Legal interpretation of the demolition of homes in the OPT

12:00 Sep 1 2011 West Bank

Middle East Monitor
Sept 1, 2011

By Mahmoud Al-Mubarak

Observers of the systematic Israeli abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs), especially the demolition of houses and the resultant forced expulsion of the Palestinian population, may be surprised at the absence of any international legal action by Palestinian officials against Israel. They would probably conclude that the Palestinians have a "successful case in the hands of an unsuccessful lawyer".

The demolition of houses and confiscation of Palestinian land is now well-documented in United Nations reports and by many human rights organizations around the world, and even in Israel. The Palestinian Authority (PA), however, has not fulfilled its duty by initiating legal action internationally against these serious violations by the Zionist state.

In fact, the PA's official position on Israel's criminal demolition of Palestinian homes has been limited to mere condemnation; this does not live up to the level of required legal responsibility. Expressions of concern about Israel's Judaisation policies are made even by pro-Israel states, so it is totally inadequate for the PA to make such statements and little else.

That the PA is loath to take the matter further was confirmed two years ago by Hatem Abdul Qader, the former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, who revealed that Ramallah pursues a policy of "tolerance" towards Israel and the Judaisation of Jerusalem. This tolerance extends to the absence of any legal challenges in Israeli courts against decisions to demolish homes and confiscate Palestinian land.

In this brief study, the issue of house demolitions in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 will be assessed from an international legal point of view. I will try to identify the legal avenues that can be followed to prosecute the Israeli government and the parties involved in these violations of international law.

Before delving into the legal details of violations related to the demolition of Palestinian homes, I will determine the international legal status of the Palestinian territories which have been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of June 1967…

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