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Israel bans demolishing homes of mentally ill Palestinians

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit yesterday ruled that Israel cannot demolish the homes of Palestinians found to have psychological disorders.

Mandelblit ruled that where a Palestinian is shown to suffer from mental illness, demolishing or threatening to demolish their home will not serve as a deterrent – the justification used by Israel for its punitive policy. Mandelblit explained in a letter that:

That person doesn’t have the ability to consider in a rational way the realistic possibility that the home he is living in might be destroyed, and as a result of that refrain from carrying out the terror act that is sought to be deterred.

In addition, Mandelblit also warned against the disproportionate use of house demolitions as a method of punitive action against Palestinians, citing a Supreme Court ruling which suggested lesser measures were preferable to razing their home in certain instances, the Times of Israel reported.

Mandelblit’s judgement came after Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman requested his legal opinion on a recent case in which the Israeli army and Justice Ministry decided not to destroy the home of Palestinian Abd Al-Rahman Bani Fadel after receiving evidence from the latter’s family that he had a history of mental illness. Lieberman was “fuming against the decision,” the Times of Israel noted, and had hoped that Mandelblit would declare the army’s judgement incorrect. Lieberman has not yet commented on Mandelblit’s letter.

Israel regularly employs the practice of house demolition as a punitive measure against Palestinians and cites a variety of reasons to justify this. Earlier this week, Israeli occupation forces demolished the home of Jerusalemite Palestinian Saleh Fahidat, leaving him and his family homeless. The house had been recently built in the Anata neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem, not far from Shu’fat, and was demolished under the pretext of lacking the necessary building permits – which Israel makes almost impossible to obtain. Fahidat explained that he and his family were not given prior notice to leave.

On 18 October, Israeli occupation forces demolished nine Palestinian owned buildings in three different locations of the occupied West Bank – in Al-Birah, Bardala and Duma. Just one week earlier, Israel had demolished two Palestinian homes and confiscated solar panels in the Al-Halawa neighbourhood of Hebron, in the south of the occupied West Bank. Both were demolished under claims of having been built without the necessary building permits. According to Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem 21 Palestinians, seven of whom were minors, have been left homeless so far in 2018 as a result of Israel’s punitive demolition policies. Regarding homes demolished for lacking a building permit, B’Tselem also notes that from “2006 until 30 September 2018, Israel demolished at least 1,373 Palestinian residential units in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem), causing 6,133 people – including at least 3,103 minors – to lose their homes”.

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