Israel Halts Practice of Demolishing Militants’ Homes
Israel ordered a halt on Thursday to the policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian militants, a step welcomed by Palestinian and human rights groups. The decision by Israel’s defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, suspends a practice that Israel has employed on and off for decades despite harsh international criticism of it as collective punishment. A military statement did not say why the policy was being changed, but the newspaper Haaretz reported on its Web site that Maj. Gen. Udi Shani, who headed a committee reviewing the matter, had challenged the existing military position that demolitions were an effective deterrent. It said he had concluded that the policy had caused Israel more harm than good by generating hatred among the Palestinians.
A military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, offered a slightly different explanation, saying the demolitions were not regarded as necessary during a period of relative calm. “House demolitions are just one measure of deterrence, and at present, it doesn’t play the same role that it did previously,” the military official said. “It’s not something we consider necessary at this time.”
Palestinians and human rights groups hailed the change. “Finally the Israelis will stop destroying homes; this is good,” said Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a physician and human rights activist who finished second in last month’s election for president of the Palestinian Authority. “This policy was counterproductive, and it was innocent people who were most often harmed.”
This is a welcome move. The problems with the policy were manifold. From a public relations standpoint, it was simply horrible, always making the Israelis look like the bad guys. From a legal standpoint, punishing ostensibly innocent people (the wives and children of suspected terrorists) was unconscionable in a democratic society.