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High Court: Israel won't demolish homes of Palestinian teen's killers

Court rejects petition filed by family of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, claiming too much time passed since his murder and the filing of the petition. 

By +972 Magazine Staff

The parents of Mohammed Abu Khdeir seen with MK Saadia Osama (R) in Israel's Supreme Court in Jerusalem, September 22, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The parents of Mohammed Abu Khdeir seen with MK Saadia Osama (R) in Israel’s Supreme Court in Jerusalem, September 22, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s High Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled that the families of three Israelis who were convicted of kidnapping and murdering Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian who was burned alive in 2014, won’t have their homes demolished. Israel regularly demolishes the family homes of Palestinians who commit acts of violence against Israelis.

Supreme Court Vice President Elyakim Rubinstein explained in the judgment that the court was rejecting the petition to demolish the homes of Yosef Haim Ben-David — along with two Israeli minors who took part in the kidnapping and murder — because too much time had passed between the murder and the date of the petition’s filing. Abu Khdeir’s family filed the petition in July 2016, two years after the murder.

“There is no justice in the court system, which hands down decisions according to the directives of the Israeli government,”  Muhammad’s father, Hussein Abu Khdeir, told Ynet. “This kind of decision encourages a continued attack on us under the guise of the state.”

Abu Khdeir was kidnapped by Ben-David and his two accomplices on the morning of June 2, 2014, one day after three Israeli teens who were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas militants in the West Bank were laid to rest. Abu Khdeir was forced into a car during the early hours of the morning as he was walking to the local mosque in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, where he lived with his family. Abu Khdeir was then taken to a forest outside Jerusalem, where he was beaten and burned alive. His remains were found by Israeli police the following morning.

Ben-David was convicted on charges of murder, kidnapping for the purpose of murder, and battery causing bodily harm in April of last year, and was sentenced to life in prison with an additional 20 years. His accomplices were also convicted of murder. One was sentenced to life in prison and the other to 21 years in prison. Each minor was also ordered to pay the Abu Khdeir family NIS 30,000 ($7,700) in reparations.

Justice Neil Hendel wrote that, one can “understand the feelings of the victim’s family, which submitted the petition. And yet, [home demolitions] are a preventative tool, not a punishing tool. We must remember that the perpetrators underwent legal proceedings, they were convicted, and were given lengthy sentences.”

Yosef Haim Ben-David, one of the convicted murderers of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, arrives to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem to a court hearing regarding a petition filed by the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, September 22, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yosef Haim Ben-David, one of the convicted murderers of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, arrives to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem to a court hearing regarding a petition filed by the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, September 22, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

For many Palestinians, the fact that the family homes of Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s killers’ are still standing is evidence that Israel’s demolition policy is both racist and punitive. Israel regularly demolishes homes of Palestinians who attack Israeli civilians and soldiers, claiming that doing so deters others from acting similarly. In fact, the night before the High Court ruling, the IDF issued demolition orders for the homes of two Palestinians who killed Border Police officer Hadas Malka during an attack in Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate last month.

Just two days prior, Israel filed a first-of-its-kind civil lawsuit against the family of a Palestinian who carried out a car-ramming attack that killed four in Jerusalem in January 2017.

Jerusalem District Prosecutors filed the suit on Sunday, suing Fadi al-Qanbar’s widow and three children for $2.3 million in reparations, in what the state hopes will set a precedent for future action against Palestinians who carry out violent attacks. In January, following the attack, Interior Ministry Aryeh Deri pledged to strip permanent residency status from 12 of al-Qanbar’s relatives.

In the case of Abu Khdeir, however, the state has repeatedly stated that there is no reason to demolish homes of Jewish terrorists, since there is no need to deter Israeli Jews from committing violent attacks against Palestinians. The state added that it would consider doing so “should there be a sudden and sharp increase in terrorism committed by Jews.”

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    1. Richard Lightbown

      @ Greg Pollock

      The family, by this petition, have demonstrated that there is one law for the occupier and one for the occupied. Nothing strange in that, only that you should think it so. (I started trying to follow your logic, but life is too short to wade through such a long-winded post.)

      On the timing:
      The excuse that too much time has passed since the crime is also tosh. A demolition order, once issued, has no expiry date. Thus, as with so many aspects of this occupation, the timing of the demolition is carried out on some vague whim of the person responsible for compliance. There have been instances in which the actual demolition has been carried out years after the issue of an order. I am sure the court is aware of this, but is apparently untroubled by the hypocrisy.

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