Jeff Halper, the American-Israeli director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions [ICAHD] called it a “war crime” — the 5th demolition of Beit Arabiya in Anata on Monday night.
The demolition order was issued by the Israeli military on Thursday. The bulldozers arrived on Monday night.
Jeff Halper + ICAHD have rebuilt this house four times already, after each previous demolition — and he is vowing to do so again.
He’s full of anger + adrenalin, and wrote this for +972 Magazine:
“In the dark of night this past Monday, January 23, the IDF carried out its own Price Tag assault on ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
At 11:30 p.m. on that cold, rainy night, I got a panicky phone call from Salim Shawamreh, a Palestinian man from the West Bank town of Anata whose home has been demolished by the Israeli authorities four times and rebuilt as an act of resistance each time by ICAHD. ‘Army bulldozers are approaching my home’, he cried. ‘Now they’re beginning to demolish it!’
As has become routine, I alerted our activists, plus journalists and foreign diplomats, and we rushed out to Anata. We knew we could not save the homes, but we could resist; stand in solidarity with the families, soaked, with their belongings, in the rain; document what was happening and broadcast this latest war crime to the world. It was another of those thousands of attacks on Palestinians that occur daily but never reach the newspapers – probably because there are so many and they are so routine by now that they are not, in fact, ‘news’.
By the time we reached Salim’s house – which we rebuilt in 2003 and have called Beit Arabiya ever since, the ‘house of Arabiya’, home to Salim’s wife and mother of their seven children – it was gone. Salim himself was afraid to go down the hill to see it because of the soldiers, but I ran down. Even in the dark and rain I could see the ruins of the home, and the family’s belongings that had been thrown out. But I couldn’t tarry. The bulldozers had moved up the hill and were in the process of demolishing a Jahalin Bedouin enclave there – part of the Jahalin tribe that was being removed and relocated on top of the Jerusalem garbage dump near Abu Dis…”
But, that wasn’t the end of it. Jeff continued:
“In the end, Beit Arabiya, six Jahalin homes and most of their animal pens were demolished before the army left. The bulldozer, protected by dozens of troops, belonged to a commercial contractor who was paid well for the demolitions by the Civil Administration, Israel’s military government in the West Bank that uses the word ‘civil’ to downplay its military connections, and to make it appear that demolitions of ‘illegal’ Palestinian homes are simply part of ‘proper administration’.
After staying with the families and promising to rebuild, we finally left to send out press releases; put out information on our website and social media; and begin mobilizing activists abroad and, through them, governments and UN bodies.
Only when we returned early in the morning did we learn that yet another house had been demolished: that of the Abu Omar family, a family of 17 people who lived in a home that had been demolished last year, which ICAHD had rebuilt in our 2011 summer rebuilding camp. We had thought the bulldozer and soldiers had left for the Border Police base on the hill opposite Beit Arabiya and the Jahalin, but in fact they had only gone around Anata. At 3:30 a.m. they pounced on the Abu Omar family, forced them out of their home, removed their belongings and demolished it. The family was so dazed by the sudden violence, terror, confusion and need to protect the terrified children that they hadn’t even thought of phoning us…”
Information posted hours later on the ICAHD website, here, gave more details on the demolition of this second ICAHD-rebuilt house, and tells us that:
“This morning, Israeli authorities demolished the home of the Abu Omar family, rebuilt by ICAHD in July 2011. The Abu Omar family home, built in 1990 on privately owned land, was demolished by the Israeli military in 2005. Ahmed Abu Omar (46) had applied for a building permit, but was refused on the grounds that his land was zoned as an ‘agricultural area’. This is a story we hear often, and it reflects Israel’s long-time, unlawful policy of curtailing all construction by Palestinians since 1967. They were offered neither alternative housing nor compensation for the demolition, violating international law. The construction of the Abu Omar family home, long waited since the 2005 demolition by Israel, was completed on July 24th 2011, exactly six months ago … ICAHD staff visited with the family shortly after the demolition of their home took place to find them somber, traumatized, and grief stricken. ICAHD has vowed to support the family in rebuilding their home, once more”.
That makes two previously-demolished, ICAHD-rebuilt, homes destroyed in the same military operation in Anata on the night of 23-24 January.
Anata is in Area C of the West Bank.
Area C — the largest of three zones determined by agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization — constitutes over 60 percent of West Bank land, and some 124 Israeli Jewish settlements have been built there, which impose severe restrictions on the lives of the diminishing number of Palestinians living there/
Fewer than 6% of the Palestinian population of the West Bank live in Area C, some 62% of the land.
The lack of permission and possibility for Palestinian activity in Area C has recently become a subject of renewed concern by the European Union, whose heads of mission in Jerusalem have just written, in an internal report to their Brussels headquarters, that “The Palestinian presence in the largest part of the occupied West Bank – has been ‘continuously undermined’ by Israel in ways that are ‘closing the window’ on a two-state solution”, as Donald Macintyre reported in The Independent last week, which can be read here.
Macintyre’s report in The Independent continued: “With the number of Jewish settlers now at more than double the shrinking Palestinian population in the largely rural area, the report warns bluntly that, ‘if current trends are not stopped and reversed, the establishment of a viable Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders seem more remote than ever’.”
