Israel is planning to employ a policy of collective punishment by destroying the family homes of two Palestinians convicted of murdering Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved an intelligence recommendation to raze the houses of Hakim and Ajmad Awad, who are now serving life sentences for murdering five Israeli settlers in the West Bank settlement of Itamar in March 2011.
Israel officially abandoned the once common practice of punitive demolitions back in 2005 after widespread international condemnation of the illegal practice. But now Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, recommended the practice be revived.
The agency made the recommendation on the grounds that the families helped destroy evidence related to the case. But further justified it by claiming it would discourage “potential terrorists” from mounting similar attacks.
But destroying the homes of the families of the Awad’s, rendering their wives and children homeless, is a form of collective punishment prohibited by international law. The fourth Geneva Convention disgnates it a war crime.
“No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” it reads. “Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”
“The perpetrators have already been arrested and convicted,” said Jeff Halper, the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. “It makes no sense from a military logic,” he said. “It is political logic as we are getting close to elections and the setter lobby has more clout now and is pressing the political echelons in terms of revenge.”
In reality, Israel has not abandoned practices of collective punishment against Palestinians. The economic blockade on Gaza, which worsened following the election of Hamas, also qualifies, as a UN panel found in September. But razing homes of Palestinians in retaliation for the crimes of others is another big step in the wrong direction.