Boston artist Steve Mills - realistic painting

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Palestinian home demolitions: the ethnic cleansing that dare not speak its name

Palestinian home demolitions: the ethnic cleansing that dare not speak its name

Livia Bergmeijer

The ICAHD activists in front of the completed Abu Omar family home in July 2011 (Photo: Livia Bergmeijer)

January 27, 2012

Livia Bergmeijer reports on the destruction by Israeli bulldozers earlier today of two Palestinian families' homes. This is the latest in a long-running pattern across the occupied territories, whose rate and methods, Bergmeijer argues, betray a policy of gradual ethnic cleansing at work.

Last summer, I took part in a rebuilding camp with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions(ICAHD). On the 24th July 2011, a group of Palestinians, Israelis and International peace activists finished rebuilding a demolished Palestinian home. Today, exactly six months later, Israeli occupation forces have, once again, demolished it.
The home belonged to the Abu Omars, a large family of fifteen who, after having had their house demolished in 2005, and after living for six years in their neighbour’s house, were finally able to move back into their new house last summer. Today, they are once again homeless, displaced, distraught, and helpless.
While on the camp, we were hosted by the Shawamrehs, at their house "Beit Arabiya" ("Arabiya’s house"). Their house too was demolished late last night. The fifth time that Salim and Arabiya’s house has been reduced to rubble. They had dedicated the house as a peace centre in the memories of Rachel Corrie and Nuha Sweidan (two women killed while resisting home demolitions in Gaza) and is used to host the participants of the camp every summer. ICAHD reports that, "Arabiya was there and when she witnessed the demolition she fell to the ground. All their trees and vines were uprooted. There is nothing left."
The Abu Omar and Shawamreh families’ land is situated in the Occupied West Bank town of Anata, in what is known as "Area C", meaning it is under complete Israeli military control. Palestinians are almost never granted building permits by the Israeli authorities, and therefore are forced to build or expand their homes "illegally". This is the most common reason given by the Israeli authorities for house demolitions. However, as an occupying force, Israel doesn’t have the legal right to grant nor deny permits as it is not entitled under International Law to conduct civil planning.
The Abu Omar family home near completion in July 2011 (Photo: Livia Bergmeijer)
Nevertheless, the rate and the method of house demolitions show that this is more a policy of gradual ethnic cleansing than anything else, with clear political and strategic purposes. According to ICAHD, "House demolitions and forced evictions are among Israel’s most heinous practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)." Since the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, approximately 26,000 homes have been demolished, and in 2011 alone, 622 Palestinian structures were razed to the ground by Israeli bulldozers.
No alternative housing or compensation is ever given to Palestinian families whose houses are demolished. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Occupying Powers are prohibited from destroying Palestinian property or employing collective punishment. Article 53 reads: "Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons…is prohibited." Under this provision the practice of demolishing Palestinian houses is banned, as is the wholesale destruction of Palestinian infrastructure.
The ruins of the demolished Abu Omar family home 24th January 2012 – (photo: Itay Epshtain – ICAHD)
These particular demolitions have touched me personally because I knew the family, and I know what wonderful, courageous and steadfast people they are. But we must not forget that house demolitions happen all over Palestine (not just the West Bank and East Jerusalem) every single day, and have been happening since 1947. It is a very clear policy designed to slowly but surely forcibly evict Palestinians, the indigenous population of the land, out of their homes and out of their homeland.
We must do everything in our power to stand up against this brutal process of ethnic cleansing. The rebuilding of Palestinian homes is not a humanitarian act; it is a non-violent political strategy aimed at resisting the occupation whilst showing solidarity with Palestinians.
ICAHD has vowed to continue rebuilding homes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and in doing so will not submit to the Israeli occupying forces’ attempts to deter its resistance of the illegal occupation.
For Teodora Todorova’s report on house demolitions in Israel click here.

Livia Bergmeijer is an Italian/Dutch writer and activist. She is a member of the Oxford Students' Palestine Society and took part in a rebuilding camp with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) in the summer of 2011.

New UN Report Shows Sharp Rise In Palestinians Uprooted By Israeli Demolitions

UN News Centre Report

A new mud brick house stands next to the rubble of one of thousands of homes destroyed in the January 2009 war between Israel and Hamas. Photo: IRIN/Suhair Karam

January 27, 2012

Almost 1,100 Palestinians, over half of them children, were displaced due to home demolitions in the West Bank by Israeli forces in 2011 – over 80 per cent more than in the previous year – according to a United Nations report released today (Thursday January 26, 2012).

"Demolitions and Forced Displacement in the Occupied West Bank," prepared by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), adds that an additional 4,200 people were affected by the demolition of structures related to their livelihoods.

The report states that Israeli forces destroyed 622 structures owned by Palestinians including homes, animal shelters, classrooms and mosques – a 42 per cent increase compared to 2010.

In addition, over 60 per cent of the Palestinian-owned structures demolished in 2011 were located in areas allocated to Israeli settlements. Israeli forces destroyed 622 structures owned by Palestinians including homes, animal shelters, classrooms and mosques – a 42 per cent increase compared to 2010.

The report adds that that 90 per cent of the demolitions and 92 per cent of the displacement occurred in already vulnerable farming and herding communities in the territory known as "Area C" – which represents over 60 per cent of the West Bank where Israel retains control over security, planning and building.

Meanwhile, the report states that there was a "significant" decrease compared to previous years, with 42 structures demolished. However, at least 93,100 residents who live in structures built without a permit, remain at risk of displacement.

"The forced displacement of Palestinian families and the destruction of civilian homes and other property by Israeli forces in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have a serious humanitarian impact," the report points out, adding that the impact on families’ psychosocial well-being can be "devastating."

It adds that Israel, as the occupying power in the West Bank, has the obligation to protect Palestinian civilians and to administer the territory for their benefit.

Following the report's publication, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian Territories, Max Gaylard, visited the town of Anata where recent demolitions have left 52 people, including 29 children, homeless.

Gaylard called for an end to all demolitions and reiterated the statements of Valerie Amos, the Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and head of OCHA, who urged Israel, in a visit last May, to end its evictions policy and to look carefully at the key humanitarian concerns of demolitions and displacement in the West Bank.

To read the report, which incudes maps detailing the areas affected by demolitions, visit the following link :

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