UN: Israel’s demolitions of Palestinian homes hit record high
Ready to demolish a Palestinian home, Israeli soldiers and buldozers surround Samir Muhammad Hasan Younis home in the West Bank village of Azzun Atma near Qalqilia on January 11. (MaanImages/Khaleel Reash)
April 3, 2011
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israel’s demolitions of Palestinian homes and buildings reached a record high in March for the third consecutive month, according to figures from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
The UN Relief and Works Agency recorded 76 demolitions of Palestinian buildings in March, forcibly displacing 158 Palestinians including 64 children.
So far this year, Israel has demolished the homes of 333 Palestinians, including 175 children, UNRWA reported.
Meanwhile, Israel has built a record number of Jewish-only homes on occupied Palestinian land, in contravention of international law.
Commenting on the unprecedented figures, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Ma’an that they revealed ethnic discrimination.
“I am not saying this is classic ethnic cleansing, but the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned this discrimination and make no mistake, it is discrimination against one ethnic group.”
Demolition of the peace process
The last round of talks collapsed over Israel’s refusal to extend a partial freeze on illegal settlement building on occupied Palestinian land. Palestinian negotiators refused to engage in talks while Israel built on land which would be a Palestinian state if a peace agreement was reached.
Gunness noted that by demolishing Palestinian homes, Israel was diminishing the possibility of a two-state solution.
“The West Bank is where the future Palestinian state is meant to be situated. Its viability is being reduced with each demolition.”
The UN agency urged peace makers to pressure Israel to end its discriminatory practices, noting that the culture of impunity led to more abuses, stimulated anger and resentment on both sides and impeded the peace process. “Homes, families, lives and the peace process are being demolished,” Gunness said.
[End of Article by Ma'an News Agencies]
In 1947 the UN partitioned Palestine, giving over half the land to one third of the population —mostly recent Jewish immigrants — and allotting the rest to the indigenous, Palestinian population. In 1948, when the British withdrew, the Zionist forces took 78% of Palestine, driving out most of the inhabitants and razing to the ground about 500 Palestinian villages.
In 1967 Israel occupied the rest of Palestine and set about colonising the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Many settlements are built on prime agricultural land.
The Israeli government claims that the status of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights is ‘disputed’. But this view flies in the face of international law. In fact, no state recognises Israel’s right to continue to hold these Occupied Territories.
Even Israel’s own Supreme Court, in 2002, recognised that the West Bank and Gaza are “subject to a belligerent occupation by the State of Israel.”
The rights of a people living under occupation are guaranteed under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (to which Israel is a signatory), which states “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” To do so is a war crime, indictable under the International Criminal Court.
However, since 1967, successive Israeli governments have pursued a policy of building and expanding colonies (or ‘settlements’) in the Occupied Territories. Land is grabbed, driving out the Palestinian population, and huge numbers of soldiers and resources are employed to guard the newlycreated hostile colonies. The largest are Ariel (18,000 inhabitants) and Maale Adumim (35,000 inhabitants).
The settlements policy constitutes an attempt to alter the final status of the land on which they stand. By implanting thousands of Israelis deep in occupied land, Israel hopes to expand its borders by annexing these settlement areas, including the Jordan Valley.
UN Security Council resolutions have ruled Israel’s settlements to be illegal and an obstruction to a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Middle East. Yet at the beginning of 2010 there were about 120 settlements, and dozens of unofficial ‘outposts’, with a population of about 300,000 in the West Bank and nearly 200,000 in and around East Jerusalem. About half the West Bank is now under the jurisdiction of settlements, either as built-up areas or future land reserves for settlement expansion. 
All the above policies and actions are in contravention of international law, and have been condemned by dozens of UN resolutions — to no avail.
The International Court of Justice ruling on 9 July 2004 declares the Wall illegal and instructs the International Community “not to render any aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by it.”
The Hague Convention on Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land lays down that “the lives of persons, and private property must be respected: private property cannot be confiscated”Section IV, Article 46, The Hague Convention
It is “forbidden for an occupying state to destroy any movable or immovable private property belonging to individuals, groups, states, public authorities, social organisations or cooperatives unless military operations require such destruction.”Article 53 of th IVth Geneva Convention
The Jordan Valley
In colonising this area, Israel is seeking to ensure that any future Palestinian ‘state’ would not have international borders with any other country: it completes the encirclement of Palestinian centres of population. Israelis are encouraged to settle here with the gift offree land (expropriated from Palestinian farmers), free water for irrigation and cash incentives.
Much of the Israeli agricultural produce in our shops is from this fertile area. Grown illegally on confiscated land, it is often exported as ‘produce of Israel’ and benefits from the preferential tariffs with the EU. This produce is an especial focus of the growing ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ campaign (see below).
