Palestinian family made to ‘pay the price’ in Israel’s illegal collective punishment

An elderly Palestinian man faces a Border Police officer in Yatta, south of Hebron-Al-Khalil (Hazem Bader - AFP)

Middle East Monitor  /  September 22, 2022

An Israeli appeal court has granted permission to continue illegal collective punishment against 17 innocent members of a Palestinian family five years after the killing of four occupation soldiers by Fadi al-Qanbar. The attack took place in occupied Jerusalem in 2017.

Following the ruling, the extreme far-right nationalist politician and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked announced that not only would she revoke his family’s residency permits, but she would also work to deport family members to the occupied West Bank. Israel argued that the goal of revoking residency is a deterrent, which the court upheld, while admitting that it is a “difficult” result.

“This case involves innocent family members with loose connections to the perpetrator, including step-brothers and second cousins,” the lawyer representing the family is reported as saying by Haaretz. Daniel Shenhar added that the family is considering appealing to the Israeli Supreme Court.

Shaked pledged to make the Palestinians “pay the price for their family member’s actions.” She went on to say that, “This is an important step in the war I’m waging against terrorists and their families.”

Israel began its collective punishment of the family immediately after the killing of the four occupation soldiers. The occupation authorities announced a number of measures at the time aimed at punishing Qanbar’s family, including withholding his body and preventing a public funeral. His home was demolished and other measures designed to punish the family were imposed.

Collective punishment is one of the most extreme measures that Israel has employed against the Palestinians. After it extended its occupation to the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967, it became a regular practice, not least with punitive house demolitions. By definition, this is intended to harm people who have done nothing illegal and are not suspected of any wrongdoing; they just happen to be related to someone who has attacked or attempted to attack Israelis.

Under international humanitarian law, no person may be punished for acts that he or she did not commit. The collective punishment of a group of persons for a crime committed by an individual is thus illegal, whether in the case of prisoners of war or of any other individuals. More controversially, international law permits those living under military occupation — the Palestinians, for example — to engage in resistance to the occupation using any means at their disposal.

As well as highlighting the precarious status of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, the case further exposes Israeli’s discriminatory practices which human rights group have cited when condemning the country for practicing apartheid. The minority Jewish population in occupied East Jerusalem are granted automatic citizenship by Israel and will never have their status questioned nor face collective punishment for crimes committed by Israeli settlers. The majority Palestinian Muslim and Christian population in Jerusalem, however, are granted temporary residency status, despite having connections to the city from before Israel’s creation. The threat of collective punishment looms whenever a family member commits a crime.