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Israeli suit against family of Palestinian attacker takes collective punishment to new extreme

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When Israel passed a new counter-terrorism law last year, Ayman Odeh, a leader of the country’s large minority of Palestinian citizens, described its draconian measures as colonialism’s “last gasp”. He said: “I see … the panic of the French at the end of the occupation of Algeria.”

The panic and cruelty plumbed new depths last week, when Israeli officials launched a $2.3 million lawsuit against the family of Fadi Qanbar, who crashed a truck into soldiers in Jerusalem in January, killing four. He was shot dead at the scene.

The suit demands that his widow, Tahani, reimburse the state for the compensation it awarded the soldiers’ families. If she cannot raise the astronomic sum, the debt will pass to her four children, the oldest of whom is currently only seven.

Israel is reported to be preparing many similar cases.

Like other families of Palestinians who commit attacks, the Qanbars are homeless, after Israel sealed their East Jerusalem home with cement. Twelve relatives were also stripped of their residency papers as a prelude to expelling them to the West Bank.

None has done anything wrong – their crime is simply to be related to someone Israel defines as a “terrorist”.

This trend is intensifying. Israel has demanded that the Palestinian Authority stop paying a small monthly stipend to families like the Qanbars, whose breadwinner was killed or jailed. Conviction rates among Palestinians in Israel’s military legal system stand at more than 99 percent, and hundreds of prisoners are incarcerated without charge.

Israeli legislation is set to seize $280 million – a sum equivalent to the total stipends – from taxes Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, potentially bankrupting it.

On Wednesday Israel loyalists will introduce in the US Senate a bill to similarly deny the PA aid unless it stops “funding terror”. Issa Karaka, a Palestinian official, said it would be impossible for the PA to comply: “Almost every other household … is the family of a prisoner or martyr.”

Israel has taken collective punishment – a serious violation of international law – to new extremes, stretching the notion to realms once imaginable only in a dystopian fable like George Orwell’s 1984.

Israel argues that a potential attacker can only be dissuaded by knowing his loved ones will suffer harsh retribution. Or put another way, Israel is prepared to use any means to crush the motivation of Palestinians to resist its brutal, five-decade occupation.

All evidence, however, indicates that when people reach breaking-point, and are willing to die in the fight against their oppressors, they give little thought to the consequences for their families. That was the conclusion of an investigation by the Israeli army more than a decade ago.

In truth, Israel knows its policy is futile. It is not deterring attacks, but instead engaging in complex displacement activity. Ever-more sadistic forms of revenge shore up a collective and historic sense of Jewish victimhood while deflecting Israelis’ attention from the reality that their country is a brutal colonial settler state.

If that verdict seems harsh, consider a newly published study into the effects on operators of using drones to carry out extrajudicial executions, in which civilians are often killed as “collateral damage”.

A US survey found pilots who remotely fly drones soon develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress from inflicting so much death and destruction. The Israeli army replicated the study after its pilots operated drones over Gaza during Israel’s 2014 attack – the ultimate act of collective punishment. Some 500 Palestinian children were killed as the tiny enclave was bombarded for nearly two months.

Doctors were surprised, however, that the pilots showed no signs of depression or anxiety. The researchers speculate that Israeli pilots may feel more justified in their actions, because they are closer to Gaza than US pilots are to Afghanistan, Iraq or Yemen. They are more confident that they are the ones under threat, even as they rain down death unseen on Palestinians.

The determination to maintain this exclusive self-image as the victim leads to outrageous double standards.

Last week the Israeli supreme court backed the refusal by officials to seal up the homes of three Jews who kidnapped Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old from Jerusalem, in 2014 and burnt him alive.

In May the Israeli government revealed that it had denied compensation to six-year-old Ahmed Dawabsheh, the badly scarred, sole survivor of an arson attack by Jewish extremists that killed his entire family two years ago.

Human rights group B’Tselem recently warned that Israel has given itself immunity from paying compensation to all Palestinians under occupation killed or disabled by the Israeli army – even in cases of criminal wrongdoing.

This endless heaping of insult upon injury for Palestinians is possible only because the west has indulged Israel’s wallowing in victimhood so long. It is time to prick this bubble of self-delusion and remind Israel that it, not the Palestinians, is the oppressor.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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13 Responses

  1. eljay on July 12, 2017, 1:44 pm

    It seems that Zionists have become immune to doing ordinary evil and need to engage in something stronger in order to get off. The rapist is turning his basement into a Hostel.

  2. Eva Smagacz on July 13, 2017, 7:14 am

    Palestinians must brush up on the slavery / debt bondage rules in Old Testament:

    Exodus 21:1 “These are the laws you are to set before them:

    Hebrew Servants

    2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. 3 If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.
    5 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

    7 “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. 8 If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. 9 If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

    20 “If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, 21 but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.

    Lev 25:1 The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai…

    Lev 25:39 ” ‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave. 40 He is to be treated as a hired worker or a temporary resident among you; he is to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. 41 Then he and his children are to be released, and he will go back to his own clan and to the property of his forefathers. 42 Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. 43 Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God.