The settlements constitute a major obstacle to a just peace in the Middle East; they prolong the conflict and make the establishment of an independent Palestinian state impossible. John Dugard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, summarised the impact of the settlements thus: “Much of Israeli security apparatus is designed to ensure the protection of the settlers who are there illegally anyway. And so it’s the protection of these illegal settlers that gives rise to this security situation in the West Bank and Gaza. So, if you are asking me what the remedy is, in the first place, the settlements should be dismantled.”7
The colonisation and ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem
“Israel’s main motivation is almost certainly demographic — to reduce the Palestinian population of Jerusalem, while exerting efforts to boost the number of Jewish Israelis living in the city — East and West” Jerusalem and Ramallah Heads of EU Missions Report December 2005
The Apartheid Wall is almost completed in Jerusalem, snaking around communities and shutting them out of the city. Settlements expand and new colonies emerge on
the Palestinian lands left isolated behind the Wall. A 13.5 km railway built by French multinationals will integrate the illegal settlements into the city while further isolating
Palestinians from their capital and their neighbours. As well as the fabric of the city, the historic ethnic, cultural and religious diversity of Jerusalem is being destroyed.
For over two millennia Jerusalem has been a paradigm of religious, social and cultural diversity. For many centuries it was home to a Muslim majority, Christians of different denominations, and a small Jewish community, all living in harmony under a variety of regimes.
The seventh century Dome of the Rock, next to the Al Aqsa Mosque, is the most prominent building of the Old City, and is sacred to Muslims as the place from which the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven, to meet with God. Jews have always been allowed access to pray at the Western Wall, bordering the Dome of the Rock. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is perhaps the most sacred of the many churches in the Old City. As an international place of pilgrimage, Jerusalem was for centuries the hub of the Palestinian economy.
The city is therefore of central importance to both Muslim and Christian Palestinians in political, economic, social and religious terms. They regard East Jerusalem
as the capital of their future state. Under international law, Tel Aviv is in fact the capital of Israel, and that is where all foreign embassies are housed. However Israel has proclaimed Jerusalem the “undivided” and “eternal capital of Israel”. The beginnings of segregation and colonisation
When the United Nations voted in 1947 to partition Palestine, Jerusalem was designated an international zone, lying in the heart of what was intended as a Palestinian state. However, zionist militias overran the designated boundaries and occupied 78% of what had been Palestine, including West Jerusalem. The de facto borders they established (the ‘Green Line’) lay just to the west of the Old City.
In 1967 the Israeli army occupied the rest of Palestine — East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — including the Old City, populated largely by Palestinian
Christians and Muslims. Israel then started to implement plans for the judaisation of the city, as well as the colonisation of other areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians have now been reduced to 30% of the population of East Jerusalem through methods of land confiscation and discriminatory laws.
Apartheid residency laws
The ‘transfer’ of the Palestinians from Jerusalem started with the creation of Israel in 1948 when 80,000 Palestinians were expelled by force from West Jerusalem.
During the 1967 war, 125 houses of the Maghariba Quarter in the Old City were demolished and their residents were expelled to make way for the plaza of the Western Wall. The identity and residency laws are continuously being tightened in order to reduce the number of Palestinians living in Jerusalem. Palestinian Jerusalemites are obliged to carry annually renewed blue Israeli ID cards, which give them ‘the right’ to live in East Jerusalem, but not to vote in Israeli national elections or take an Israeli passport.
The ID card can be revoked on a variety of pretexts. Those studying or working abroad temporarily have lost their ID cards and their rights to return. Those working or living in the West Bank, because of economic problems in East Jerusalem, face losing their rights if caught. Couples where only one has a blue ID card must be separated, or both live in the West Bank and lose all Jerusalemite status.
Discriminatory policies After 1967, in contravention of international law, the Israeli government created the Jerusalem Municipality — a greatly enlarged Jerusalem to include all the illegal settlement colonies in and around the city, and land confiscated from the districts of Bethlehem and Ramallah. Building permits for Palestinians on their own land are all but unobtainable and Palestinian homes built in the area without permits are routinely demolished. The Palestinian Jerusalemites are subject to high taxation while expenditure on the services and amenities given to them is kept to a minimum. People have to choose between this or exile abroad or in what remains of the West Bank. If
property is left empty (usually because Palestinians are not allowed to reach it) it is seized by the Israeli government.
Land confiscation and illegal settlements
Nowhere in occupied Palestine has settlement building been more evident than in the Jerusalem area. There are currently 211,000 illegal Israeli settlers living in and around Jerusalem on land confiscated from Palestinians.
After the 1948 war and the Nakba, 38 Palestinian villages in the Jerusalem district were destroyed and depopulated. Thousands of Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from numerous neighbourhoods in West Jerusalem. These included Baq’a and Talbiya, al- Maliha, Lifta, Deir Yasin, Ein Karem. The Palestinian people were replaced by new Israeli settlers.
