Israel Intensifies Controversial Demolition Policy; Home of Young Palestinian Assailant’s Family to be Destroyed

by Ryan Lee
Israel's Demolition Policy

The apartment in east Jerusalem, once a lively sanctuary for the Zalabani family, now stands vacant, its walls unadorned and furniture disassembled. It is a stark contrast to its vibrant state in early February, when the Zalabanis gathered for a family meal of stewed chicken and richly flavored rice. The gathering was their last in the apartment, as Israel’s Supreme Court recently upheld a decision to demolish the third-floor residence where they have lived for nearly three years.

Demolition experts arrived last week to inform the Zalabani family that their home will be destroyed within days, following the court’s dismissal of their appeal. The family’s ordeal has garnered attention, raising questions about Israel’s policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian attackers, particularly as tensions rise in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. The government, dominated by far-right parties, has expanded this policy, defending it as a measure to deter future attacks.

Fida Zalabani, the mother of 13-year-old Mohammed who is currently in juvenile detention for an attack on an Israeli police officer, expressed despair at the impending loss of her home. “Such actions will be remembered by my children and our community. This is not a solution,” she stated, as she recalled the emotional investment made in building and decorating their home.

Mohammed’s attack came two weeks after witnessing the fatal shooting of a teenage friend by Israeli police. The young assailant was subdued, and during the altercation, a security guard accidentally killed his own colleague.

Human rights organizations, including HaMoked, which represented the Zalabani family in court, have criticized these demolitions as collective punishment. They argue that the demolitions displace family members who had no involvement in the attacks, thus exacerbating an already tense situation. “Such actions are clearly illegal and morally indefensible,” commented Jessica Montell, director of HaMoked.

The controversial policy has not only drawn criticism from international bodies and Western governments but also divides opinion within Israel. Some security experts argue that demolishing homes might serve to inflame tensions further rather than serve as an effective deterrent.

The recent surge in violence has brought renewed scrutiny to Israel’s deterrence strategy. Despite increased home demolitions and military incursions into Palestinian territories, the wave of attacks continues unabated. Former security officials, including Ami Ayalon, former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, caution that such actions may contribute to the cycle of violence by breeding further resentment.

The policy dates back to regulations established during the British Mandate in 1945 and was adopted by Israel after the 1967 Mideast war. Although some security officials assert that the demolitions contribute to curbing attacks, an Israeli army panel in 2005 recommended discontinuing the practice, finding it to be ineffective and counterproductive.

The current Israeli government, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has escalated the demolitions as part of a more aggressive stance against rising Palestinian attacks. According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, Israeli forces have destroyed a dozen homes for punitive reasons in the first half of 2023 alone, rendering nearly 60 Palestinians homeless.

The case of the Zalabani family introduces an additional layer of complexity, as it marks the first time Israel has targeted the family home of such a young assailant. This action, according to HaMoked, signifies a concerning escalation under the current government.

The decision comes at a time when Israel’s Supreme Court faces mounting pressure from the government, which is pursuing plans to weaken the court’s influence, labeling it as overly liberal and interventionist. Legal experts suggest that this politicized environment has influenced recent judicial rulings related to Palestinians.

As tensions between the judiciary and the government intensify, experts like David Kretzmer, an authority in international law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, point out that the court is increasingly navigating a fraught political landscape, cautious of antagonizing a government aligned with ultranationalist Jewish settlers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Israel’s Demolition Policy

What is the main focus of the article?

The main focus of the article is Israel’s controversial policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian attackers, as exemplified by the case of the Zalabani family, whose residence is slated for destruction.

Who are the Zalabani family?

The Zalabani family are Palestinians residing in east Jerusalem. Their home is set to be demolished following an attack carried out by 13-year-old Mohammed Zalabani on an Israeli police officer.

What stance does the Israeli government take on home demolitions?

The Israeli government, currently dominated by far-right parties, defends home demolitions as a necessary deterrent against further attacks by Palestinian assailants.

What is the criticism against this policy?

Human rights organizations, Western governments, and even some Israeli officials criticize the policy as a form of collective punishment that disproportionately affects innocent family members and exacerbates existing tensions.

How has this policy evolved over time?

Originally based on British Mandate regulations from 1945, Israel adopted the policy after the 1967 Mideast war. An Israeli army panel recommended discontinuing the practice in 2005, finding it ineffective. However, the policy was resumed in 2014 and has escalated under the current government.

What impact has the policy had in the first half of 2023?

According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, Israeli forces have destroyed a dozen homes for punitive reasons in the first half of 2023, rendering nearly 60 Palestinians homeless.

How is the Israeli judiciary involved in this issue?

Israel’s Supreme Court has the authority to hear appeals against home demolitions but has increasingly upheld the government’s decisions, especially under political pressures from the current government, which seeks to weaken the judiciary’s influence.

What are the future implications of this policy?

The article suggests that the continued implementation of home demolitions risks further inflaming tensions and resentment among Palestinians, potentially leading to an escalation in violence. Legal experts also express concern over the politicization of the judiciary amidst this controversial policy.

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Tim H August 31, 2023 - 3:36 pm

Whoa, this gets under ur skin. Can’t imagine having my home destroyed because of someone else in my family. Needs a change for sure.

Rachel W August 31, 2023 - 9:49 pm

The history behind the policy is intriguing, but it’s 2023! Time to move on from outdated measures that clearly don’t work.

Anna J August 31, 2023 - 10:30 pm

great job shedding light on this issue. Had no idea about the supreme court’s involvement. Honestly, isn’t there a better way?

Sarah K September 1, 2023 - 7:43 am

This article is so detailed, makes you think twice about what’s going on in that part of the world. so much for justice, huh?

John Miller September 1, 2023 - 7:50 am

Wow, this is an eye-opener. really shows how complicated the issue is. Can’t believe that demolishing homes is still considered a valid tactic in modern times.

Mike L September 1, 2023 - 10:01 am

Well researched but still kinda depressing. Demolishing homes as a form of deterrence just sounds wrong. Anyone else think this is collective punishment?


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