When Palestinians demand their attackers receive the same punishments as those who target Jews, the pretense of equal treatment before the law slips away.
Some of Israel’s most hardline politicians are fond of saying that they don’t differentiate between terror attacks perpetrated by Jews and Palestinians. In the wake of the Duma arson that killed three members of the Dawabsheh family, the likes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Miri Regev, Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett were all heard singing variations on the theme of “terror is terror, no matter whether Jewish or Arab.”
The Israeli state and its judges, however, continue to prove that this talk of equality through zero tolerance is for appearances only. Whereas Israel regularly demolishes the homes belonging to the families of Palestinian attackers, it refuses to do so when the perpetrators are Jewish.
On Wednesday, the state told the High Court that there was no need to demolish the homes of the three Jewish Israelis who murdered Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir, because of the difference in the “scope” of terror attacks committed by Jews and Palestinians. The state, which was responding to a petition filed by the Abu Khdeir family, further claimed that the fact that the three were sentenced in court was deterrent enough.
This is not an outlying decision. Back in June, the Defense Ministry wrote to the Abu Khdeir family’s lawyer that deterrence is not necessary among the Jewish public, meaning that there was no need to demolish the perpetrators’ homes. The state deployed the same logic in court two years ago while defending its practice of punitively demolishing Palestinians’, but not Jews’, homes. High Court Justice Noam Sohlberg made the same argument in November 2015.
Let’s be clear: punitive home demolitions are a form of collective punishment, and collective punishment is not only morally wrong, it’s also illegal under international law. The end goal should be to end all punitive home demolitions, not to mete out unjust punishments equally to Jews and Palestinians alike.
Part of that process needs to be recognizing the deceptive nature of claims that Israel doesn’t discriminate between Jewish and Palestinian terror.