Israel's High Court Approves One Demolition of Terrorist's Home, Rejects Another

Justices say they have not fully discussed renewed tactic of destroying family homes of Palestinian terrorists.

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Palestinians looking at a house that was demolished by the Israeli army, in the Qalandia refugee camp on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 16, 2015.
Palestinians look at a house that was demolished by the Israeli army, in the Qalandia refugee camp on the outskirts of Ramallah on Nov. 16, 2015.Credit: AP

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday vetoed the demolition of one terrorist’s house while approving the razing of another’s home.

The house the court ruled against razing belonged to the family of Nur al-Din Hashiya, who stabbed a soldier to death at a Tel Aviv train station in November 2014. The one it approved demolishing belonged to the family of one of the terrorists involved in the murder of Eitam and Naama Henkin in October 2015.

Hashiya’s family argued that since the demolition order against their house was issued only 11 months after the attack, it was clear the demolition served no real purpose. Justices Menachem Mazuz and Zvi Zylbertal accepted this argument, while Elyakim Rubinstein dissented.

Mazuz wrote that the lengthy delay undermined the legitimacy of the demolition and said the army couldn’t “turn the clock back.” Zylbertal added that the delay caused unnecessary hardship to the family.

“Leaving the petitioners in this situation for many months, where any day they were liable to receive a demolition order against their home, is a kind of ongoing ‘justice delayed,’ in which they don’t know when it will end – and this, it must be remembered, is when the ‘justice’ itself raises difficult moral dilemmas even in the view of those who support its use, and when the petitioners themselves weren’t party to the acts of their terrorist relative,” he wrote.

Rubinstein also criticized the lengthy delay and agreed that the entire house shouldn’t be razed, but said it would be acceptable to destroy part of it.

The second ruling was handed down by a different bench, comprised of Mazuz, Neal Hendel and Uri Shoham. That bench approved razing the home of Ragheb Ahmad Mohammad Aliwi, who was part of the Hamas cell that murdered the Henkins. The houses of three other cell members were razed last month.

Mazuz, who dissented from this ruling, said the court should hold another hearing on the entire issue of house demolitions. Their sudden resumption, after a decade in which this tactic wasn’t used, “raises a list of difficult legal questions that, in my view, have not yet been given a sufficient, up-to-date answer in this court’s rulings,” he argued.

Mazuz thereby effectively joined the dissent voiced by Justice Uzi Vogelman in an earlier house demolition case. Vogelman wrote that he opposed the sweeping use of house demolitions, saying their effectiveness as a deterrent hadn’t been proved, and even if they were effective, the harm they caused was disproportionate to their benefits.

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