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The HCJ rejects a petition to demolish the family homes of Israeli Jewish assailants: “Given the difficulties arising from exercising the authority under Regulation 119… it seems it would be wrong to extend it to other attribution groups regarding whom even the state considers it unnecessary at this stage”

On July 4, 2017, the High Court of Justice (HCJ) unanimously rejected a petition by a Palestinian couple from East Jerusalem, filed in a bid to compel the state to demolish the homes of three Israeli Jews who burned to death the family’s 16-year old boy. The justices emphasized that the primary grounds for rejecting the petition was the substantial delay of some two years between the killing and the family’s demand to exercise the authority to demolish homes against the convicted killers’ families. In this the justices cited the precedent established in HaMoked’s petition (HCJ 6745/15), where a punitive demolition order was revoked due to its delayed issuance some 11 months after the attack, with the court ruling that the deterrence aim underlying Regulation 119 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations required using the Regulation as quickly as possible after the event prompting its exercise.

As to the petition’s core question, Deputy President (ret.) Rubinstein said: “The demolition or sealing of a Jewish terrorist’s home resulting in saving the life of even just one person justifies use of the Regulation [119]”; hence, it is impossible – on the principle level – to accept the state’s position whereby there was no need to use the measure of punitive home demolition against Jewish assailants. However, the court also ruled that each case should be considered individually based on its particulars, and that the final decision as to the effectiveness and desirability of such deterrence in the specific case was in the hands of the security entities. Justice Hendel added that the data presented by the state on the court’s instruction shows that the state opts – due to non-necessity or disproportionality – not to use Regulation 119 even when the offenders are Palestinian citizens of Israel. Therefore, the court rejected the petitioners’ claim regarding discriminatory enforcement of the punitive demolition policy, ruling there was no foundation for the contention that the state’s decision in this case was tainted by racism.

HaMoked reiterates its position that punitive demolition of homes – whether homes of Palestinians or Jews – is collective punishment prohibited under international law and contrary to the basic principle of Israeli law that a person is not to be punished for acts committed by another. HaMoked has often asserted in its petitions that the state’s use of punitive demolition only in cases where the offender was a Palestinian from the OPT and the victim a Jew pointed to severe discrimination, stressing all the same that if the citizens of the State of Israel were spared this illicit and vindictive sanction, it was all the more important to avoid using it against the protected population of the OPT. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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