Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes undermines prospects for peace

Stones can be demolished and emotions can be shattered but Palestinians’ resilience can hardly be broken or twisted.
Saturday 27/07/2019
A destroyed building is seen as Palestinians perform Friday prayers during a protest against the Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the village of Sur Baher, July 26. (Reuters)
A destroyed building is seen as Palestinians perform Friday prayers during a protest against the Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the village of Sur Baher, July 26. (Reuters)

The Palestinian village of Wadi al-Hummus in Sur Bahir neighbourhood, south of East Jerusalem, has witnessed the largest forceful eviction in the city since 1967.

About 1,000 soldiers and police officers took part in the campaign July 22 broadcast live on television without regard to the tears of children or mothers. Palestinian families were dragged from their homes during pre-dawn raids amid a heavy security presence and military bulldozers and diggers.

They became homeless by an order from the Supreme Court of Israel. The destruction of residential homes without providing a replacement in the same area is a form of ethnic cleansing. It shows how ugly the military occupation is.

Men, boiling in anger, were unable to prevent the destruction of their property. Women screamed in the hope to soften the hearts of soldiers. All in vain. You, as a Palestinian, should accept being deprived of your basic rights and of your humanity. Families sat at a distance watching their apartments torn apart.

What added a bitter feeling for those who became homeless was watching soldiers celebrating and rejoicing after detonating explosives planted in an eight-storey building. It is sickening how a fellow human being is happy to destroy your home with a push of a button as if he were playing a computer game.

The Supreme Court in June ruled in favour of the military after more than six years of legal battles. Israeli authorities consider homes built near the Israeli separation wall in the occupied West Bank a “security” risk. The Israeli judges claim the Palestinian homes “limit military operational freedom near the barrier and increase tensions with the local population.”

No Palestinian asked for the apartheid wall to be built close to their land. The wall was designed for a land grab to drive residents away and change the demographics of the area.

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, East Jerusalem and its neighbourhoods should be under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and residents whose homes were razed said they had obtained the permits from the PA. However, since when does Israel respect any agreement? And since when can the PA prevent an Israeli order?

The PA’s response was to tweet: “Ongoing: Demolitions in #SurBahir started early this morning with four houses at once. Preparations started past midnight as hundreds of armed Israeli occupying soldiers/ bulldozers stormed the town. Families threatened with demolitions were woken up/ moved out of their homes.”

The occupying force does not need a pretext to destroy Palestinian lives and homes. It can do what it wants knowing that its actions will go unpunished. Yes, there were shy condemnations following the demolitions from the European Union, the United Nations, some countries and human rights organisations for “violating international law” but those condemnations mean nothing to the Palestinians because Tel Aviv will continue to enjoy the culture of impunity.

“In line with the EU’s long-standing position, we expect the Israeli authorities to immediately halt the ongoing demolitions,” a statement by the European Union said.

The Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands across the West Bank never stopped nor will it as long as Israel has no defined borders. The Palestinian leadership threatened to go to the International Criminal Court but we know that no measures will be drawn to criminalise Israel as long as the United States and the Trump administration, in particular, back Israel whatever the circumstances.

While Palestinians in East Jerusalem say it is nearly impossible to get a building permit from Israeli authorities, an Israeli advocacy group called Ir Amim said Israel had demolished 63 housing units in the first half of this year, compared with 37 during the same period last year.

Not only do demolitions undermine the prospect for lasting peace but building more illegal settlements and expanding the existing ones do, too, in addition to numerous occupation practices and violations designed to suppress Palestinians to force them to give up their rights, self-determination and freedom.

Stones can be demolished and emotions can be shattered but Palestinians’ resilience can hardly be broken or twisted.

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