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From the field

HCJ continues to approve punitive house demolitions and the policy of harming the innocent

OC Central Command made a decision last week to demolish the home where the two individuals charged with perpetrating the terror attack that killed Baruch Mizrahi live with their families. The house is currently home to two families: a total of 13 individuals, including eight children. This total does not include the two Palestinians charged with the attack, Ziad ‘Awwad and his son ‘Iz a-Din, who are in Israeli custody. In its petition to the High Court of Justice, seeking to have the demolition order overturned, Israeli human right organization HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual demonstrated that the house in question is owned by Muhammad ‘Awawdeh, Ziad ‘Awwad’s bother. Consequently, OC Central Command ordered that only one section of the house be destroyed: the top-floor apartment, in which the ‘Awwad family lives. HaMoked appended an expert engineer opinion to its petition, stating that detonation of this apartment would jeopardize the soundness of the entire structure.

Earlier today, the HCJ justices denied HaMoked’s petition filed on behalf of the family and other human right organization. This ruling was not particularly surprising in view of previous cases. Over the years, in fact over the decades, the HCJ has rejected the vast majority of petitions against punitive home demolitions, and unfailingly refused to recognize the unlawfulness of this measure. Judicial censure was generally limited to technical matters regarding implementation of the power to decide on demolitions.

Since the occupation began in 1967, the Israeli military has carried out the demolition of hundreds of homes to punish relatives of Palestinians who harmed or allegedly harmed Israelis. This policy rendered homeless thousands of people who were not themselves accused of any wrongdoing. In 2005 the military abandoned this policy, after the security establishment had found that the policy’s drawbacks outweigh its benefits. Nevertheless, OC Central Command issued orders to demolish the ‘Awwad family home. The state considers this measure justified in view of a radical change of circumstances.

B’Tselem finds the state’s position unreasonable and believes it is meant only to lend legal sanction to the Israeli government’s interest in adopting draconian measures, including collective punishment, in response to the charged public atmosphere surrounding the abduction and killing of three yeshiva students. Despite being extreme, the HCJ nearly always sanctions such measures.

A policy of punitive home demolition is fundamentally wrong, irrespective of effectiveness. It contravenes basic moral standards by punishing people for the misdeeds of others.