Netanyahu Must Stop the Immoral Demolition of West Bank Homes

Once again, Israel’s High Court is serving as the feeble echo of the defense establishment.

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Residents of the village of Idna inspecting Ziad Awad’s home after it was demolished by the IDF. July 2, 2014.
Residents of the village of Idna inspecting Ziad Awad’s home after it was demolished by the IDF. July 2, 2014.Credit: AP

The Israel Defense Forces rushed to destroy the house of Ziad Awad, suspected of murdering an off-duty policeman, after the High Court of Justice rejected a petition against demolishing the home. The IDF is now preparing for the demolition of dozens more houses in the West Bank. This immoral, inane policy — which breaches international law and which the IDF itself has deemed futile — is returning.

Over the weekend IDF officials visited the town of Awarta in the West Bank and measured the houses of the two men convicted of murdering the Fogel family. Other homes are also slated to be demolished: that of Nidal Amar, who abducted and murdered the soldier Tomer Hazan; that of the minor who murdered the soldier Eden Attias; and that of the murderers of Col. (res.) Seraiah Ofer. So are the houses of the two men suspected of abducting and killing the three yeshiva students in the West Bank: Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh.

The IDF is also considering the demolition of houses of Hamas leaders in the West Bank — people who were arrested during the search for the three teens — and of Palestinian prisoners released in the Gilad Shalit deal in 2011.

Had the High Court rejected, as it was expected to do, the petition against a suspect’s house, the IDF wouldn’t have dared to prepare for dozens more demolitions. But the court chose once again to serve as the feeble echo of the defense establishment. It caved entirely.

The three judges who rejected the petition, Miriam Naor, Yoram Danziger and Uri Shoham, chose to ignore not only international law, which prohibits collective punishment. They also ignored the conclusions of a military committee set up in 2005, which ruled that the limited deterrence achieved by destroying homes is not proportionate to the hatred and hostility that this measure stokes. Following the conclusions of this panel, which was formed by then-Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, Israel stopped demolishing terrorists’ homes.

Demolishing houses violates the Geneva Convention and Hague Regulations because it is collective punishment that punishes perpetrators’ wives, relatives and even neighbors for offenses they did not commit. Nor has demolition ever proved an effective deterrent in preventing further terror acts.

When the defense establishment is ruled by politicians who seek to assuage the public’s thirst for revenge, and the High Court chooses to legitimize this abomination, one can only hope that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exercises his moral and diplomatic judgment. He must order the IDF to refrain from these pointless acts.

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