A PALESTINIAN removes a wall to allow a bulldozer access to clear the rubble at the home of Amer Abu Aysha in Hebron in August. The IDF earlier destroyed the home of Abu Aysha, one of the two main suspects in the June kidnapping and murder of three teenagers..
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
If your son didn’t come home from school and you heard he was arrested, whom can you call? If you turn 16 and discover that your parents never registered you in their national ID card, leaving you with no legal status, who will help you sort out this mess? If you are on your way to university abroad and are denied exit from the West Bank, how will you get to your studies?
The cases cited above come from some of the hundreds of people who turn to HaMoked each year: Palestinians from the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, people caught up in a bureaucracy over which they have no control, many of whom have nowhere else to turn.
None of these cases was mentioned in the stormy Knesset session this week, in which HaMoked was accused of “aiding terrorists.” MKs were outraged that HaMoked petitions against demolition of homes when a family member perpetrated a deadly attack against Israelis.
HaMoked is proud to be the lead organization contesting these demolitions, which are a blatant collective punishment of innocent people. Yes, their son or father or brother committed horrible crimes, but every legal system in the world agrees that you cannot be punished for the crimes of your relatives, no matter how despicable they are. This is a natural law principle that goes back to the Bible: “The child will not be punished for the sins of the parent, and the parent will not be punished for the sins of the child. The righteous person will be rewarded for their own righteous behavior, and wicked punished for their own wickedness.” (Ezekiel 18:20)
The Israeli military itself has called into question the effectiveness of punitive home demolitions. In 2005, a military committee found that, rather than deterring future attacks, which is the stated intention of the practice, on the whole punitive demolitions may actually encourage attacks. Based on this assessment, as well as concerns about their morality and legality, the defense minister halted these demolitions for nearly 10 years, renewing them in 2014.
The military instituted several procedures when punitive demolitions were renewed, in order to ensure some measure of due process. HaMoked represents families in these procedures before the Israeli military and the Israeli courts.
Human rights organizations are necessary in any society. Even the most robust democracy depends on watchdogs to defend against the state’s abuse of power. Such watchdogs are even more important in Israel, a democracy that since 1967 has maintained military rule over a civilian population. Millions of people are subject to laws, policies and practices set by authorities they have no voice in electing. Many argue that abuse of power and erosion of the rule of law are inherent to such a situation, making the human rights community absolutely essential.
For almost 30 years, far from the public eye, the Israeli human rights organization HaMoked has defended universal human rights principles and provided concrete assistance to thousands of people who have nowhere else to turn. I am proud to be a part of such an organization.Jessica Montell is the incoming executive director of HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual.
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