannot replace health
workers, courts, social workers, teachers and parents.”
Indeed. We might
add, following the lead of Kwameh Anthony Appiah, a philosopher from Princeton
University, that some residents of Lod evidently need to revamp conceptions of
what constitutes honor and disgrace. As Appiah pointed out in his recently
released book The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen,
the desire to earn
the respect of those we care about motivates us more than any rational argument
or religious belief. The best way to prevent men from killing their wives and
daughters, and brothers from killing their sisters, is by convincing these
murderers and their collaborators and supporters that such acts are despicable
and a source of shame.
Anything but honor.
The Lod slayings have
targeted men as well as women (which might be one of the reasons that police are
still not completely sure that they were “honor killings”). But in most such
cases, woman alone are punished for besmirching the honor of the family. It is,
after all, much easier to bully women.
Misogynistic murders have taken
place in Southern Italy, Eastern Europe, and among Hindu and Sikh communities in
India. But the infamous practice apparently has its source in pre-Islamic Beduin
tribes and is a blight particularly for Muslim countries influenced by this
This is true despite the fact that it is utterly forbidden by
Shari’a, which underlines how concepts of honor trump religious
IN PAKISTAN, even the Western-educated elites share this warped
concept of honor, which shows that education alone is not enough to eradicate
it. Until just a few years ago, about 1,000 reported cases were reported there
every year. Thankfully, opposition to honor killings in Pakistan has grown in
recent years, principally because the practice is beginning to be seen shameful;
it hurts Pakistan’s standing in the world.
Closer to home, in Jordan and
Egypt, dozens of cases are reported each year, according to a November 2006
report by Human Rights Watch. In both countries, the practice is illegal.
However, culprits, if punished at all, end up serving no more than six months in
“Extenuating” circumstances include perpetrating the murder when
in a state of rage, or in response to even a baseless suspicion of an illicit
sexual act. Jordan’s and Egypt’s penal codes constitute law in the West Bank and
the Gaza Strip, respectively, and reflect identical societal norms. Palestinian
women who report abuse to the Palestinian Authority confront a system that
prioritizes family reputations over females’ well-being and lives. PA police and
clan leaders “resolve” these cases by letting victims suffer and criminals
Is this mindset true to the state that Palestinians dream one day
of creating? What is the sense in establishing yet another blinkered Muslim
state that permits its own mothers and daughters to live in fear? ARAB ISRAELIS,
meanwhile, also continue to maintain a warped conception of honor, as the Lod
slayings and numerous other honor killings make clear. Fear of punishment by
Israeli law has not eradicated the practice. Perhaps police are partially to
blame for tending to view the phenomenon as an internal Arab matter that does
not require police intervention.
Only a radical moral relativist can see
honor killings as a legitimate cultural, expression. This strain of moral
relativism in Europe has made it easier for Turks, Afghans, Moroccans and other
immigrant groups to import honor killings, sparking a debate over what some call
the transformation of Europe into “Eurabia.” Just this week, Germany’s
Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that multiculturalism had “utterly
But as Appiah has pointed out, punishment, rational arguments,
better police enforcement and education alone will not stop honor
Promoters of this despicable practice must be defamed, and even
ridiculed if need be, by peers and others whose respect they seek, until they
come to the realization that by performing honor killings they are bringing upon
themselves and upon others associated with them nothing but shame.