Israel employs legal principle of collective punishment used by Nazi Germany

In an editorial, Haaretz says: Over the past few months, Israel has adopted the principle known in German as sippenhaft – meaning a family’s shared responsibility for a crime committed by one of its members. Its origins lie in ancient times, when an offender’s entire tribe would be punished for his crimes. In the modern era, this principle was characteristic of totalitarian regimes, when the relatives of “enemies of the state” were punished by exile, imprisonment or execution. Today, this method is common in North Korea.

The Netanyahu government’s response to shooting, knifing and car-ramming attacks is based on the same principle: The family that “supports and assists” the terrorist, as Netanyahu put it, is as guilty of terror as the offender. That is why house demolitions have been renewed. According to figures by the nonprofit B’Tselem, 31 Palestinian homes have been demolished whose relatives were involved in attacks, with other demolitions planned. That is also why Israel is holding the bodies of attackers from East Jerusalem and punishing their families by delaying burials. Israeli advocates of sippenhaft argue that it’s the only way to deter the Palestinians, citing cases in which families gave up suspects as proof that the method works. To them, the deportation of families to Gaza seems the ultimate weapon against lone-wolf attacks.

But the Palestinians are not the only ones who’ll pay the price for punishing the families; Israel will, too. Because a state that adopts the legal methods and laws of totalitarian states begins to look like those countries, even if it calls itself “the only democracy in the Middle East.” [Continue reading…]

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