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What does justice look like for victims of Jewish terrorism?

A reminder that the victims of Jewish and Palestinian violence never encounter the same system of justice. 

Hussein, the father of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was murdered last year, walks outside the district court in Jerusalem on November 30, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Hussein, the father of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was murdered last year, walks outside the district court in Jerusalem on November 30, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

On Thursday Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected a petition to stop the demolition of a home to a Palestinian man accused of aiding three Palestinians in a shooting attack that killed Border Police officer Hadar Cohen in February.

The appeal was filed by the father of Bilal Ahmed Abu Zeid, the Palestinian who is accused of providing weapons and transportation to the three men in the attack. In his appeal, Abu Zeid’s father claims that the demolition of homes is an illegal act according to international law, and argued that the demolition cannot be approved until his son is proven guilty. According to the father, the demolition would leave his youngest children without a home.

Not only is Abu Zeid accused of aiding the three attackers — that is, he didn’t take part in any of the violence — he hasn’t even been convicted of a crime in a court of law. This, however, is enough for the authorities to issue an order to have his home destroyed.

Family members of Israeli Border Policewoman Hadar Cohen mourn during her funeral at the military cemetery in Yehud, near Tel Aviv, Israel, February 4, 2016. Cohen was shot and killed by three Palestinians at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on February 3, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Family members of Israeli Border Policewoman Hadar Cohen mourn during her funeral at the military cemetery in Yehud, near Tel Aviv, Israel, February 4, 2016. Cohen was shot and killed by three Palestinians at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on February 3, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The decision to green light Abu Zeid’s home came on the same day that a Palestinian family, victims of Jewish terrorism, petitioned the High Court in support of a home demolition. The parents of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the 16-year-old boy who was burned to death by three Israeli Jews two years ago, submitted their petition on Thursday, demanding that the court order Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to demolish the killers’ homes.

The Defense Ministry had previously told the parents  there was no need to destroy their homes due to what Supreme Court Justice Noam Sohlberg called an unimaginable difference in the “quality of the attacks, in their quantity, and in particular with regard to the environment – the firm and decisive wall-to-wall condemnation on the Jewish side, which is not the case on the opposite side.” It would behoove us to remember Justice Sohlberg’s remarks the next time the High Court is praised as the bastion of Israeli liberalism tempering its extremist leaders and legislators.

Abu Khdeir’s brutal murder was certainly not the first (nor the last) act of Jewish terror against Palestinian civilians. But even in the worst, most serious and deadliest cases — Eden Natan-Zada who murdered four Arab citizens in a shooting rampage, the members of the Bat Ayin underground who were convicted of attempting to bomb a Palestinian girls’ school, Baruch Goldstein who massacred 29 Palestinians and wounded over 120 others in Hebron, or members of the “Jewish Underground” who were arrested while placing bombs under Palestinian buses — Israeli authorities never once demolished the terrorists’ homes.

Israel had refrained from using home demolitions as a punitive measure between 2005-14, following an army report that said it was not an effective deterrent against the terrorism of the Second Intifada. And since even the IDF believes home demolitions are not an effective tool for preventing Palestinian violence, the only reason for demolishing the home of a family who has nothing to do with violent is simply revenge. The parents of Muhammad Abu Khdeir are waiting to see whether the Israeli government truly does not “distinguish between [Palestinian] terror and [Jewish] terror.”

Given the tools at the Abu Khdeir family’s disposal for seeking justice, it is unsurprising and even understandable that they should want to push for parity in home demolitions — especially considering the discourse surrounding home demolitions among mainstream Jewish Israelis. For most Israelis, the use of punitive home demolitions against Palestinians is simply the way things are done. The very fact that punitive home demolitions are not the go-to solution for Jewish terrorism reflects the disparities in the way the establishment views and treats Israeli Jews and Palestinians.

But the Israeli mainstream has swung so far to the right such that its willingness to engage in self criticism vis-a-vis treatment of the Palestinians has declined precipitously. The result is that that these days one almost hardly hears any internal criticism of any aspect of the army’s policy in the occupied territories.

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    1. I had a look at the video, in which a (moral?) soldier was filmed shooting a rifle almost point blank at a scrawny female wielding what appeared to be a kitchen knife, perhaps a scissors. These are his orders, when a certain distance is breached by an armed suspect: they are trained to shoot at the person. No words of warning seem to have been exchanged, but it wouldn’t have mattered, the woman was under her orders, “to sacrifice her life.” Two grown men – one could have distracted her while the other had gone behind and tackled her, summoned backup, carry out in other scenarios to apprehend her and bring her to trial.
      This should be part of their training because the incidences of these acts are not a situation of war that soldiers are taught to deal with: as per armed enemies trained to kill them.
      There is a concept of “reasonable force” that pertains to restraining criminal conduct, and to police the streets in the face of what goes down in our times those responsible for law and order need to adjust their thinking and incorporate the concept into the system of protecting the world citizenry. A soldier should be well aware he or she is not above the law, and the ideals of morality impel Modern Israel to develop techniques that allow soldiers to treat criminal offenses for what the are, a distraught (disturbed?) female suspect was not a threat to life or limb of the soldiers, so long as they knew how to deal with the situation.
      Have we no faith in the system of justice regarding criminal behavior, is everything to be called terrorism so security forces can shoot people to death with no compunction? Whose to say which individuals are the terrorists in such a temperamental environment as pertains to the state of Modern Israel? I am witness to such raw and ferocious emotion that so many times I have felt threatened for believing in humanitarian principles. The government must institute the rule of law into the rules of the Department of Defense as part of our human obligation to the value of human life, so we have trust in the liberty we may enjoy; that it can be sustained, not ramifications that come back to haunt us.

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    2. Ben

      Liza Aizenberg: “Jewish society does not condone such acts.”

      False. And that falsity typifies a whole set of smug assumptions typical Israelis, passive supporters of the occupation, use to justify themselves and their army and their whole apartheid society. The truth is that Israeli Jewish society does not condone such acts because it doesn’t have to, because it has all the power and it does not benefit it to resort to asymmetric tactics or terrorism. But pre-Israel Jewish society, shaking off the British, sure did condone such acts. And if Israeli society were to find the tables turned again and find itself the weaker party or an occupied party you can bet your bottom dollar it would not only condone such acts but engage in them with far greater frequency than it does now. And what’s more, built into the occupation are unceasing, everyday acts of terrorism that Israeli society is blind to its perpetrating and it is a terrorism that Jewish society condones every day:

      Reply to Comment