Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Demolishing equality

Two recent stories in the Jerusalem Post relate to a phenomenon unique to Israel among developed democracies: the systematic demolition of houses carried out by the State for a variety of reasons.

On Mar 18, 2009, the JPost reported:

Supreme Court okays destroying terrorist's home

In a ruling that could end the five-year freeze on the practice of home demolitions, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday afternoon that the house of the Israeli Arab terrorist whose July, 2008 bulldozer rampage claimed three lives could be demolished.

Justice Edmond Levy wrote in the ruling that "considerations regarding the damage that will be done to the family do not stand against the chance that such an action will deter others from joining the bloody trail."

The practice of inflicting harm on someone because of another person's actions is one form of collective punishment. It is immoral under any reasonable standard. However, evil actions can sometimes be rationalized —never justified— if they can be shown to serve some practical objective.

In this case, however, no such rationale can be invoked. Note that Justice Levy speaks of the chance (not the certainty) that destroying the home where the deranged Palestinian's extended family lives will have a deterrent effect. We know that a lot of people will suffer greatly from the demolition, Levy essentially says; but we do it all the same because we believe it might stop other potential killers of innocent civilians. Is that so?

No it isn't. The article goes on to recall that:

In the early years of the second intifada, demolition of terrorists' houses was a common practice, but the 2005 findings of the Shani Commission concluded the practice did not serve any deterrent purpose. Public pressure to renew the practice mounted after the Merkaz Harav terror attack, which was also carried out by a Jerusalem resident.

In fact, the Shani Committee's findings had led the Sharon government to suspend the practice:

Israel’s defense minister ordered a halt yesterday to the controversial policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen after an internal army review concluded it has not deterred attackers but has inflamed hatred.

Rather than listening to the voice of security experts, Justice Levy prefers to indulge in the demagoguery of authorizing a home demolition to give an outlet to the people's rage at a form of homicide they don't know how to deal with. That he cites a deterrent effect against the military's own assessment is not precisely the kind of independence of the judiciary that best serves human rights.

Meanwhile, in an alternative universe, a.k.a. the West Bank—

... Israeli settlers have continued to grab privately-owned Palestinian land to build houses, in this case in the settlement of Ofra. The case was brought to Israel's High Court by human-rights groups. On Mar 22, 2009, the Jpost reported:

Barak: I won't demolish Ofra houses now

A day before a High Court of Justice hearing on what Palestinians argue are houses in Ofra built on Palestinian land, Defense Minister Ehud Barak informed the court Sunday that he would not execute the demolition orders against the houses at this time.

(...)

"[N]o unique policy should be determined regarding these buildings alone," as they have similar status to a number of other structures in the community.


This last sentence seems to refer to the fact that the whole settlement of Ofra, and not just the 9 houses currently under dispute, were built on private Palestinian land, as the Israeli government acknowledged last year.

In the case of the current litigation, moreover,

[Human-rights group] Yesh Din attorney Michael Sfard said Sunday that in the first hearing held on the houses last June, the IDF's representative had said in the name of the defense minister that the houses were in face illegally built on Palestinian land, and must therefore be destroyed.

"The construction of the houses and their occupation are illegal," wrote the state's representative, attorney Avi Licht. "The construction was carried out in violation of stop-work and demolition orders."

On what grounds does, then, Barak back out from his own ministry's former position? See:

A letter was sent Sunday from the State Attorney's Office to the Court explaining the defense minister's position, which stated that "because these buildings were populated many months ago, and because they are located inside and not on the margins of the settlement, this issue should be considered with a comprehensive view of the entire settlement of Ofra."

In other words, the settlers will be left alone because they're already inhabiting the houses built on the land they stole, and who knows, they might suffer PTSD if they are evicted. Quite a contrast with the Arab residents of Jerusalem whose house will be demolished regardless of how long they've been living there.

The Jewish criminals are treated with kid's gloves, while fully innocent Arabs are mercilessly left homeless because of another Arab's crime.

This whole affair is very representative of the Israeli way of conducting business. In the case of the East Jerusalem home, the Army's recomendations not to demolish Arab homes are overruled by the High Court's decision to authorize the demolition. In the case of the Ofra Jewish houses, the High Court's possible orders to demolish them have been overruled in advance by the Defense Minister's decision not to carry them out. This good cop-bad cop tandem work is presented to the world as evidence that Arabs can fight for their rights against the Israeli state. However, we must judge from the end result: they always lose.

House demolitions is yet another area in which Jewishness trumps equality before the law in the perverse context of Israeli justice.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The Jewish criminals are treated with kid's gloves, while fully innocent Arabs are mercilessly left homeless because of another Arab's crime."

You miss the point completely. The point os not collective punishment but the possibility, however slim, of deterrence. If even one innocent Israeli life can be saved it is worth destroying a thousand homes belonging to terrorists' relatives. That is called Jewish ethics, the Ten Commandments, the sanctity of human life, Yusouf. I suggest you think about what that means...

Anonymous said...

I think it's fantastic to demolish the home of a terrorist.

It's not "collective punishment" at all.

It is fair and it is common sense.

One could argue that that was his base of operation and that leaving it intact runs the risk of allowing it to be used by one of his associates to launch more attacks.

Also if it deters even a single future terror attack and saves just one life, it is worth doing.

Anonymous said...

To erase the earlier posts...? But why???

Why, because you are not man enough to answer them? Did you become a Moslem because you are a homo? If so, shame on you! You are insulting an ancient and dignified religion! SHAME BOYFRIEND SHAME :)

ah those corrupting yet empowering jews! They've got you by the balls. They won.

! HAHA !

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

As I pointed out in the post, a survey done by the Israeli military found that house demolitions don't deter terrorism and, on the contrary, may encourage it.

Dr. Health said...

That he cites a deterrent effect against the military's own assessment is not precisely the kind of independence of the judiciary that best serves human rights.