ICAHD calls for an immediate halt to home demolitions
One can only describe Israel’s obsession with demolishing Palestinian homes in light of the exclusive Jewish claim to the entire Land of Israel harking back a century or more. It is not a policy specific to any particular time or place, nor is it confined to the Occupied Territories. In 1948 and for years after, Israeli governments systematically demolished more than 500 entire villages, towns, urban centers and neighborhoods, both to prevent the return of the Palestinian refugees and to take their lands and properties. Since the Occupation began in 1967, another 24,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished, including 4000 in the latest attack on Gaza. And in 2004, the Israeli government announced the establishment of a Demolition Administration within the Ministry of Interior; targeted for destruction are 20-40,000 homes of Israeli (Arab) citizens classified as “unrecognized villages.” (One Bedouin village in the Negev, al Twazil, has been demolished 18 times.)
It must be stressed that Israel has never explained or justified its long-standing practice of demolishing Palestinian homes by security. For the most part it has offered no explanations at all, treating the phenomenon as a purely internal matter. Occasionally it justifies the wholesale destruction of homes in military operations as “collateral damage.” According to Ha’aretz (15.2.09), “Israel Defense Forces investigations into last month’s offensive in the Gaza Strip indicate the army could face significant difficulties justifying the scale of destruction of civilian homes during the fighting. A military source involved in the investigation told Haaretz, “It’s clear to us that in a small portion of the combat sectors immeasurable damage was caused, and that is very difficult to justify from a legal perspective, particularly if such justifications are called for in legal proceedings with international organizations.” As for the thousands of homes demolished due to a lack of building permits, which Israel justifies on a legal basis, it neglects to say that its explicit policy since 1967 has been to deny permits to Palestinians, or to restrict them severely.
When one surveys the consequences of Israel’s house demolition policy from 1948 until the present, the conclusion is inescapable: a systematic and ongoing campaign is being waged to either rid the country of its Palestinian population or, failing that, to confine the remaining Palestinians to tiny, delimited, disconnected and impoverished enclaves, in Israel as well as in the Occupied Territories.
At this very moment, together with the “routine” demolitions that are the Palestinians’ daily fare, 88 homes in the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem – the entire al Bustan quarter – are threatened with immediate destruction, as are two apartment buildings housing 34 families in the adjacent al Abbasiyya quarter. House demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem are illegal under international law, serve no obvious purpose, have severe humanitarian effects and fuel bitterness and extremism. They also violate the first phase of the Road Map. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) calls on the international community to enforce its stated opposition to this cruel policy and end it immediately.
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.
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