Hero of the Day
Our hero of the day is Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who put himself in front of a bulldozer in a protest against the Israeli government’s razing of the home of the Maswada family in Beit Hanina. The Israeli government has demolished an estimated 9000 or so homes in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, more than 90% of them just because they got in the way of some Israeli project.* The government has demolished about 600 homes of families where it alleged that their members were implicated in terrorism or in resistance to the Israeli occupation. House demolitions are illegal for an occupying power, whether for the former reason or the latter. Collective punishment is strictly forbidden by the law of occupation as laid out in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, article 33 of which says, “no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.“
Rabbis for Human Rights issued statistics initially gathered by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, indicating that the Israeli government has demolished 2,500 homes in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1987, a process that has left 16,000 Palestinians homeless.
Rabbi Ascherman said he thought of Rachel Corrie as he stood there. Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer under similar circumstances; the driver came from some distance but later maintained he could not see her. Rabbi Ascherman was not killed, but the Israeli government did arrest him, and he faces fines and up to three years in jail.
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Human Rights Watch has alleged that in four cases, the US army in Iraq has demolished homes as a form of collective punishment, contravening the Geneva Conventions. An army spokesman denied the allegation.
*Thanks to Diane S. for this correction and the Halper cite.