Israel collective punishment ‘vicious, vindictive & ugly’

A Palestinian man in despair while his home is being demolished by the Israeli army as ‘collective punishment’
A Palestinian man in despair while his home is being demolished by the Israeli army as ‘collective punishment’

THE ISRAELI public prosecutor for the Jerusalem district has filed ‘a precedent-setting’ civil lawsuit against the widow and young children of Fadi al-Qunbar – who was shot dead by Israeli forces in January after he drove a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, killing four – for some $2 million in financial damages.

The children are all aged between one and eight years old.

According to a report from Israeli news daily Haaretz, the case is a first in a number of civil lawsuits expected to be filed against the families of Palestinians who were killed while allegedly or actually carrying out attacks on Israelis, the Israeli prosecution confirmed.

The state is seeking to have al-Qunbar’s widow Tahani and her children, as his legal heirs, pay an estimated 2 million shekels ($572,000) in compensation for each soldier he killed, including the cost of the soldiers’ headstones – 8,400 shekels ($2,400) each, and reimbursement of benefits paid by the state of Israel to the soldiers’ families.

The civil lawsuit came in addition to numerous severe measures already taken by Israeli authorities against al-Qunbar’s extended family and scores of innocent civilians in the wider Jabal al-Mukkabir community, where the al-Qunbars once resided.

Following the attack, Israeli forces punitively filled their home with concrete, displacing his wife and children.

Israeli authorities have also continue to hold al-Qunbar’s remains, as part of Israel’s policy of withholding the bodies of alleged and actual attackers, which has been denounced by rights groups as collective punishment and a violation of international law.

Al-Qunbar’s relatives, who have denied having advanced knowledge of any plans to carry out an attack, and the wider community of Jabal al-Mukabbir, were subjected to a number of other collective punishment measures that critics called a ‘policy of reprisal’ being waged in the neighbourhood.

A number of al-Qunbar’s relatives and other locals were detained in police raids, and Israeli Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri decided to revoke the Jerusalem residency status of 13 members al-Qunbar’s family – including his mother, which also broke precedent.

While punitive residency revocation had not been implemented in this way before, more than 14,000 Jerusalem residencies for Palestinians have been revoked for other reasons since Israel illegal annexed East Jerusalem in 1967.

The beginning of a wave of political unrest in October 2015 was seized as an opportunity to set a new legal precedent for residence revocation, according to think tank al-Shabaka, when the Israeli security cabinet issued a decision ruling that ‘the permanent residency rights of terrorists will be revoked,’ without defining who was a ‘terrorist’.

In response to the civil lawsuit, Dalia Kerstein, director of the Hamoked Centre for the Defence of the Individual, which is providing support to the family, told Haaretz: ‘The al-Qunbar family is experiencing a revenge campaign by the establishment after the terrorist attack carried out by a relative.

‘Now a damages suit has been filed against the widow and four fatherless children of the perpetrator of the terrorist attack, claiming they are obligated to indemnify the state for damages and expenses due to this attack, (which is) in fact legal but is completely vicious, vindictive and ugly.’

• After Israeli forces raided the northern occupied West Bank city of Jenin before dawn Friday and removed a memorial stone commemorating assassinated Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) leader Khalid Nazzal – prompting a Palestinian in the town to open fire toward the Israeli soldiers – activists set up a new memorial stone at the same site on Saturday.

Before the new memorial was erected in Jenin, activists established an additional memorial stone for Nazzal in the central West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday afternoon ‘as a challenge Israeli authorities,’ who have on numerous occasions destroyed memorials commemorating Palestinians slain by Israeli forces.

‘This memorial stone for martyr Khalid Nazzal was set to challenge the Israeli authorities #PalestinianPeople’

A week prior to the Israeli raid in Jenin to take down the stone, Palestinian authorities from the Jenin municipality had themselves removed Nazzal’s memorial, but replaced it a day later following local uproar, as Palestinian residents perceived the removal as capitulation to Israeli accusations that the monument would incite to anti-Israeli violence.

Following the restitution of the plaque, the Israeli army informed the Palestinian Authority (PA) that it would carry out a raid to remove the stone once again.

Memorial for Khalid Nazzal in Jenin city, before it was removed by Israeli forces in a predawn raid on June 30.

The site in Jenin city were Nazzal’s previous memorial stood, before being removed by the Israeli army.

While Israeli authorities have claimed that a wave of violence that first erupted in October 2015 was caused largely by ‘incitement’ among Palestinians, Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel’s 50-year military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as the absence of a political horizon, as reasons for the outbreak of violence.

Many Palestinians have also pointed out that Israeli violence has continued to shape everyday life in the occupied territory, regardless of any recent ‘upticks’ in clashes or attacks.

• A Palestinian family Saturday was forced to demolish its own house in the town of al-Issawiya, an Arab neighbourhood in Jerusalem, after the Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem threatened to demolish the house under the pretext it was built without an Israeli-issued permit.

Member of the follow up committee in al-Issawiya, Ra’ed Abu Ryaleh, told WAFA the family of Mohammad Ali Nasser ‘Aasi opted to demolish its own home to avoid paying heavy costs if the municipality demolishes it.

The family received a demolition order for the house, which was built in 2008 and consists of two rooms and a kitchen, last month.

Abu Riyala said that two more families were given similar notices by the Israeli municipality.

Palestinians, according to international and Israeli organisations, are forced to build on their property in East Jerusalem without permits because the Israeli municipality does not provide them with building permits in an effort to keep the Palestinian population in the occupied city to a minimum while increasing its Jewish population through building thousands of Israeli-only housing units in dozens of illegal settlements in and around the holy city.

• Israeli authorities Sunday banned more than eight Palestinian families from the city of Hebron, in the southern West Bank, from visiting their imprisoned relatives in the Israeli prison of Nafha, according to local sources.

Ibrahim Najajra, head of prisoners and ex-prisoners affairs, told WAFA Israeli forces sent back more than eight Palestinian families who were heading to Nafha prison to visit their imprisoned relatives, who took part in the Palestinian prisoners’ mass hunger-strike last April.

Najajra said that the ban provokes the agreement that was reached between strike leaders and Israeli prison services in order to break the strike, noting that prisoners may take new measures to protest this breach. Israeli authorities last week banned seven other families from visiting their imprisoned relatives.

• President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to visit France later this week and meet French President Emmanuel Macron, Palestine’s ambassador to Jordan, Attallah Khairi said on Saturday.

He said Abbas is expected to travel to Ethiopia on Sunday for the African Union Summit scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Addis Ababa.

Following that, Abbas will travel to France for a meeting with Macron to congratulate him on his election and to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East political process.

Abbas is expected to discuss with Macron follow up on the resolutions of the international Mideast peace conference France’s former President Francois Hollande had hosted in Paris before his departure.

After concluding this visit, Abbas will then travel to Tunisia where he will meet Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi and other officials, said Khairi.

‘President Mahmoud Abbas is exerting intensive political and diplomatic efforts aimed at mobilising international support for the Palestinian position aimed at halting Israeli practices in the Palestinian territories, foremost of which is the accelerated settlement activity considered the most dangerous for the future of the peace process and security and stability in the region,’ he said.

He added that these efforts ‘aim at creating the conditions for the resumption of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on the basis of the Arab peace initiative and the principle of a two-state solution.’