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Palestinian Home Demolition Continues


(and American enabling)

July 14, 2010

After an unofficial nine-month “moratorium,” the Israeli government has returned with a vengeance to its policy of demolishing Palestinian homes. Yesterday, July 13, six homes were demolished in East Jerusalem.

In Jabal Mukaber, the homes of the Tawil family (15 people) and the Masrawi family (six people) were demolished. In Beit Hanina, the municipality demolished the home of the Rajabi family (6 people). And in Issawaiyeh, three homes in advanced stages of construction were demolished: one of the Dari family, another belonging to the Nasser family and a third of the Abu Rameileh family.

Today, in the West Bank, a reservoir belonging to the Jabar family was demolished by the Civil Administration, and other buildings are threatened. (This, despite the fact that the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, which already has four large municipal swimming pools, is constructing a water park complete with an artificial lake.)

All this, plus municipal approval for the demolition of 22 homes in the Silwan neighborhood, continued pressure to remove Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah – and the approval by the municipality this week of 54 new housing units for the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement.

Despite claims that Palestinian houses, reservoirs and other buildings are “illegal,” demolition is merely another face of ethnic cleansing, since the Jerusalem municipality, the Ministry of Interior and the Civil Administration of the West Bank all deny Palestinians the right to build homes on their own property.  Although the pressure to demolish is constant – the Israeli authorities have demolished 24,000 Palestinian homes since 1967 and new orders are issued daily – the current wave of demolitions can only be explained only on the background of Prime minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington a few weeks ago. For the past decade or so demolition orders can be executed only with the approval of the Prime Minister’s Office; these are not municipal-level decisions, even if the municipality presses for demolitions.

Only one of two explanations for the wave of demolitions is therefore possible. Either Israel has received a green (OK, blinking orange) light that the US will not object vociferously to demolitions – and, in fact, the State Department issued a mild statement describing the demolitions as “unhelpful,” the same term Hillary Clinton used when homes were demolished during her visit to Ramallah. Or Netanyahu, flush from his victory over Obama in the Biden affair, when Congress overwhelmingly supported the Israeli position of building settlements over that of their own Administration, felt free to return to his aggressive policies of “judaization.” Basking in the warm embrace he just received at the White House, Netanyahu knows he has nothing to fear from an increasingly weakened Obama Administration.

It is becoming obvious – if it wasn’t already – that the United States will not, or cannot “deliver” a just peace in Israel-Palestine. Even if an Administration tries to pursue a more critical line towards Israel, its hands will inevitably be tied by Congress. The time has come to pursue a “working around America” strategy, mobilizing the civil societies of Europe, Latin America, Africa and perhaps Asia as well to create a global consensus that either presses for a just solution to the conflict on its own, or prods the US to become constructively involved by virtue of its international isolation. The present wave of demolitions demonstrates the bankruptcy and ineffectiveness of the American “approach.” 24,000 demolitions later (and counting), it is time to look elsewhere.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.

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