Law abiding societies do not exact punishment on uninvolved parties. And it certainly doesn’t look good when the families of Palestinian terrorists are harmed while the homes of Jewish terrorists are left standing. One such punitive demolition leaves nine innocent people homeless Wednesday morning.
“Do not discriminate between blood and blood,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday night, calling for international condemnation of a murderous attack inside a synagogue that morning. Moments later, he announced the steps he plans to take in response to the senseless bloodletting.
“This evening I ordered the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the massacre and the hastening of the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the earlier attacks,” Netanyahu told the nation, asking it to allow the state to settle scores on its behalf.
Five months earlier, Netanyahu made a similar statement after the horrific murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir. “We don’t distinguish between [Palestinian] terror and [Jewish] terror, and will deal severely with both,” the prime minister said, vowing to bring the full force of the law down upon the murderers, who he said, “have no place in Israeli society.”
Of course, Netanyahu — like his predecessors — does discriminate between blood and blood, and he does distinguish between Jewish terror and Palestinian terror.
The prime minister did not order the police or army to demolish family homes of the suspects in the Abu Khdeir murder. Then again, they, and their families who live in said homes, are Jewish.
In 2005, when Eden Natan-Zada — an army deserter and follower of Kahane Chai, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the EU — killed four Arab citizens of Israel and wounded a dozen others, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon called him “a bloodthirsty Jewish terrorist.” His family’s home was not demolished.
In 2002, when “Bat Ayin” underground members were arrested and convicted of attempting to bomb a Palestinian girls’ school in East Jerusalem, nobody ordered their family homes demolished.
In 1994, after settler Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 and wounded 125 Palestinian worshipers in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin called the American-born doctor a “foreign implant” and “an errant weed.” He did not order Goldstein’s family home demolished.
A decade earlier, in 1984, when members of the “Jewish Underground” terrorist group were arrested while placing bombs under Palestinian buses in Jerusalem, their harsh prison sentences were commuted. Needless to say, their family homes were not demolished.
Ineffective, illegal and just plain wrong
Israeli police on Tuesday arrested at least 10 family members of the terrorists — including their mothers — who murdered four Jewish worshipers just hours earlier. Their detentions are troublesome but they will most likely be released, assuming Israeli security services cannot directly tie them to the attack. Why? Because being related to a criminal — or even to a terrorist — is not a crime.
And yet, these family members who have committed no crime, will be punished. They will be made homeless. Why? Two reasons. The first, Netayahu explained: revenge. “As a state, we will settle accounts with all of the terrorists,” he said at his Tuesday evening press conference.
The second rationale: deterrence. How better to deter someone who is willing to die than make sure they know that you will punish their family for your deeds. Logical, perhaps. Effective, not so much.
Up until this summer, Israel hadn’t used home demolitions as a punitive measure since 2005, following an army report that said it was not an effective deterrent against terrorism.
The practice is also illegal under international law, Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights groups say.
But efficacy and legality aside, collective punishment is simply wrong. Civilized, democratic and law abiding societies do not exact punishment on uninvolved parties. They do not exact punishments that aren’t dictated by a penal code and ordered by a court.
A situation where the prime minister intentionally causes great harm and pain to completely innocent and uninvolved parties in order to exact revenge and “send a message,” and does so only to perpetrators of one race or nationality, is vigilantism, not justice.
Nine civilians left homeless
On Wednesday morning Israeli police demolished Abdelrahman Shaloudi’s family home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
Shaloudi ran down and killed two people in late October, including a three-month-old baby. He was shot and killed by Israeli security forces at the scene of that attack.
Nine people lived in the apartment Israel demolished Wednesday morning. None of them had anything to do with the attack.
The return of punitive home demolitions
PHOTOS: The face of Israel’s discriminatory home demolition policy
House demolitions: Zionism’s constant background noise