Editorial

Don’t Punish the Families

Collective punishment is wrong in principle. It is illegal, immoral and illegitimate, like any deliberate act to hurt innocent people who are not involved in wrongdoing

Palestinians put up a memorial tent and poster in Jabal Mukkaber for Fadi al-Qanbar, who rammed his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, killing four, Jan. 9, 2017.
Palestinians put up a memorial tent and poster in Jabal Mukkaber for Fadi al-Qanbar, who rammed his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, Jan. 9, 2017. Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

Fadi Qunbar killed four soldiers in a car-ramming attack and was shot dead by soldiers and civilians. So far his family has been punished in the following ways: The house his wife and children lived in was sealed off – the youngest child was nine months old at the time – and the state decided to revoke the Israeli residency of 12 of his family members, which means deporting them from Israel, where they are residents of East Jerusalem, to the West Bank.

If this weren’t enough, now Israel has filed an 8 million-shekel (about $2.25 million) damages suit against his widow and children, claiming that Qunbar’s heirs must compensate the state for benefits and payments to the bereaved families of the soldiers killed in the attack.

This suit is part of several measures the state has taken against the Qunbar family and should not be seen as a separate move. It is part of the state’s collective punishment of terrorists’ families. The collective punishment of Palestinians consisted so far of sealing off and demolishing houses and evicting families. Now the state is adding damages suits against the families to the repertoire.

Collective punishment is wrong in principle. It is illegal, immoral and illegitimate, like any deliberate act to hurt innocent people who are not involved in wrongdoing. Collective punishment expands the circle of retribution and revenge, adding more people to the cycle of violence.

Israel has created for itself an extensive immunity from suits over damages the IDF’s actions cause people and property in the West Bank, claiming that the army is engaged in warfare or combat activity, for which it is not possible to file for damages. But when it comes to Palestinians, all means are seen as kosher in Israel’s war against terror.

This double standard was demonstrated again this week in the High Court of Justice’s decision to deny a petition to demolish or seal off the homes of the murderers of the Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir, as is common policy with homes of Palestinian terrorists.

The petitioners said the state discriminated between Jews and Arabs regarding the demolition of terrorists’ houses. The court denied the petition, but for the wrong reason. The court ruled that if the army thought demolishing Jewish terrorists’ homes was conducive to deterring potential Jewish terrorists, it must apply this measure as it does against Arab assailants.

But the solution to violating human rights does not lie in enabling collective punishment against Jews as well, but in ruling that collective punishment is absolutely wrong, always.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.