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Punitive Israeli House Demolitions

by Stephen Lendman Tuesday, Dec. 02, 2014 at 1:52 PM


Punitive Israeli House Demolitions

Stephen Lendman

Israeli occupation ruthlessly oppresses millions of Palestinians. For praying to the wrong God.

For wanting rights everyone deserves. Including living free on their own land in their own country.

Home demolitions constitute collective punishment. Against Palestinians. A flagrant Fourth Geneva violation.

Since June 1967, Israel demolished over 48,000 Palestinian houses and other structures. Dispossessing occupants.

Israeli authorities claiming Regulation 119 authority. Of the 1945 British Mandate Defense (Emergency) Regulations. Long outdated.

Incorporated into Israeli law. Granting broad discretionary powers. Imposing excessive punishment. By administrative order.

Without due process or judicial fairness. Draconian by any standard. Prohibiting the destruction of public or private property.

In occupied territory. Except under conditions of military necessity.

Israel continues what Britain began.

Including "razing" agricultural fields. Groves. Other property. For punitive reasons. Masquerading as "security" ones.

House demolitions violate international and Israeli law. A fundamental notion that no one should be punished for acts of others.

Israel's policy is arbitrary. Ruthless. Illegal. Final. Palestinians may  appeal. Nearly always to no avail. Israel's High Court ignores international law. Refuses to prohibit the practice.

Outrageously calling demolitions "proportionate." Lawful "deterrence" against attacks. Despite no evidence whatever proving it.

Under Regulation 119 of Britain's 1945 Defense (Emergency) Regulations, houses may be demolished on suspicion of illegal acts.

Including homes of suspects and relatives. Neighbors and other community members affected. The HaMoked Israeli human rights group calls the practice questionable, saying:

"(G)iven its cancellation by the British before the end of their Mandate, and regardless it contradicts several provisions of international humanitarian law."

Fourth Geneva protects civilians in times of war and occupation. Article 53 states:

"Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations."

Under Article 33, ""no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed."

"Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited…Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited."

From 1967 - 1987, Israel demolished over 1,300 Palestinian houses. Sealed others. At times some rooms only.

Mostly late at night. Without trial, judicial fairness, or proof of wrongdoing. Most often, unconnected to loss of live or injuries.

Until the outbreak of the first Intifada (December 1987 - October 1991).

In November 1979, Israel's High Court legitimized Regulation 119 of Britain's 1945 Defense (Emergency) Regulations.

Approving house demolitions as a punitive "deterrence." Including sealing rooms used by residents convicted of offenses.

In August 1982, High Court justices turned international law on its head. Ruling house demolitions don't constitute collective punishment.

Rejecting a petition. Against intended house demolitions. Belonging to families of convicted residents. According to HaMoked:

"The High Court of Justice determine(d) that the purpose of Regulation 119 is deterrence which may also be directed at those close to the offender, but that it does not amount to collective punishment."

"It…further held that the military commander may act pursuant to the Regulation without need for a conviction, but that he may do so in exceptional circumstances only and following due discretion and examination."

During the first Intifada (1987 - 1991), Israel demolished 430 Palestinian houses. Acting arbritrarily. Punitively.

Without just cause. Lacking clear criteria to act. Demolishing homes of suspected criminals. Allegedly threatening Israeli lives.

Suspected "agitators." Supposedly resisting arrest. Despite no evidence proving it.

Demolishing houses of individuals unrelated to suspects. Ones they rented. Whose owners had no connection to alleged criminal activity.

In July 1989, Israel's High Court ruled that except when "military operational requirements" are concerned, prior demolition warnings must be served.

Occupants may challenge military commander orders. Including before the High Court. Despite virtually no chance of prevailing.

In what Israel calls "urgent cases," houses may be sealed. Occupants must be advised of their right to appeal.

In March 1992, Israel's High Court ruled military demolition authority isn't restricted to specific residential units.

Applicable to entire structures. Whether occupants are guilty or innocent.

Justice Shneor Cheskin dissented. Ruling units of convicted offenders alone could be demolished.

Saying Regulation 119's letter and spirit long ago vanished. Inapplicable under Israeli and international law.

Ruling otherwise supports illegal collective punishment. "The military commander is not authorized to impose" it, Cheskin ruled.

