House demolitions: Israel’s ‘court-sanctioned revenge’

Palestinians say the cost of losing a home doesn’t surpass the value of life cheapened by decades of Israeli occupation.

House demolition
Because Palestinian homes are often wedged into tight refugee camps, where buildings share walls and foundations, Israel's demolition orders affect several families at once [AP]

Nablus, occupied West Bank – The Hashiya family is waiting for their house to be demolished as punishment for a crime they did not commit.

They are not the first – and will likely not be the last – Palestinian family to be displaced due to Israel’s use of punitive demolitions, ordered on the family homes of individuals suspected of carrying out attacks.

But the logic of the practice is lost on Khalid Abu Hashiya, father of six and resident of the New Askar refugee camp in Nablus. Israeli authorities issued a demolition order on their home after authorities said his son, Noor, killed Almog Shilony, in Tel Aviv on November 10, 2014.  

Noor Abu Hashiya, now 19 years old, is serving a 139-year sentence for the fatal Tel Aviv attack. The day after the attack, Israeli forces detained Khalid and four of his sons before issuing the demolition order.

Khalid Abu Hashiya says he is proud of his son Noor [Emily Mulder/Al Jazeera]

After nearly a year of radio silence regarding when the demolition would take place, the Hashiya home was ransacked by Israeli forces shortly after two Israeli settlers were killed by suspected Palestinians near Nablus on October 1, and the Hashiya family was given a demolition date.

“They want to destroy the house to make other people stop and look at our case [as an example]. To stop fighters,” Khalid said. “But I am proud of my son. I’m not sorry. Houses are less expensive than human beings. We have to live in our country.”

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According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, the punitive demolition of the Hashiya home is deemed as “court sanctioned revenge”.

While the Israeli military stopped punitive demolition orders in 2005 following reports by an Israeli military committee that the practice did not deter attacks, the practice was resumed in July 2014, with the exception of one demolition in 2009.


by ”Khalid

kill Palestinian people, they don’t hold the people who killed. They don’t destroy their houses.”]

Human Rights Watch demanded at the time that Israel stop the policy, referring to the discriminatory practice in the occupied territories as a war crime.

HRW also pointed out that the 2005 Israeli military report “noted that punitive home demolitions increased hostility towards Israel”.

According to Aziz Abbasi, a Palestinian youth activist in occupied East Jerusalem, the sporadic attacks committed by a few lone Palestinians against Israelis in recent weeks were likely triggered by Israel’s collective punishment policy.

For example, Abbasi told Al Jazeera that Alaa Abu Jamal – who rammed his car into Israeli passengers before being shot dead on Monday – “a week ago, witnessed the demolition of his uncle’s house and his sister’s house”.

“As he was trying to resist the Israeli demolition [of his relatives’ houses], he was humiliated and dragged face-down for 200 metres by Israeli soldiers,” Abbasi added. “They are forcing young men to [commit these attacks].”

Israel has carried out thousands of punitive demolitions since 1967, according to documentation by Israeli watchdog group HaMoked.

HaMoked petitioned Israel’s High Court against the decision to demolish the Hashiya home on the grounds that “the proximity between the order’s issuance date and the recent wave of attacks, reinforces the impression that this is not a deterrence measure, but a vindictive indiscriminate response”. The petition was officially rejected on October 9.

The Hashiya family was unaware when – or if – the demolition order would be carried out in early October, when Israeli forces entered their home, took video footage, and delivered papers stating they could no longer use the house, Khalid said.

An Israeli army spokesperson refused to comment to Al Jazeera on the interactions between Israeli authorities and the Hashiya family, and the Israeli defence ministry was not available for comment.

RELATED: Report reveals scale of Israel’s home demolitions

The Hashiya home is wedged carefully into the tight refugee camp, where many buildings share foundations and supporting walls.

Jerusalem tense amid house demolitions

The demolition order is stirring up strife in the Nablus refugee camp, where the homes of at least 12 neighbouring families are at risk of destruction or severe damage.

“When they destroy a house, they destroy all the other houses,” explained Basma, a neighbour who requested her real name be omitted.

Sitting in the house – now covered only in the clutter and dust of a frantic move-out – she told Al Jazeera, “There are so many people here”, gesturing to neighbouring homes in all directions.

The Hashiya home is sandwiched between five-story buildings that Basma estimates hold 12 families and around 100 people, the majority of whom are children. Khalid’s brother also lives on the second story of the home.

“It’s not just the house, on the outside,” Basma says. “It will affect the children… it will affect them inside [psychologically].”

Children in the neighbouring homes have had trouble sleeping at night out of fear for when Israeli forces enter the camp for the demolition. Basma says she isn’t sleeping either.

B’Tselem’s investigation into demolitions carried out earlier this month reported severe damage to nearby homes, despite Israel’s pledge to the Supreme Court in 2014 to do “everything in its power to prevent damage to adjacent units”.

Israel’s policy of collective punishment through the use of home demolitions has affected thousands of Palestinians [AP]

As attacks have become near-daily in recent weeks in Israel and occupied Palestine, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also publicly condemned attacks by Israelis, saying “Israel is a country of law and order. We bring anyone to justice who commits acts of violence, on either side, Jew or Arab.” 

In practice however, little has been done to curb violent attacks by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank as well as Israelis who have held marches in occupied Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs”.

In the first week of October alone, over 130 settler attacks on Palestinians were reported, and legal recourse is being prevented for three Jewish extremists suspected for an arson attack that left an 18-month-old Palestinian and his parents dead on July 31, according to Haaretz.

Meanwhile, two punitive demolitions were carried out last week and authorities sealed a room in the family home of an alleged Palestinian attacker, leaving 13 Palestinians – who never perpetrated attacks – homeless, including seven children.


Walid Assaf, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of the Commission Against the Wall and Settlements, meanwhile, says the Palestinian Authority is incapable of preventing the Israeli military’s forced entry into Palestinian areas to implement such demolitions, leaving residents with no options for protection.

For Khalid, the cost of losing a house doesn’t surpass the value of Palestinian life that he watched decades of Israeli military occupation cheapen.

Khalid sees the loss of his home as minimal in comparison to the sacrifice he believes his son made in the ongoing fight to return self-determination and value to Palestinian lives.

Awaiting the demolition of his family home in the refugee camp, Khalid sees the punitive demolition process as a clear legal demarcation of the privileging of Israeli Jews over the lives of Palestinians. “When they [Israelis] kill Palestinian people, they don’t detain the killers. They don’t destroy their houses,” Khalid said. 

“Judgments [handed down by Israeli courts] do not bring justice in Israel. Rights belong to the people that are strong. They are not for the poor, they are not for Palestinians.”

Source: Al Jazeera