Israel forces Palestinians to demolish their own homes citing absence of building permits. [Getty] Date of publication: 17 July, 2020
A UN human rights expert has called on Israel to immediately stop all actions amounting to collective punishment of the Palestinian people, saying millions of innocent people are being harmed daily.
"It is an affront to justice and the rule of law to see that such methods continue to be used in the 21st century and that Palestinians collectively continue to be punished for the actions of a few," said Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. "These practices entail serious violations against Palestinians including the right to life, freedom of movement, health, adequate shelter and adequate standard of living."
In his report to the 44th session of the Human Rights Council, Lynk said Israel's strategy to control the Palestinian population violates a foundational rule of virtually every modern legal system: Only the guilty can be punished for their acts, and only after a fair process. The innocent can never be made to be punished for the deeds of others.
"The extent of the devastating impact of Israel's collective punishment policy can be most strikingly seen in its ongoing 13-year-old closure of Gaza, which now suffers from a completely collapsed economy, devastated infrastructure and a barely functioning social service system," the Special Rapporteur said.
"While Israel's justification for imposing the closure on Gaza was to contain Hamas and ensure Israel's security, the actual impact of the closure has been the destruction of Gaza's economy, causing immeasurable suffering to its two million inhabitants," the Rapporteur said. "Collective punishment has been clearly forbidden under international humanitarian law through Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. No exceptions are permitted."
The Special Rapporteur's new report also criticised Israel's continued policy to punitively demolish Palestinian homes. "Since 1967, Israel has destroyed more than 2,000 Palestinian homes, designed to punish Palestinian families for acts some of their members may have committed, but they themselves did not," he said. "This practice is in clear violation of Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention."
Lynk said it was disheartening that the demolition of Palestinian homes is still viewed by the Israeli political and legal leadership, including the Israeli High Court, as a permissible deterrent. "In fact, these demolitions only further contribute to an atmosphere of hate and vengeance, as the Israeli security leadership has itself acknowledged."