It's longstanding Israeli practice. Especially in times of war.

Post-Oslo, from September 1993 - 1997, Israel punitively demolished 24 houses. Targeting families of suspected perpetrators or instigators of suicide attacks.

In February 1993 (pre-Oslo), Israel's High Court prohibited a house demolition. Calling it unreasonable. A rare exception. Proving the rule.

Upholding a mother's petition. Her son convicted of murder. Justices calling demolishing her home disproportionate punishment. Unreasonable.

In March 1993, HaMoked petitioned Israel's High Court. On behalf of two families. Facing home demolitions.

One a suicide bomber's family. The other of a man allegedly planning an attack.

HaMoked argued that innocent individuals shouldn't be punished. Deterrence isn't effective. It doesn't work. Evidence proves it.

High Court Justices disagreed. Ruling otherwise. Justice Dalia Dorner's minority opinion said demolition orders shouldn't be implemented against homes where assailants lived. Only against perpetrators.

In March 1996, High Court justices ruled demolition orders apply to houses inside Israel. Provided Defense (Emergency) Regulations are interpreted in the spirit of Israeli Basic Law.

During the second Intifada (September 2000 - February 2005), Israel punitively demolished 664 Palestinian houses.

To deter "terrorist" attacks. Despite no evidence suggesting it works. Plenty showing otherwise.

In July 2002, in response to HaMoked's petition, Israel's High Court issued an interim order.

Suspending two home demolitions. Of families of suspected "terrorists." In March 2005, Israel abandoned its demolition orders. Family homes were saved.

In July 2002, Israel's security cabinet renewed its punitive demolition policy.

In August 2002, Hamoked petitioned Israel's High Court. On behalf of 35 families of suspected "terrorists."

To save their homes from demolition. Three of the 35 homes were already destroyed. HaMoked petitioned justices to give families time to appeal. Save their belongings.

Justices ruled a hearing may be denied. If there's cause for concern about jeopardizing Israeli soldiers' lives.

Their ruling lets IDF commanders grant or deny hearing rights. During wartime operations. In punitive operations against civilians.

In August 2002, Hamoked filed nine more petitions. In cases of exceptional circumstances. Including an occupant's health.

Petitions were denied. Justices ruling families had enough time to appeal in writing.

In October 2003, Israel's High Court ruled that the IDF must present a written order. Explaining its source of authority. Reasons for its decision to deny a demolition case hearing.

In February 2005, Israel's Defense Minister suspended punitive home demolitions. The ruling lasting around three years.

In August 2008, Israel announced its intention to demolish an alleged assailant's East Jerusalem family home.

Israel's High Court issued an interim order against it. State authorities sealed two floors instead.

HaMoked petitioned against it. To no avail.

In March 2009, Israel's High Court legitimized Regulation 119 of Britain's Defense (Emergency) Regulations.

Permitting demolition of an East Jerusalem apartment building. Belonging to an alleged assailant's father.

In May 2009, High Court Justices ruled against HaMoked. Rejecting its civil claim. On behalf of an alleged suicide bomber's family. Denying compensation for destroyed property.

In February 2011, eight years after demolishing a Hebron family home, Israel agreed to compensate a neighbor. For property damaged by uncontrolled use of explosives.

In June 2014, in response to three Israeli youth abductions, Israel demolished various Palestinian homes punitively.

In late June, a Hebron District Idna Village home was demolished. Belonging to the family of an alleged assailant.

Around the same time, HaMoked petitioned Israel's High Court against punitive home demolitions.

Noting Israel's military agreed on the policy's ineffectiveness as a deterrent. To no avail. Justices rejected its petition. An Idhna family apartment was demolished.

In July, following reports of preparations for dozens of demolitions, HaMoked petitioned Israel's Defense Minister. Demanding an illegal policy not be reinstituted. To no avail.

In August, Israel's High Court dismissed HaMoked's petitions. Against punitively demolishing three Hebron homes.

In late August, Israel's attorney general said demolishing terrorists' homes will be ordered in "extreme cases."

In mid-November, Israel ordered East Jerusalem punitive demolitions. Of four city residents. Alleged assailants.

Objections may be filed within 48 hours. Virtually never successful. Rare exceptions prove the rule.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

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