Media censorship about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict protects most Americans from knowledge of the brutality and human rights injustices entailed in Israel’s military occupation/colonization of the West Bank and the Gaza siege. But there are also positive aspects of this conflict that are even further hidden from view. Fred Schlomka issued this report on the activities of the Israel Committee Against House Demolition and other peace activist organizations on April 14, 2008. It is about Israelis and Palestinians working together to achieve human rights and justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Israeli & Palestinian Activists Rebuild Demolished Homes
On 12th April over 40 Israeli activists from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv arrived in a West Bank village for a day of solidarity and work with Palestinians. Two homes destroyed by the Israeli government were in process of being rebuilt by ICAHD’s Constructing Peace Campaign as part of the organization’s resistance and civil disobedience activities. Also sponsoring the event were Bat Shalom and the Tel Aviv University Student Coalition whose members participated in the event.
The stories about the families (names withheld to avoid retaliation) involved are typical of the Israeli justice system in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It’s Orwellian and its intent is the slow ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Mr. A built his home in 2006, adjacent to his parent’s home on the family land. In 2007 the Civil Administration issued a demolition order and told the family that unless they destroyed the house themselves, then the authorities would demolish all the homes in the neighborhood. There was no reason to disbelieve the threat, so together with friends and relatives, Mr. A dismantled the home over the course of a week, saving what he could from the construction materials. This rendered the family homeless and they once again had to move in with Mr. A’s parents.
Despite their modest background, this is an educated family. Mr. A is the headmaster of a high school. His sister is a nurse and one of his brothers works for the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry. These are exactly the people whose careers need to be fostered and supported if the Palestinian people are to have any chance of self-reliance. However the Occupation is relentless, and its bureaucratic mechanisms do not discriminate between people. Peasant or businessman; laborer or schoolteacher; the repressive Israeli regime treats everyone the same.
Mr. A maintains a beautiful garden and greenhouse full of vegetables, fruit trees, grape vines, and flowers. His entire extended family is fed from these efforts. The garden is organic, using traditional methods, and seasonal plantings ensures a plentiful supply of produce throughout the year. Selected mature plants are always allowed to go to seed after each harvest, thus ensuring the next crop.
In 1986 the B family applied for a building permit on village land that the family had owned for generations. Despite giving provisional approval for the new home, the Israeli `Civil Administration’ denied the permit. Mr. B went ahead and built their home and lived in it for several years with his wife and ten children. In 1995, while Mr. B was in hospital and his family were visiting him, the Israeli army descended on the village, declared a curfew, and demolished the home. The family lived for one year in a tent, and then in two rooms provided by Mr. B’s brother. The family belongs to one of five Hamulas (family clans) in the village.
Mr. B is a gaunt man, his body racked by illness. The Palestinian Health Ministry has declared him a 95% invalid and the family receives aid from the ministry and an international agency.
Mrs. B commented’ ” What they are doing is a horrible thing in any religion in the world. To do this to a disabled person is a crime. “
House demolition, of course, is a staple tactic in Israel’s continuing project to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians off their lands. Israeli (and Palestinian) peace activists like these continue their nonviolent work to protest it.