Moral Low Ground

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Israel to Continue Demolishing Palestinian Homes Despite US, EU Criticism

Ruins of the home of Fatenah and ‘Azzam Idris, Beit Hanina. There had been two apartments in the building: one was home to the 8-member Idris family and the other to their relative Mai who lived there with her husband Baha a-Deb’i and their two minor children. (B'Tselem)

Ruins of the home of Fatenah and ‘Azzam Idris, Beit Hanina. There had been two apartments in the building: one was home to the 8-member Idris family and the other to their relative Mai who lived there with her husband Baha a-Deb’i and their two minor children. (B’Tselem)

Israel will continue its illegal policy of collectively punishing the families of Palestinian terrorists by demolishing their homes, despite protests by top American and European officials.

Ynet reports Israel has rejected an appeal by the ambassadors of the five largest European Union nations not to destroy the homes of Palestinians who carry out deadly attacks targeting Israelis.

The German, French, British, Italian and Spanish ambassadors told senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials that such demolitions were counterproductive and would only exacerbate mounting tensions, Haaretz reports.

In addition to the European ambassadors’ appeal, US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters on Wednesday that “punitive home demolitions are counterproductive to the cause of peace, especially in an already tense situation.”

Rathke noted that Israel recognized the ineffective and counterproductive nature of home demolitions and had previously halted the practice. In 2005, the Israeli army requested an end to the policy because it was doing Israel more harm than good by fomenting hatred among Palestinians.

Palestinian homes often house two or three generations under the same roof, with home demolitions usually harming many people, from babies to the elderly. But in the wake of horrific Palestinian terror attacks, like theJerusalem synagogue slaying that left five Jews dead earlier this week, Israeli leaders decided to resume demolishing perpetrators’ homes in a bid to deter future attacks.

“This is not meant to be punitive, but rather to dissuade others from carrying out terrorist attacks,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said following the meeting with the European diplomats.

Among the family homes demolished or slated for demolition are those of cousins Gamal and Uday Abu Jamal, the synagogue attackers; as well as those of Ibrahim al-Akari and Muataz Hijazi. Al-Akari drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians at East Jerusalem’s Tomb of Simeon last month, killing one Israeli and wounding numerous others, while Hijazi attempted to assassinate right-wing rabbi Yehuda Glick in Jerusalem, also last month.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem calls home demolitions “immoral and illegal.”

“A policy of punitive home demolition is fundamentally wrong, irrespective of effectiveness,” the group asserts. “It contravenes basic moral standards by punishing people for the misdeeds of others.”

Under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is signatory, “no persons may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” Violations are considered war crimes under the Convention.

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