According to the EU report, Macintyre wrote, the numbers of Palestinians living in Area C has been cut by approximately half since the Israeli occupation following its conquest in the June 1967 war — from perhaps 320,000 at the time to only 150,000 nowadays. Meanwhile, the number of Israeli settlers has grown to replacement level, and stands at 310,000 people.
Macintyre added that the latest Heads of Mission end-of-year internal report “is the EU’s starkest critique yet of how a combination of house and farm building demolitions; a prohibitive planning regime; relentless settlement expansion; the military’s separation barrier; obstacles to free movement; and denial of access to vital natural resources, including land and water, is eroding Palestinian tenure of the large tract of the West Bank on which hopes of a contiguous Palestinian state depend”.
The Heads of Mission report recommended that the EU should “support Palestinian presence in, and development of the area”, according to The Independent.
Amira Hass wrote in Haaretz, here, that: “A newly approved internal report of European Heads of Mission, titled ‘Area C and Palestinian State Building’, cautioned that the chances for a two-state solution on 1967 borders will be lost if Israel does not change its policies in Area C. ‘What’s special about this report is that we are all partners in it and agree on the wording of it’, a European diplomat told Haaretz. ‘The European governments hold a variety of stances regarding the situation – with Holland representing one very pro-Israel side, and Ireland on the other side. But everyone agreed on this document’, the diplomat said, adding: ‘Israel always says it has both enemies and friends in Europe and we say: the friends think this way too about the situation in Area C’.”
Hass added that, in its final version, “the report stated that Israeli policy in Area C ‘results in forced transfer of the native population’.”
Meanwhile, in his article for +972 Magazine, Jeff wrote in anger that this was a “Price Tag” attack on Palestinians, as well as on ICAHD, on the night of 23-24 January:
“The IDF attack on three sites that for years have been identified with ICAHD’s resistance activities was clearly an official, government-sponsored, violent Price Tag assault on Palestinians in order to ‘send a message’ to ICAHD. Out of the tens of thousands of demolition orders outstanding in the Occupied Territory, they chose these three. In fact, the ‘message’ had already been delivered. Already at the second demolition of Beit Arabiya in 1999, Micha Yakhin, the Civil Administration official responsible for overseeing the demolitions in that part of the West Bank, told me: ‘We will demolish every home you rebuild’.
ICAHD has rebuilt 185 demolished Palestinian homes in the past 15 years, all as acts of political resistance – not humanitarian gestures – all funded by donations. We will rebuild the homes demolished Monday night as well. The coming together of Palestinian families and community members, Israeli activists and international peace-makers to rebuild homes is one of the most significant forms of resistance, solidarity and mobilization. But Israel demolished 200 homes last year alone in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, of more than 26,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territory since 1967. Resistance cannot keep pace with the massive Price Tag assault that is the Israeli Occupation”.
Jeff’s account is published here.
An Israeli “Civil Administration” staff member commented that “You should know that these houses were built without permits”.
While the Israeli “Civil Administration” may have civilian Israeli and Palestinian staff, it is run by the Israeli military.
ICAHD reported on its website on [Tuesday] 24 January that they had already invited the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Adequate housing to visit Beit Arabiya during her upcoming visit later this month:
“As its name suggests, Beit Arabiya is a home belonging to Arabiya Shawamreh, her husband Salim and their seven children, a Palestinian family whose home has been demolished four times by the Israeli authorities and rebuilt each time by ICAHD’s Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists, before being demolished again last night. At around 11p.m. Monday, a bulldozer accompanied by a contingent of heavily armed Israeli soldiers appeared on the Anata hills, to promptly demolish Beit Arabiya, along with residential and agricultural structures in the nearby Arab al-Jahalin Bedouin compound. 3 family homes were demolished along with numerous animal pans, and 20 people including young children were displaced, left exposed to the harsh desert environment. While standing in solidarity with Palestinians, ICAHD staff and activists were repeatedly threatened by Israeli soldieries. ICAHD Co-Director Itay Epshtain was beaten and sustained minor injuries.
Beit Arabiya was issued a demolition order by Israeli authorities back in 1994, following their failure to grant a building permit … Arabiya and Salim [Shawamreh] … dedicated their home as a center for peace in the memories of Rachel Corrie and Nuha Sweidan, two women (an American and a Palestinian) who died resisting home demolitions in Gaza.
In the past decade ICAHD has hosted numerous visitors at Beit Arabiya, and based its annual rebuilding camp at the house, rebuilding 185 demolished Palestinian homes.
Only earlier this month, ICAHD extended an invitation to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to visit Beit Arabiya during her country visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory scheduled for later in the month. ‘It is our hope, that while we cannot extend the same hospitality to the Special Raporteur, Prof. Raquel Rolnik will visit the ruins of Beit Arabiya, and report on the utter cruelty, and illegality of Israeli policies and practices, and that members of the international community will follow in her footsteps’, said ICAHD Co-Director Itay Epshtain”…
This is posted on the ICAHD website, here.