Israel’s Demolition of Palestinian Buildings

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PALESTINOW.COMA week ago, Israel went through with their biggest demolition operation since 1967. Palestinian-owned apartments that are said to have housed 17 people were torn down after the Israeli government claimed they were too close to the separation wall, reported Al Jazeera. Palestinians living in the affected community of Wadi al-Hummus claimed that about 700 Israeli officers and 200 soldiers entered the neighborhood on Monday morning of last week and forced families out of their homes with no warning. Those affected said they were given permits by the Palestinian Authority to build their homes and felt they were doing so legally. Nine of the 17 Palestinians displaced were refugees and 11 out of the 17 were minors. Moreover, 350 people who owned homes in those buildings have also been displaced. Pro-Palestine activists testified that Israeli soldiers “placed dynamite on every floor of the houses and forced the people, some also required treatment at the hospital.” They also claim to have witnessed Israeli soldiers “throwing tear gas canisters inside the bathroom and locking the door.”

The lawyers for the Palestinians who lost their homes state that this is unfair because Israel has no jurisdiction over this territory as Wadi al-Hummus is on the Palestinian side of the wall but the Supreme Court judges said in June that these residential buildings would “limit [military] operational freedom near the barrier and increase tensions with the local population” as well as “…shelter terrorists or illegal residents among the civilian population, and allow terrorist operatives to smuggle weapons or sneak inside Israeli territory,” according to the BBC. The revocation of Palestinian land, justified by false and, frankly, racist stereotypes of the Palestinian people has allowed Israel to gain the necessary backing to incite violence and antagonize a whole group of people. Israel has received the support of the United States which has served as a sort of immunity against consequences imposed by international organizations. Israel is notorious for their blatantly illegal settlements which are a direct violation of international law. As the UN has stated:

“In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), ruled against constructing the Israeli Barrier and found that the parts running inside the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – including the Sur Bahir homes – ‘cannot be justified by military exigencies and thus violates Israel’s obligations under international law,’ said the statement.

‘Had there been concrete action to ensure respect for these principles, and for international humanitarian and human rights law, generally, the people of Sur Bahir would not be experiencing the trauma they are today, and violations of their rights’, the statement concluded.”

Moreover, since the Oslo Accords, there has been no clear effort to include Palestinian voices in resolution talks. There has been a failure to address Palestinian interests for a multitude of reasons. Doing so may be perceived as the pardoning of “terrorist” groups such as Hamas and the former terrorist group, Fatah. Acknowledging the opposition would mean accepting the legitimacy of a Palestinian state and a potential path to a two-state solution, which Israel’s Likud party is vehemently against. Finally, as long as every Palestinian is seen as a terrorist, a path to peace will be a threat to Israel’s security and stability as a state.

To elaborate on Israel’s deep concern for security, this is one of the primary justifications used by the state whenever they begin to strip away Palestinian rights. Israel has continuously cited the Geneva Convention’s allowing of building structures for security purposes. However, the UN has persistently said that this is not a valid enough excuse: “Among other things, the destruction of private property in occupied territory is only permissible where rendered absolutely necessary for military operations, which is not applicable,” said Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Gwyn Lewis, Director of West Bank Operations for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and James Heenan, Head of the UN Human Rights Office in the area.“Furthermore, it results in forced evictions, and contributes to the risk of forcible transfer facing many Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

The destroyed Palestinian homes cited in the first paragraph are claimed to be a breach of security because of their proximity to the border which may potentially allow terrorists and illegal residents to reach the Israeli side. The heap of restrictions placed on Palestinians (checkpoints, racism, home demolitions, arrests, torture, etc.) incites more extremism rather than prevent it. These security measures that are meant to safeguard Israelis from their neighbors simply demonstrate the state’s hostility and the unwillingness to negotiate a peaceful solution that respects the human rights of Palestinians.

It is extremely difficult to be optimistic when confronted with such a prolonged and ever-changing conflict. At the core of this conflict is a systemic power imbalance between Israelis and Palestinians. A lawyer from the Palestinian rights group, Al Haq, Dalia Qumsieh said, “The case of Sur Baher represents the physical translation of the culture of impunity that prevails,” Qumsieh said. She also mentioned the demolitions were “part of a multi-layered situation of mass human rights violations which included the unjustified military destruction of property.” I believe the issue of home demolitions is another layer in this extremely concentrated issue. We will not find the solution nor will the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) see the consequences of these actions anytime soon but there are powerful movements inching closer and closer to the end of the occupation. It is very important to mention these groups as they are the ones who are fighting for human rights, risking their lives, and standing up for injustices whether they be Palestinian or not. Nonviolent protests have proved to be very effective in rallying support from around the world for the Palestinian struggle, safeguarding their livelihoods, and reminding both sides that the end goal of this conflict is peace and cohabitation. The village of Bilin’s (بلعين) weekly protests against the destruction of their village and the International Solidarity Movement’s sit-ins at homes set to be torn down are effective resistance strategies. Anti-Zionist Israelis have also played a very active role in countering these Israeli policies. Israeli support networks include The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, which also physically stand in the way of bulldozers meant to demolish Palestinian homes. There is a plethora of organizations, activists, and communities, both Israeli and Palestinian, that oppose the occupation by working together. The move towards dismantling the state of Israel’s power complex that is based on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and swift annexing of their territories is done by demonstrating a lack of support for Israeli policies against Palestinians and supporting grassroots movements. These home demolitions are another tactic used by the state to remain in power but as long as there is no justice, there is no peace.

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