This article discusses the nature of “house demolitions” as used by the State of Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In our opinion, and in contrast to the view of Israel’s Supreme Court, such demolition orders constitute a penal sanction. As a penal sanction, we argue that this measure violates the basic principles of criminal liability. Even if this conclusion is not accepted, it will be argued that making innocent people homeless is an illegal collective measure. Even if assuming arguendo that it is not an illegal collective measure, it violates the basic principle of personal responsibility. The general conclusion of the article is that the examination of the nature of sanctions should go beyond the labels that are attached to them. Labeling sanctions as either penal or civil may not always reflect its true nature, and labels are sometimes deliberately used or rather misused in order to escape from the requirements stemming from the true essence of a sanction.
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