Friday, July 31, 2015

Housing Demolition and "Price Tag" Terror

Yesterday, extremist Jewish terrorists attacked the Palestinian village of Duma, killing a one-year old child and seriously injuring members of her family. It is the latest in a wave of so-called "price tag" attacks launched against Palestinians (as well as Israeli targets seen as sympathetic to the Palestinians), purportedly in response to Israeli government actions which curb settlement growth (the moniker "price tag" refers to the attackers wishing to exact a "price" for such Israeli actions). Bibi Netanyahu has called the attack an act of "terrorism" -- as he should -- but there has long been a culture of impunity that surrounds these attacks and ensures they will continue no matter how many outraged statements are released from the Prime Minister's office.

So in terms of the next move, I was wondering whether this might be an appropriate venue to apply Israel's longstanding policy of demolishing or sealing the houses of the terrorism suspects. Israel has long done this as a form of deterrence for suicide bombings or other terrorist acts, and there is some evidence that it has been effective. There are also many strong arguments that it is illegal and immoral; for purpose of this post I'm shunting those arguments aside not because I don't think they have weight, but because I don't think they have any more weight when applied to a Jewish home versus a Palestinian home. If it's going to be off the table, it should be off the table for all. But to the extent that the Israeli political and legal system has accepted this tactic as an anti-terror tool, then it should be used against terrorists of all stripes.

The remaining question, then, is whether it would be an effective tool. And my instincts are that the answer is yes, absolutely it would. Obviously destroying a house has a deterrent effect for straightforward, tangible reasons that apply to all homeowners equally. But in the context of Jewish "price tag" settlers particularly, it also carries significant symbolic meaning as well. The ideological construct that surrounds these attacks are all about land and the inalienable right of Jewish occupancy thereto. A punishment that severs that cord carries with it an expressive power that is far more powerful than a simple prison term. Destroying the homes of Jewish settler terrorists would put a "price tag" on the "price tag"; extremists willing to give up their liberty or even their lives may pause if the immediate effect of their barbarism is the evacuation of their precious outposts.

So yes, I think it's worth considering. And certainly, putting on the table would be a powerful signal that the Israeli government draws no distinction between different terrorisms -- if housing demolitions are good for the goose, they're good for the gander as well.

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