Newly Appointed Supreme Court Justice Says Home Demolitions Contradict 'Israel's Values'

Khaled Kabub, Israel's first Muslim justice, argued in a dissenting opinion that the state shouldn't punish the family of a Palestinian man who killed three people in a May attack. But the majority justices upheld the demolition

Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit
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Khaled Kabub, Israel's first Muslim Supreme Court Justice, has come out in opposition of Israel's policy of demolition terrorists' homes.
Khaled Kabub, Israel's first Muslim Supreme Court Justice, has come out in opposition of Israel's policy of demolition terrorists' homes.Credit: Ami Shoman
Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit

Supreme Court Justice Khaled Kabub has come out in opposition of Israel's policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinians accused of terrorism, arguing that it goes against the country's values.

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Kabub, Israel's first Muslim justice who joined the bench last month, expressed his opposition in his dissent to a ruling upholding the demolition of the family belonging to one of the terrorists responsible for May’s deadly attack in Elad, which killed three people and wounded four. The majority justices, Yosef Elron and Gila Canfy Steinitz, upheld the demolition on Thursday.

The state must protect its citizens "without harming the lives, property, possessions and rights of innocents who committed no crime," Kabub argued.

The issue of home demolitions has long divided Israel's top court, and was one of the reasons why Justice Menachem Mazuz decided to take early retirement last year.

“I thought demolishing homes is an immoral step that violates the law and is of dubious effectiveness,” Mazuz told Haaretz at the time. “In my view, this is done to appease public opinion, when even the leadership knows this isn’t what will prevent the next attack.”

Kabub argued that the state could have made do with sealing up an assailant's room, rather than destroying the whole house. He noted that he thereby joins the many justices before him who have argued that “Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state, especially since the enactment of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, leads to the conclusion that we shouldn’t take the drastic step of demolishing the home of the terrorist’s nuclear family in its entirety when he lives with his parents and siblings, or his wife and children, and when there is no claim that they abetted his actions.”

No one disputes that the home “wasn’t actually used for terrorist activity,” he continued, nor did Assad al-Rifai – who carried out the attack – own it. His parents “weren’t involved at all, and that’s even more true of his minor siblings.”

Kabub also urged the court to hold a hearing with an expanded panel of justices on the fundamental questions raised by the petition.

Elron, who wrote the majority opinion, said that “the graver the act, the greater the level of deterrence needed.” In this case, he noted, al-Rifai and his partners planned the attack in advance, acquired knives and axes and even prepared wills on the assumption that they might be killed during the attack. Al-Rifai also played a central role in executing the attack.

Moreover, the material presented to the court indicated that the attack was planned in that very house, the court said.

For all these reasons, Elron argued, the home should be demolished, to deter others from carrying out lethal attacks that leave behind “grieving families, hurting orphans” and victims who are physically disabled and psychologically scarred.

No one disputes that home demolitions are a “drastic” step, Elron added, “but ultimately, Assad’s choices and his inhuman actions led his family into their current distress. If others who want to commit terror attacks seek to spare their families this suffering, they can do so.”

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