The HCJ approves the punitive demolition of a West Bank home of a Palestinian woman and her three children following an attack allegedly perpetrated by the children’s father. The man lived in the USA most of the time and had little contact with his family
Since 1967, Israel has demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes as a punitive measure pursuant to Regulation 119 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of the British Mandate. Following every Palestinian act of violence in which an Israeli is killed, the military issues a demolition order against the home of the perpetrator’s family. The punitive demolition does not replace criminal proceedings but is implemented in addition to them. Israeli authorities justify punitive home demolitions as a necessary deterrent to violence. However, this is an immoral policy of explicit collective punishment, willfully harming innocent people, including minors. Although use of collective punishment is prohibited under international law, the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ) has refused time and again to review the principled issue raised by HaMoked in its petitions to prevent implementation of punitive demolition orders.
On June 23, 2021, the HCJ approved the punitive demolition of a two-story building in Turmusaya in the West Bank, the home of a woman and her three children, two of them minors (all residents of the oPt and American citizens). The father of the family has been accused of carrying out a shooting attack in the West Bank on May 2, 2021, in which an Israeli student was killed and two others injured.
The court rejected HaMoked’s June 2, 2021 petition in its entirety, including the principled argument concerning the international law prohibition on collective punishment. In a unanimous judgement, the HCJ ruled that the suspect maintained sufficient “residential ties” to the targeted home, despite the fact that in recent years the man had lived in the United States most of the time and stayed at the West Bank home for only two months each year. The HCJ also rejected HaMoked’s claim that the man suffered from a mental illness justifying the cancelation of the order (as had been done in the past). Additionally, the HCJ repeated various determinations reached in previous judgments upholding punitive demolition orders, including the determination that “the need for deterrence remains valid even when dealing with a home in which minors live”.
The court expressed dismay at the state’s belated and haphazard presentation of the claim that there were “indications” that a member of the family had been aware of the suspect’s intention to carry out an attack – a claim which the state had not raised in its written response to the petition nor during its oral arguments. This claim was only raised at the end of the hearing and was followed by the state’s request to present before the justices and on an ex parte basis classified material concerning the alleged “indications”. Pursuant to the court’s own advice, HaMoked objected to an impromptu and ex parte presentation. Inexplicably, in the judgment, the HCJ ruled that given HaMoked’s objection, the state had the benefit of the legal principle of “presumption of administrative regularity” in this matter, namely that it must be assumed that the classified material was of some merit and served a proper consideration in favor of the demolition.