Home Demolitions in Hebron

While many facts about the kidnapping of three Israeli settlers in early June, remain unclear, specifically to the public, one reality remains clear: Israel will pull no punches in sending a message to the Palestinians.

There are some points of this story that cannot be contested. We know that Israeli military orders to demolish three Palestinian community buildings left 22 Palestinian children of the Kawasamas and Abuaisha families with no home in early hours of the morning August 18. Eight families in total have been displaced as a result of the midnight assault. Additionally, the three multi-family structures that have been demolished, will likely not be issued building permits to re-construct them. Two of the three suspects have yet to stand trial for the alleged kidnappings – which raises concerns for the legal legitimacy of issuing the home demolition in the first place. Furthermore, the interrogation and subsequent confession of one Palestinian man, by Israel’s secret security service the Shin Bet (which has a long history of torture) is Israel’s High Court of Justice’s (HCJ) justification for the displacement of 39 Palestinians.

Although it is important to discuss , it’s crucial to look at the disparity between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians in Israel’s legal system, and who benefits from the rule of law and how this perpetuates Israel’s position in the West Bank.

These Palestinian families have known for well over a month that the home demolitions were imminent. Hamoked – an Israeli rights organization – filed three separate petitions in the Israeli High Court.

A man stands in cement at Marwan al-Qawasmi house which was sealed off with cement

A man stands in cement at Marwan al-Qawasmi house which was sealed off with cement

They argued that “demolishing a family home was a cruel and inhuman act of doubtful efficacy, and that demolishing the homes of the suspects’ families constituted a deliberate attack against innocent people, in violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits collective punishment and destruction of property.”

HaMoked continued, stating that the planned demolitions did not meet the test of proportionality of Regulation 119 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, which sanctions such punishment – an old British Mandate Law Israel has adopted and uses frequently against Palestinians.

Lastly they objected to the home demolition on the basis that Israeli military only “uses the regulation only when the attacker is a Palestinian and the victim is a Jew, demonstrates extreme discrimination.”

The Israeli High Court of Justice’s arguments in favor of the Israeli military not only represented a continuation of collective punishment policies and the suppression of basic human rights granted to the Palestinians under international law, but also delivered a blow to the rule of law by setting dangerous precedents and perpetuating a dual-system of law for Israelis and Palestinians .

(Some articles contend that Israel is “renewing” a policy of home demolition, but this is misleading considering that the number of Palestinian structures demolished by the Israeli government doubled from 192 buildings in 2012 to 393 in 2013, displacing 854 Palestinians in just two years.)

The High Court Justices Yoram Danziger, Issac Amit, and Noam Sohlberg (a troika that has a checkered history) retorted that the demolitions were essential to deter acts of violence – particularly given “the significant deterioration of the security situation.”

This argument is particularly dubious considering that “the significant deterioration of the security situation” is as much a function of Palestinians resisting the Israel’s decade’s-long military occupation of the West Bank. (The reasons for the spike in violence across the West Bank is murky at best).

The legal unit representing the Palestinians argued that the ruling is discriminatory because Israel doesn’t exercise a policy of equality, since Israel does not demolish the homes of Jewish terrorists.

Consider the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager that was kidnapped and forced to drink flammable liquids before being burnt alive early last month at the hands of Jewish terrorists.

Yosef Haim Ben-David, an Israeli from the illegal settlement of Adam in the West Bank, explicitly stated in his confession to the kidnapping and murder that, “We planned to hurt a soul, meaning to kill… to torture him and kill him,” and continued onto say that, “to [let  know  Muhammad Abu Khdeir] that he was about to die as a sacrifice for the Jews that were murdered.”

How did the Israeli legal system respond? . Slightly different than demolishing the homes of eight Palestinian families – especially when there has yet to be a formal trial for the suspects.

When this analogy between the deaths and kidnappings of Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the three Israeli boys (Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah) was presented to the Israeli High Court, Justice Yoram Danziger responded, “I’m not overlooking the shocking case of the murder of the teenage boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a case that shocked the country and sparked wall-to-wall condemnations, but this was the rarest of rare occurrences.”

It’s hard to understand Danziger’s working definition of rare, considering that Israeli settler violence quadrupled in the last eight years across the West Bank.

Since 2006, there have been 2,100 attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers. Additionally, annual attacks are up from 115 in 2006 to nearly 400 in 2013 and 2014’s numbers are also on the rise.

But after 47 years of Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, the Palestinian families were not shocked at the court’s decision on the petitions, the violent way in which the homes were destroyed and the collateral damage of the explosions which displaced more families than what the court order ruled appropriate. For the Kawasamas, and Abuaisha families, it was just another chapter of injustice, through which possessions, homes and livelihoods have been destroyed – which plagues daily life for Palestinians living under the violence of occupation.

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About Christian Peacemaker Teams Palestine

CPT Palestine is a faith-based organization that supports Palestinian-led, non-violent grassroots resistance to the Israeli occupation.
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