    44 ” ‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

    47 ” ‘If an alien or a temporary resident among you becomes rich and one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells himself to the alien living among you or to a member of the alien’s clan, 48 he retains the right of redemption after he has sold himself. One of his relatives may redeem him: 49 An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in his clan may redeem him. Or if he prospers, he may redeem himself. 50 He and his buyer are to count the time from the year he sold himself up to the Year of Jubilee. The price for his release is to be based on the rate paid to a hired man for that number of years. 51 If many years remain, he must pay for his redemption a larger share of the price paid for him. 52 If only a few years remain until the Year of Jubilee, he is to compute that and pay for his redemption accordingly. 53 He is to be treated as a man hired from year to year; you must see to it that his owner does not rule over him ruthlessly.

    54 ” ‘Even if he is not redeemed in any of these ways, he and his children are to be released in the Year of Jubilee, 55 for the Israelites belong to me as servants. They are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.


    • Ronald Johnson on July 13, 2017, 9:16 am

      It is well to note that the ancient Hebrews had rules limiting the exploitation of “the Nations”, but it appears that, in Israel, the Goyim, Gentiles, the Nations, will have permanent inferior status – in the nation-state of the Jewish people.

      May we please reject the racism of the Old Testament, altogether?

  3. a blah chick on July 13, 2017, 9:37 am

    The government has got to know that these families don’t have millions of dollars so Whi is going to foot these bills? The PA? Do they really think this will work? No, they don’t but the alternative is to admit that their soldier goons are responsible and we can’t have that!

    BDS can only get stronger.

  4. bilsep2 on July 13, 2017, 12:03 pm

    The author is wearing blinders.

    Courts in every civilized country allow victims of crime to recover the “profits of the crime”, such as royalties earned by murderers for books they’ve written about their crime, from the murderer or his descendants.

    The PA is paying the family of terrorists, under the guise of a stipend for the loss of a family bread winner, for committing acts of terror against innocent civilians, which by its very nature, is compensation to the family for the terrorist’s criminal act.

    Allowing suit against terrorist’s families to recover the profits of these crimes, to compensate the families of the victims, is not collective punishment.

    • a blah chick on July 13, 2017, 2:30 pm

      By the way, how much compensation did the Dawabshe boy get?

    • Bumblebye on July 13, 2017, 2:53 pm

      Bilge, military personnel in a city recognised as occupied – by the whole world – were targetted. That happens to be *legal* resistance, dislike though we probably all do. In no way (except in israel of course) is it terrorism.
      Meanwhile, israel continues to occupy illegally, territory over which it is NOT sovereign. It continues to steal land and resources from the lawful inhabitants, denies them any civil rights or citizenship and frequently and wantonly murders, maims, raids and steals on a more mundane level. Should these people you and yours have so dehumanised really be expected to just take it, not just day in, day out, but week, month, year, decade in and out? Should they accept you and yours as their self-appointed masters and betters? Would you?

      As for the crimes israel continues to commit against this family (and so very many others), they’ve destroyed their home, they’ve stolen everything they had, they’ve destroyed their future and no doubt as soon as these small kiddies are just a little older they’ll be terrorising them in lock-ups and prisons for doing *nothing* wrong.

      This new ‘law’ of israel’s is probably unique in the world in its unremitting cruelty. A stipend for a widowed mother of small children merely helps her and the little ones live from day to day. It is no ‘reward’. It is no different than one of the various forms of social security someone in a similar position could claim in almost any western country. She and the children are not only victims of israel’s endless crimes against Palestinians, they are also victims of their husband and father’s actions. Now israel insists on making a young woman and very young children guilty in perpetuity of the actions of another? How utterly sick is a society that would do that? Is this going to be until the seventh generation?

      The sooner we see a complete end of zionism the better.

    • eljay on July 13, 2017, 3:38 pm

      || bilsep2: … Courts in every civilized country allow victims of crime to recover the “profits of the crime”, such as royalties earned by murderers for books they’ve written about their crime, from the murderer or his descendants.

      The PA is paying the family of terrorists, under the guise of a stipend for the loss of a family bread winner, for committing acts of terror against innocent civilians, which by its very nature, is compensation to the family for the terrorist’s criminal act. … ||

      I agree that courts should allow victims of Zionist (war) crimes to recover the “profits of (war) crime”, such as the billions of dollars Israel receives every year under the guise of aid. The U.S. pays the terrorist state, under the guise of aid, for committing (war) crimes against innocent civilians, which by its very nature, is compensation to the state for its terrorist activities.

      • Citizen on July 14, 2017, 5:53 am

        The Germans pay reparations, collective guilt, for how many generations now with no end in sight? And the same principle is to be applied to Palestinian families with members resisting a half century of occupation and spreading Israeli lebensraum? This turns ethical/moral logic on its head.

    • johneill on July 13, 2017, 11:07 pm

      bilsep, i expect anyone giving money to elor azaria or his family to be targeted as well.

  5. echinococcus on July 13, 2017, 2:10 pm


    Let’s not be silly. Where is the “terrorism”? The UN Charter is clear: invaded and occupied peoples have every right to resist the occupier by all available means.

    As for your mentioning the typical, unrelenting, hateful US Puritanism as something done by “Courts in every civilized country”, don’t be ridiculous. We have no relationship at all with any kind of civilized country. We still practice ritual human sacrifice and remain unashamed in defying international law.

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