Friday, December 13, 2019

Israel collective punishment, a policy "of short-term view"


By Ary Gotlib - December 18, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [demolition] [Collective Punishment] [House Demolition] [Amari camp]

“I don’t care about this destruction but I dream to live in a safe place,” Ayed Abu Hmeid, 17,  who suffered destruction of the house he lived in, told Palestine Monitor.

 
On December 15, the Israeli army invaded the Am'ari refugee camp, in Ramallah’s east, in order to demolish the house of the Abu Hmeid family. In violation of international law, this demolition is a salient case of collective punishment.
 
The destruction of the house belonging to Latifa Abu Hmeid (known as Umm Nasser Abu Hmeid) was motivated by the alleged killing of an Israeli soldier on May 24 by one of her sons, Islam.
 
This third destruction - first in 1991, second in 2003 - had displaced four families from their surrounding house because of the power of the explosion; a double punishment for them.
 
These acts committed by the Israeli authorities are sanctioned by the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), which in Article 33 states: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise [...] are prohibited.”
 
Even in Deuteronomy, read as the last book of the Hebrew Bible warns: "the father shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be to death for the father; for his own sin" (24:16).
 
Do collective punishments fulfill their role?
 
The national media has dealt extensively with this brutal demolition which punishes an entire family and even a neighborhood for the murder perpetrated by one person.
 
It’s now a matter of considering the consequences of an action of such house’s destruction, and more generally, the collective punishments executed on Palestinians.
 
The Israeli state justifies that the demolition of residential structures would bring division within families and dissuade its members from committing further violence.
 
Ayed Abu Hmeid, grandson of Umm Nasser, lived all his life in the house recently demolished. Though, he doesn’t seem shocked by this destruction. "I was not worried about what happened, now my family and I feel strong!," he told Palestine Monitor, standing on a large pile of rubble looking at his old room.
 
"We are more united than ever, and Islam's gesture is only a response to the violence we suffer," Ayed Abu Hmeid said with pride.
 
For Shawan Jabarin, General Director of human rights organisation Al-Haq, in the Palestinian culture, the house has a central place which represents for each family these roots, the assurance of having a space to oneself. “That's what Israel is targeting," Jabarin told Palestine Monitor.
 
Nine homes were destroyed in 2018 which could be directly linked with a collective punishment, alike to the Abu Hmeid case. Seven in the northern city of Jenin, one in Tulkarm and one in Am’ari refugee camp, all located in Area A under Palestinian Authority control, according to last report of Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission.
 
These demolitions have affected nearly 80 people including 22 children.
 
Director of publishing and documenting violations for the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, Qasem Awwad, stated there has been a slight upsurge in recent years. Awwad noted that 459 houses were destroyed by Israel in 2018, nearly half of them in Jerusalem, by default of the so-hard to get building permits. “It’s another form of collective punishment, not confessed as such,” Awwad explained. This is an increase of 21% compared with 2017, as reported by OCHA.
 
Hicham Kadoumi, an advisor to the Colonization Resistance Commission, highlights there are a lot of ways to punish people collectively. He cited the Gaza blockade which is touching around two million people, the separation wall or the 300 checkpoints in West Bank or the revocation of residency permits for the entire family of a criminal.
 
Globally, these collective punishments are "bringing more violence, more anger, more frustration," Kadoumi said. "Why are they [the Israeli army] not demolishing houses of settlers who perpetrated violence against Palestinians?," he asked, criticizing Israel's variable geometry justice. On this note, settler attacks have tripled in 2018, as Haaretz reported.
 
Bader Araj, doctor in political sociology and assistant professor at Birzeit University, told Palestine Monitor that "67% of suicidal attacks since the Second Intifada are motivated by harsh israeli repression."
 
Araj confirmed that "collective punishments, of course are part of this repression and involve more and more Palestinians into the fight." The case of the Abu Hmeid family in Am'ari refugee camp is perhaps the perfect example when looking to the life trajectory of the son of Umm Nasser.
 
Shawan Jabarin, Director of Al-Haq, further claimed "Israel is the only state in the world to have a policy of house destruction in a punitive goal.”
 
A short-term policy
 
In 2005, an Israeli military committee headed by Major General Ehud Shani recommended to cease the use of home demolitions as a deterrent, and asserted that "the Israeli Defense Forces […] cannot tread the line of legality, let alone, the line of legitimacy!”
 
The Israeli Defense Minister briefly took this recommendation into account. This led to a halt of punitive home demolitions between March 2005 and July 2008 and May 2009 and May 2014. Demolitions started again since the Gaza war in 2014.
 
For the Director of Al-Haq, this renewal is the sign that “Israel has no strategic thinking and leaders, they just see on the short term,” analyzed Shawan Jabarin, criticizing the impact of a demolition on the moment, but the hate it brings for a long time.
 
“They say it is for security, but it can only bring insecurity,” he added, arguing that when people don’t have anything to lose, they are ready to do anything.
 
The policy of demolition house punishment, which is part of a broader framework of collective punishment, is now systematized in Israel. The experience on the ground, with the example of the Abu Hmeid family, shows that this brutal vision only reinforces the determination of Palestinians to fight, often with a higher level of violence, against injustice that they suffer.
 
In contrast to the deterrence sought by Israel, Palestinians sacrificing themselves in a desperate gesture become martyrs for many Palestinians who strengthen their determination.
 
Thus, Israel policy is closed in a situation of pure contradiction and total absence of retreat from the effects of a questionable policy.
 
In the near future, hopes to live with a lull in punitive demolition are low. For Jabarin, this policy will likely develop with the devastating effect that we already expecting. "Politically, Netanyahu is almost winning everything without losing anything."
 

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