Following the 1967 war, West Jerusalem expanded even further. Israel proceeded with the construction of huge blocks of settlements that form a ring around the city and isolate it from its Arab neighbourhoods, and from the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem.
These continue to be built on land confiscated from Palestinians around Jerusalem and also from the districts of Ramallah and Bethlehem. They are Maale Adumim to the east, the Givon Bloc to the northwest, Gush Etzion to the southwest and the Benyamin Bloc to the north. More settlements are being implanted into the hearts of Palestinian neighbourhoods. Examples include Nof Zahav in Mount Scopus, Kidmat Zion in Abu Dis, Almon in Anata, and an industrial zone in Beit Surik, Al Walaja and Beit Safafa.
The most ambitious settlement project underway is project E1 (see map).
This is the expansion of Maale Adumim to form an enormous block comprising 4,000 housing units built on 12,000 dunums of land stolen from Palestinians. The overall plan will cover over 53 square kilometres, an area larger than Tel Aviv, stretching from Jerusalem to Jericho. It will completely encircle the city of Jerusalem by Jewish settlements and will divide the West Bank into two separate geographical areas rendering a future Palestinian state a non-viable option.
In the Old City, the ancient predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods are now a target. Pressure of every kind is being brought to bear on the Palestinian inhabitants to leave, and settlement is being planned. Israeli policy is to bar non-Jerusalem Palestinians from entering the city, as well as dispossessing them of their property in annexed Jerusalem. Then under this pretext, settlers are encouraged by government agencies to move to Palestinian homes declared as “state property”.
Palestinian homes in Silwan, just south of the city walls, are continuously seized by Jewish settlers. Plans for new Jewish settlements in Palestinian neighbourhoods around the Old City, such as in Silwan, Ras el-‘Amud and Sheikh Jarrah, are under way.
Settler-only highways criss cross the entire West Bank, connecting the illegal settlements. West Bank residents are not allowed onto these roads despite the fact that they are built on Palestinian land and that they pass in between Palestinian villages. Israel thus has complete control of the entire area. Meanwhile, Israel is constructing tunnels and alternative road systems, so they can claim that Palestinian areas have “transportational contiguity” – i.e. that what will be left is in some way viable.
A light railway project financed by European companies including Connex is also underway. It will serve settler traffic around Jerusalem, integrating the settlements into the city and connecting them to those in the Jordan Valley. In this way European money and knowhow condone and support the illegal occupation and colonisation of Palestine.
Checkpoints: Access Denied
The long-standing checkpoints controlling all movement in and out of the city have been ‘upgraded’ to what the Israelis call “international terminals”, causing even more harassment to Palestinian Jerusalemites. The Israelis are in the process of setting up official international border crossings, manned by border police, between Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Eight of the twelve routes and crossings to enter Jerusalem from the West Bank are closed to West Bank Palestinians. Of the remaining four, two major checkpoints at the entrances to the city, Qalandiya towards Ramallah and Qubbat Rahel (Rachel’s Tomb) towards Bethlehem, render the movement in and out of the city extremely difficult. ID cards, automated turnstiles and metal detectors are the order of the day. West Bank Palestinians are denied access into the city, unless they obtain special permits from Israel. However carriers of these permits can be banned from entering on the slightest pretext. And Jerusalemites can be banned from entering the West Bank at whim.
This has led to additional commuting times and hardships, reduced access to religious sites, to the major Palestinian medical and education centres, and severe disruptions to economic activity. A steady exodus of Palestinian organisations and businesses from the centre of Jerusalem into outlying areas and to Ramallah has resulted. These closures have also led to the disintegration of cultural and social life, of which Jerusalem was the hub, for many generations.
The Apartheid Wall
The year 2006 witnessed the completion of the Apartheid Wall in Jerusalem — in clear violation of the International Court of Justice ruling in 2004, which called on Israel to dismantle the Wall and compensate the Palestinians.
The 190,000 Palestinians still living in and around Jerusalem can either remain under siege in the city or go into exile into the West Bank or abroad, with a permanent loss of the right to live in their homes. The Wall is designed to ensure the annexation of all the settlement blocks around the city and their expansion onto annexed Palestinian land.
The Wall has had a hugely detrimental effect on the lives of the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the surrounding villages. It is depopulating villages and tearing communities apart. Villagers, dependent on Jerusalem for their livelihood, must decide whether they move into the ghettos of Jerusalem or stay locked up in their villages on the other side of the Wall — where they will eventually be stripped of their Jerusalem IDs.
The fate of Jerusalem hangs in the balance. Israel will soon have cleansed most of the Old City of its indigenous inhabitants, and annexed it, with all of the surrounding area, to the state of Israel, in blatant violation of international law and every notion of natural justice. The consequences of these actions will undoubtedly have global repercussions affecting us all.
For all facts, consequences, dramatic impact on Palestinians, their economy and daily life due to the Apartheid Wall : Stop the Wall Factbook