Israel demolition practice: Controversial measure in violation of international law

Friday 02/10/2015
A measure that only serves to increase tensions

JERUSALEM - Israel demolished Tuesday the houses of two Palestinians involved in attacks last year, reverting to a controversial measure it claims is a deterrent. Here is an explanation of the practice:
Security forces destroyed the former homes of Ghassan Abu Jamal and Mohammed Jaabis in the Jabel Mukaber district in east Jerusalem, the Palestinian side of the city annexed by Israel.
Israel had for several years stopped this form of punishment in Jerusalem, despite using it widely in the occupied West Bank.
But this changed on November 19, 2014, after orders from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli forces blew up the east Jerusalem home of Abdelrahman Shaludi, a Palestinian who the previous month had killed a Ecuadorian woman and a 22-month-old baby when he rammed his car into them, before being shot by police.
At the time, with tensions already high, several other homes were also slated for demolition.
However, the government did not destroy them, perhaps waiting for a more suitable time. One home to be razed was in the volatile Shuafat refugee camp.
Until November 2014, Israel had not resorted to punitive demolitions in Jerusalem since 2009, according to Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer who specialises in issues related to the city.
The demolitions are intended to deter Palestinians who may not fear for their own lives in carrying out attacks, but who could be concerned with the welfare of the families they leave behind.
Israeli rights organisation B'Tselem says that the main victims of such demolitions are relatives forced to pay for another person's actions.
Israel's close ally the United States has been among those who have said the measure only serves to increase tensions.
Officials at the Israeli defence ministry seemed to share this point of view in 2005, at the end of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. After 664 home demolitions across the occupied territories in previous years, they ordered an end to them.
Instead of acting as a deterrent, they actually provoked Palestinians into carrying out attacks, the army had concluded. Despite that, such demolitions continued outside of Jerusalem.
Before Tuesday's demolitions, the Israeli army demolished the house of a man said to be a Hamas official in the Jenin refugee camp during a raid to arrest him in September. The man was released a few days later.