Destroying homes and, like thieves in the night, bulldozing peace chances
NIGHT OPERATION . Israeli troops ready for action...
Their target a family's home.
Jeff Halper, secretary of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, sent this message out to friends last night:
"Its 11 at night here on a cold, rainy night in Palestine. I just got a phone call from Salim Shawamreh, a Palestinian comrade, that Israeli army bulldozers have arrived at his home and have begun demolishing it and the home of his neighbor as well. Salim's home, which has been demolished already four times because the Israeli authorities refuse to grant Palestinian building permits, is one of 26,000 homes that Israel has demolished in the Occupied Territories since 1967. I'm rushing out there, but it will probably be destroyed before I get there. There isn't much to do -- you feel so powerless in these circumstances -- but at least you now know. I'll stay in touch with you. The American-European supported Occupation goes on..... "
For some reason Jeff's message was delayed in getting through. As was the media in covering what was going on. Western media usually is. And it was dark. But the bulldozers lost no time in getting to work.
By the morning, Jeff reports, eight homes had been reduced to rubble, and about 80 people were homeless. Like Arabiyeh sitting on her furniture out in the cold.
It was only the fifth time the home had been demolished.
"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. It has since been demolished four times, to be rebuilt by ICAHD activists. Following a reissue of the demolition order last Thursday, came last night's fifth demolition. ICAHD Director, Dr. Jeff Halper, standing astride the ruins, vowed to support Salim and Arabiya in rebuilding their home. "We shall rebuild, we must rebuild forthwith, as an act of political defiance of the occupation and protracted oppression of Palestinians" said Halper."
Reports by European Union officers and heads of missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah have criticised house demolitions and said the Israeli government is forcibly driving Palestinians from areas under Israeli control. in other words, "ethnic cleansing".
Warning that this would endanger chances of a "two state solution" the EU's latest report promises support to the Palestinians trying to keep their ground in the West Bank.
Whether this good intention will become real support remains to be seen. Interestingly, the British government, though it has abstained on Palestine's UNESCO membership, recently tried to arrange a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and UK Jewish leaders during his visit to London. It was rebuffed by the Board of Deputies, the main Jewish community body, on instructions from the Israeli government. Some members of the Board who only heard about this after the opportunity had been rejected may be asking what is the use of a "representative" body that takes orders from Netanyahu.
The head of the Jewish National Fund in Britain rejected calls from Jewish peace groups that it should stop funding development schemes in the Negev that involve evictions of Bedouin.
One group of people who don't seem to let small matters like the demolition of family homes or he arrest of Palestinian students for boycotting a lecture by Israeli president Peres bother them are the leading lights of the Labour Party students in Britain. No reality tours with the ICAHD for them, nor volunteering spells with the International Solidarity Movement. They enjoyed an all expenses paid trip to Israel and its illegal settlements in the West Bank, covered by the pro-Zionist Union of Jewish Students (UJS), itself subsidised, which as they admit "set the agenda".
Apparently the highlights included a meeting with Tony Blair, and Israeli officers, but all their rigorous "fact-finding" left students like Ruth Brewer from Liverpool Uni with time to tweet home about cocktails in Tel Aviv and what fine fellows the Israelis were.
Palestinian students have complained, but it's us who on past performance are likely to meet these bright young things in future making their careers as Labour candidates or even union officers. Still, things are changing and their prospects might not be the same now.
More information about ICAHD and its support group in the UK.