Israeli Defence Forces were stopped from demolishing a Palestinian home. Now they want to pour cement into his room instead.
For decades, Israel has assumed a moral high ground over its Arab neighbours. The Jewish state is a democracy within the rule of law that takes on the mighty who usurp the weak, Israeli leaders often boast.
But when it comes to basic human rights of the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, Tel Aviv puts its entire might behind quashing those rights. The latest example of this is unfolding right before our eyes.
The Israeli military this week said it will pour concrete into the room of a Palestinian man who it accuses of deliberately killing one of its soldiers. This will effectively seal off parts of the house.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) wanted to demolish the entire house located in the West Bank, which has been under Israel’s illegal occupation since 1967, and that Palestinians hope will one day become part of their own country.
However, Israel’s highest court refused permission, arguing that the 49-year-old Palestinian man, Nazmi Abu Bakr, had acted alone. His wife and eight children shouldn't pay the price, the court ruled.
The case relates to the killing of 21-year-old Israeli soldier, Amit Ben-Ygal, who was part of an IDF team which in May raided the village of Yabed in the West Bank.
As usually happens during such routine Israeli sweeps, the soldiers come in armoured cars, wearing bulletproof vests, helmets and carrying guns. On the other side were Palestinian villagers who responded, like they always do, with bricks and rocks.
One of the bricks hit Ben-Ygal in the head and he later died in the hospital. Israeli security forces say Abu Bakr threw the brick with a deliberate intention to kill, but the Palestinian and his lawyers deny this allegation.
The brick was thrown “only to inflict a wound” on the soldier.
Abu Bakr’s family approached Israel’s High Court in June after the Israeli military said it was planning to demolish the house in retribution.
“Justice will come to the attacker when he gets his punishment. But the consequences of his actions should not be cast onto those who have not sinned,” one of the three judges who took up the case wrote in the judgement, which stopped the IDF from razing the house.
Since 1967, Israel has destroyed more than 2,000 Palestinian homes as a form of collective punishment inflicted on the Palestinian families for acts that some of their members may have committed, the UN the Special Rapporteur, Michael Lynk, wrote in a July report.
"It is an affront to justice and the rule of law to see that such methods continue to be used in the 21st century and that Palestinians collectively continue to be punished for the actions of a few,” he said.
Between July 2014 and May 2020, Israeli military demolished or sealed 68 homes, leaving hundreds of Palestnians, including women and children, without a roof over their heads.
Only in eight instances did the court revoke the demolition orders during this same period.
The brutal Israeli policy of collective punishment contravenes international laws, including the Geneva Convention.
Israeli courts have historically sided with the military in the belief that destroying the houses of Palestinians who resist Israeli soldiers work as a deterrent for others.
In 2005, IDF discontinued this practice of punitive home demolitions after an internal report found it wasn’t working as a deterrence. Instead, seeing their homes with the family heirloom, pictures and other belongings being turned into rubble made Palestinians even more bitter.
Israel resumed the policy three years later amid criticism from human rights groups, which say that in some instances, homes are demolished even before anyone’s conviction.
The Israeli establishment still views the controversial policy as a critical tool as evident from the comments of Defence Minister Benny Gantz’s ministry.
It argued in a review petition that the court’s order will set a precedent that demolition be scaled down if the attacker’s family wasn’t involved or aware of his or her actions.
The High Court has rejected the review - a rare moment when Israeli judges have seen the illegality and inhumanity of the demolitions.