Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Punitive house demolitions return in full force

By Grace O‘Brien - March 02, 2016
Section: [Main News] [Opinion]
Tags: [House Demolition]

Punitive House Demolitions are a supplementary penal sanction carried out on the property of the accused, without trial and without proof in court of the guilt of the person.

It is a procedure used against Palestinians who are involved or are suspected of involvement in attacks against Israelis. The policy is enforced under the assumption that such a measure would deter others from carrying out such attacks. However, the deterrent value of this policy has never been substantiated.

In fact, this policy was temporarily suspended in 2005 when the Israeli army conducted a study and concluded that rather than deterring attacks, attacks rose after the army began demolishing houses.

An internal Israeli army report published in 2003 estimated, “that there is no proof of the deterrent influence of the house demolitions." Nevertheless, the practice was subsequently reintroduced in 2014.

In the absence of any conclusive deterrent effect, the policy represents a draconian revenge tactic targeting the families of the accused, where their only connection to the alleged attacks is bloodline or marriage.

On Dec. 3, 2015 in Nablus, Israeli forces demolished one apartment in a four storey building. The apartment belonged to the family of Ragheb Elewi, a Palestinian man who stands accused of carrying out a stabbing attack on two Israeli settlers on Oct 1. 2015.

The demolition displaced his family of three, including a child. The explosion of the apartment seriously damaged five other apartments within the building, displacing seven other families consisting of 28 people, including 12 children according to UN reports.

Being accused - much less convicted - of a crime is therefore deemed sufficient grounds to have you, your family and persons living in your vicinity rendered homeless.

The policy is intricately discriminatory as it only applies to the families of Palestinians accused of attacks.

On July 31, 2015, Jewish extremist settlers burnt alive an 18 month old Palestinian boy in an arson attack in the West Bank village of Douma. The mother and father of the toddler later died from the extent of their burns, and his older 5 year old brother was also severely injured and now orphaned as a result of the attack.

While awaiting trial, they and their families’ identities remain undisclosed for protection. There is no threat of supplementary penal punishment by way of house demolition.

According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions  (ICAHD), some 2,300 Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians have occurred in the West Bank since 2006. In the vast majority of cases, these attackers are not pursued by the authorities - nor were their homes demolished.

Israel, as the occupying power in the West Bank, is obligated to ensure the safety of Palestinians in the West Bank, who are classified as a protected population under international law.

The demolition policy is blatantly disproportionate and contradictory to legal and democratic principles.

Israel has been proclaimed the only viable democracy in the Middle East, yet democracy is based on the stringent values of due process, innocent until proven guilty, and the right to a fair trial – all of which are notably absent with the decision to enforce this policy where innocent people are being punished for crimes they did not commit.

The practice is also breaches one of the most fundamental principles of justice under international law: the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits collective punishment, yet punitive house demolitions demonstrate this very practice.

The policy not only suppresses basic human rights under democratic and international law principles, it also enforces a discriminatory dual legal system between Palestinians and Israelis where Palestinians homes are wiped out, ravaged and destroyed on the basis of an accusation.

As the year progresses and tensions show no signs of subsiding - more than 180 Palestinians and 30 Israelis have been killed since October 2015 - and while punitive house demolitions forge ahead at full steam, the deterrent value of the policy remains difficult to defend.

Rather, devoid of any real purpose, it is more conceivable to brand it as a cruel and inhuman act of revenge.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the Palestine Monitor’s editorial policy.



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