US says Israel must halt punitive Palestinian house demolitions
The administration of US President Joe Biden has said that it will ‘prioritize’ halting Israel’s policy of punitive home demolitions in what appeared to be its first confrontation with the new government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
“We attach a good deal of priority to this,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington on Thursday.
The comments come on the heels of the razing on Thursday morning of the home of the Palestinian-American Muntasir Shalabi, who was detained over a drive-by shooting near a West bank settlement in May that killed 19-year-old student Yehuda Guetta.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had spoken to a “senior Israeli counterpart” prior to the demolition, Price said.
“The secretary and other senior officials here at the State Department in recent days have raised these concerns directly with senior Israeli officials and we will continue to do so as long as this practice continues," Price said.
Within hours of the demolition, the US Embassy issued a condemnation. “The home of an entire family should not be demolished for the actions of one individual,” the embassy spokesperson said. Price later repeated the same statement.
The family’s case gained attention in the US because Shalabi, his wife and their seven children, three of whom live in the house and four of whom live in the US, all hold US citizenship.
HaMoked, an Israel-based human rights organization, argued that Shalabi suffered from mental illness and had “repeatedly stated that he was motivated by suicidal thoughts.”
“Punitive home demolition is a collective punishment of innocent people, whose only crime is being related to a criminal,” executive director Jessica Montell said.
“It is a violation of international law and goes against one of the most basic legal principles.”
A report released by Save the Children in June found that four out of five children in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, whose homes have been demolished by Israeli authorities feel abandoned by the world.
Eighty percent of the consulted children said they lost faith in the ability of not just the international community but also the authorities and even their parents to help and protect them. They reported feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness about the future.