Parents of Abu Khdeir petition High Court to have son’s killers’ homes demolished

Expert: Home demolitions an unnecessary deterrent in Jewish community, which unlike Arab community, overwhelmingly condemns terrorism.

Yosef Ben David, currently serving a life sentence, was the ringleader of the group which killed Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir (photo credit: REUTERS)
Yosef Ben David, currently serving a life sentence, was the ringleader of the group which killed Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Noting the government policy to demolish the homes of Arab terrorists following deadly attacks, the parents of Muhammad Abu Khdeir on Wednesday filed a petition to the High Court demanding parity for the families of their son’s three convicted killers.
In May, the Jerusalem District Court sentenced Yosef Haim Ben-David to life in prison, plus 20 years, for being the ringleader in the murder of Khdeir, 16, of Shuafat, who was abducted, badly beaten and burned alive in the Jerusalem Forest in July 2014.
The court also convicted two minors – one from Jerusalem and one from Beit Shemesh, whose names are under gag order – of murder, kidnapping and a range of other offenses, despite their protests that only Ben-David committed the murder.
Before Ben-David was sentenced, Khdeir’s parents, Hussein and Suha, requested that then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon demolish his home. However, Ya’alon’s legal adviser, Ahaz Ben Ari, responded that such recourse was unlikely given the Arab and Jewish communities’ wildly disparate ethos regarding terrorism.
Wednesday’s petition was filed by attorney Mohannad Jabara on behalf of Khdeir’s parents. It cites escalating deadly Jewish extremism in the West Bank and argues that no distinction should be made by the government with respect to demolishing the homes of Jewish and Palestinian terrorists.
“It is apparent that the Jewish sector is getting more radicalized by the day, which has led the defense establishment and the Shin Bet security service to implement dozens of administrative detentions against extreme right-wing activists to halt the danger they pose and the inflammatory statements they’ve made,” the petition stated in part.
However, according to Yoram Schweitzer, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies and the head of its counterterrorism division, “there is a very simple reason” why the ministry will not demolish Abu Khdeir’s killers’ homes.
“The demolition of houses is intended to deter other terrorists from undertaking an attack,” he said on Thursday.
“And I don’t think that the Israeli population in general, and in particular, needs this kind of deterrent.”
While Schweitzer conceded that the efficacy of home demolitions remains debatable, he noted that there is a major distinction to be made between how the Arab and Jewish communities treat the terrorists among them.
“There was a debate in the High Court about this – whether it is working or not, and whether it’s justifiable from a judicial point of view,” he said. “But the ideology behind it is deterrence, and I don’t think that there are enough people that are acting this way in the Jewish population.”
Indeed, Schweitzer emphasized that while Palestinian terrorists are frequently embraced as heroes and “martyrs” by their respective communities for killing Jews, Jewish terrorists are overwhelmingly ostracized by Israeli society.
“Jewish terrorism is condemned by the vast majority of the Israeli and Jewish people, and it is unacceptable for the grand majority of Israelis,” he said. “Additionally, the chance that it will happen again is very slim, and the demolition of the houses of these shameful and disgraceful members of our nation is not required to deter others. That’s the issue.”
However, Eyal Raz, a spokesman for Peace Now, said that while he does not condone home demolitions, it is reasonable to destroy the homes of Jewish killers if the law applies to their Arab counterparts.
“We are against any home demolition as punishment, and we think that Israel should stop doing that in all the cases we are seeing,” he said on Thursday. “But we must admit that if Israelis are [committing terrorist acts] then there is no reason why it won’t happen again.”
Raz continued: “There is no reason to do it in some cases, but not in others.”
It remains unclear when the High Court will respond to the Abu Khdeir family’s petition.