In response to the recent spate of “lone wolf” terror attacks in Jerusalem, Israel revived its controversial practice of demolishing the homes of the perpetrators last week:
Israel on Wednesday blew up the house of Abdelrahman al-Shaludi, a 21-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem who rammed his car into Israeli pedestrians in October, killing 3-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun and Karen Yemima Muscara, an Ecuadorean woman studying in the city. The Wednesday blast, which rocked the densely populated Silwan neighborhood on a steep hillside just south of Jerusalem’s Old City, marked the restart of a policy of demolishing the family homes of Palestinians responsible for anti-Israeli attacks. According to Danny Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer and left-wing activist who tracks developments in East Jerusalem, it was the first punitive demolition in the city since April 2009, when police razed the home of a Palestinian who went on a rampage a year earlier, killing three Israelis.
The government also issued demolition orders to the families of the attackers in last Tuesday’s synagogue massacre. Just imagine for a moment how such a policy – which, to be perfectly clear, punishes entire extended families for the crimes of individuals – would fly in any other Western country, especially if it targeted members of a particular ethnic group. The return of the demolitions speaks volumes about how Netanyahu, who vowed after Tuesday’s attack to “settle the score with every terrorist”, approaches this conflict. For him, it really is about settling scores. Will Saletan remarks on just what kind of message this policy sends to the Israeli public:
The first lesson this policy teaches Israelis is that it’s legitimate to inflict suffering on innocent people in order to discourage terrorism. “You need a means of deterrence against the next suicide attacker,” Netanyahu explained this week as he announced demolitions in response to the synagogue attack. “When he knows that his house, the house in which his family lives, will be demolished, this will have an impact.” Shaul Shay, a former member of the Israeli national security council, agrees: “A terrorist may be willing to sacrifice his own life, but maybe he will think twice if he knows the homes of his relatives will be destroyed. If the family pays the price, it’s different.”
In other words, the logic of the policy is that it punishes people who don’t commit acts of terror. Terrorists want to die, so they aren’t deterred. Israel targets their loved ones, who would suffer more acutely, in the hope that this “price” will intimidate the would-be perpetrator. That is the logic of hostage taking, and of terrorism.
And sure enough, West Bank settlers set ablaze a home in a village near Ramallah early Sunday morning, in yet another “price tag” attack. But that, of course, was an isolated incident; any attempt to link such lone-wolf terrorists to Israeli policy would be loudly denounced as guilt by association, or an outright anti-Semitic blood libel.
(Photo: Ganim al-Shaludi (8), sister of Palestinian AbdelRahman al-Shaludi, blamed for killing two Israelis in a deadly vehicular attack last month, stands inside her family home after it was destroyed by Israeli forces in Silwan neighborhood, east Jerusalem on November 19, 2014. By Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)