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Abu Khdeir family: 'We never had high hopes for Israel's legal system'

July 5, 2017 1:33 P.M. (Updated: July 7, 2017 11:34 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- After Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition to demolish the homes of three Israelis convicted of brutally killing 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir in 2014, Abu Khdeir’s family told Palestinian lawyer Muhannad Jibara on Wednesday that they "never had high hopes” that Israel’s legal system would actually order the demolitions.

The Abu Khdeir family had presented the petition to the Israeli courts demanding that Yosef Haim Ben-David and two minors, who were convicted of kidnapping and burning the Palestinian teenager alive three years ago, have their homes demolished, in line with an official Israeli policy carried out overwhelmingly against Palestinians who have killed Israelis.

Jibara said that the Abu Khdeir family had submitted the petition in the Israeli courts in order to expose the “racism” of the Israeli government against Palestinians in their policies of punitive home demolitions and to “cause embarrassment” to the Israeli courts.

According to Israeli news outlet Ynet, retired Israeli judge Elyakim Rubinstein ruled that the petition was rejected in part because too much time had passed between the “abominable act of murder” and the submission of the petition.

In response, Jibara said that the family had to wait until the killers were convicted in order to file the petition, which took almost two years for all three to be convicted and sentenced.

Jibara noted that according to Israeli law, the killing was a “terrorist act” and thus should be met with the punitive demolition of the killers’ homes.

Judge Neal Hendel, however, said that home demolitions were carried out as deterrents, not as punitive measures, reiterating the Israeli government's contentious claims that such punitive demolitions deter "terrorists" from carrying out attacks.

Hendel then went on to say that Jewish “terrorists” were “a minority of a minority of a minority," insinuating that the so-called deterrent policies would not have an effect on the Jewish community.

According to Ynet, the Israeli state had said that “it does not see fit” to demolish the homes of Jewish Israeli attackers, but added that “the measure would be considered if there were a sudden sharp increase in terror acts carried out by Jews.”

Jibara also noted that the Israeli prosecution had argued that Israelis who conduct such attacks are “discarded and rejected by Israeli society,” whereas Palestinian attackers are “encouraged by the Palestinian society” and thus necessitated demolition policies to collectively deter the attacks.

However, there has been numerous occasions when Israelis have publicly celebrated the killings of Palestinians, including during the 2014 war on Gaza which left more than 2,000 Palestinians killed.

According to Jibara, the Abu Khdeir family said that while they were against Israel’s punitive demolition policy as a whole, if it was going to be enforced regularly on Palestinians, it should also apply to Israeli Jews in order to “prevent (Israeli) courts from adopting racist policies against Palestinians.”

Jibara noted that Muhammad’s father, Hussein Abu Khdeir, had said that the family would attempt to prosecute Israel in international courts over the Israeli government’s failure to immediately detain the three killers at the time of the murder and the rejection of the family’s petition, which he said “confirms the Israeli judiciary’s discrimination against Palestinians.”

Hussein also said that the court’s rejection came close to the third anniversary of Muhammad's kidnapping and murder in July 2014 , which has “increased the pain of the family.”

“If this was an Arab who murdered a Jew, his home would've been demolished within days. If they don't want to demolish the Jewish terrorists' homes, then they shouldn't demolish any homes. This is discrimination and racism. Such a decision encourages (others) to continue hurting us, under the auspices of the state," Ynet reported Hussein as saying.

Ben-David, the ringleader of the kidnapping and murder, received a life sentence for the murder, and 20 additional years for other crimes he had committed. He was also ordered to pay 150,000 shekels ($42,650) to Abu Khdeir’s family.

Two Israeli minors who assisted in killing Muhammad were convicted of murder in February, one receiving a life sentence and the other 21 years in prison.

Muhammad, a 16-year-old from the Shufat neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, was kidnapped and murdered by the three extremists in July 2014, as a revenge attack for the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers who were hitchhiking in the occupied West Bank.

All three confessed to beating the teenager unconscious before pouring flammable liquid on him and setting him alight. An autopsy later confirmed the teen had been burned alive.

Last year, following the sentencing of the two minors, Hussein Abu Khdeir had said "Israeli courts have two faces of judiciary: one for the Palestinians and another for the Israelis."

"If a Palestinian child throws a stone, he is sentenced to years in prison, but when an Israeli settler burns and kills a Palestinian child, he is sentenced to 21 years."

Despite the judges’ justifications for rejecting the petition, the family homes of actual or alleged Palestinian attackers are almost always demolished soon after the attack has been carried out, with the Israeli army at times announcing demolition plans almost immediately following an attack.

On Tuesday, three Palestinian homes were delivered demolition orders for their relatives having allegedly carried out attacks on Israelis. The families were given a little over two days to appeal the decisions in Israeli courts, which almost always rule in favor of carrying out the punitive demolitions against Palestinian families.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fast-tracked punitive home demolitions in an effort to “deter” attacks carried out by Palestinian individuals since the beginning of a wave of violence across the occupied Palestinian territory in late 2015.

The move came despite past recommendations by an Israeli military committee that the practice did not deter attacks.

Israeli NGO B’Tselem has condemned the practice of punitive home demolitions and work permit confiscations as "court-sanctioned revenge" carried out on family members who have not committed crimes, amounting to collective punishment.
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