Demolitions News, February 2017
– Palestinian Bedouin children are seen in the Khan Al-Ahmar encampment in the central West Bank. The Israeli Civil Administration distributed demolition orders to this village at the end of February 2017. Over the years ICAHD has highlighted the situation in Khan Al Ahmar and has taken many delegations to stand in solidarity with this community and to visit the school built in 2009 by Italian NGO Venta di Terra, which also serves the surrounding Bedouin communities.Image: UPI News
Much like the first month of 2017, February saw almost daily demolitions and displacements of Palestinians and Bedouin Arabs across the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Israel. Since his inauguration in January, President Donald Trump has only exacerbated the problem by breaking with US orthodoxy and declaring that Israeli settlements were not in themselves an impediment to peace. This act by Trump lead to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu announcing 6000 settlements are to be built, undoubtedly leading to further demolitions and displacements, and further misery to the Palestinian people. Trump continued to splinter from U.S. orthodoxy by declaring his opposition to the conventional two-state solution. While ICAHD supports the creation of a unitary, democratic single state, where Jews and Arabs have truly equal rights, it is certain this is not the sort of state President Trump envisions. ICHAD founder Jeff Halper discusses this in further detail in his recent article.
The end of January and the month of February were marked by an increase of structure demolitions in East Jerusalem, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967. On the 25th of January, demolitions took place in the Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. Silwan has been the target of intense settler activity in recent years, and in February Israeli settlers moved into a number of houses in Silwan, supposedly after purchasing them from their Palestinian owner. The settler activity threatens the Palestinian residents of Silwan, and during February a further eight demolition orders were served by Israel, putting the 120 residents of the houses at risk of homelessness. The incessant rate of demolitions continued on the 26th of January, where structures in the neighbourhood of Jabal al Baba were demolished. As February began, further demolitions took place in Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem where structures were demolished on the 7th and 8th of February in order to pave the way for a new Israeli road. The attempts to rid occupied East Jerusalem of its Palestinian residents continued, with demolitions taking place in Sheikh Jarrah on the 9th of February. Likewise, residents of the Al ‘Isawiya neighbourhood faced the pain of demolitions on the 14th of February. Residents of Hizma, 7km away from Jerusalem’s Old City, faced a particularly violent day of demolitions on the 15th of February where protestors were showered with tear gas and rubber bullets by the Israeli army for opposing the demolitions of the Abed Alaziz home, as well as that of their neighbours, the Uthman family, whose home was still under construction. The demolitions left all eight members of the Abed Alaziz family homeless, including children under the age of 18. The destruction continued in the neighbourhood of Beit Hanina on the 22nd of February, where seven members of a family, including five children, were left without shelter following the destruction of their home. The Jerusalem municipality cited a lack of permits as the cause for the demolition order given two weeks beforehand, however, homeowner Abu Rmouz stated he was not given adequate time to appeal the demolition order, and to date had spent upwards of 80,000 shekels (approximately £17400) attempting to legalise his house in the eyes of the Israeli state to no avail.
Palestinians in the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) faced much of the same struggles as those in East Jerusalem in recent weeks. The region around the city of Jericho saw a number of demolitions taking place at the end of January, with one demolition reported in Qurzaliya, near Al Jiftlik Abu al ‘Ajaj on the 23rd of January, and another taking place in Wadi el Qilt on the 25th of the month. A number of demolitions took place on the 7th of February in the northern Jordan Valley near the city of Tubas, with reported demolitions in Kardala, and further demolitions taking place in Khirbet ar Ras al Ahmar. The Israeli state claims the reason behind the demolitions is that Bedouin residents of the region are living within the Israeli military ‘firing zone’, however, Bedouin residency across Israel and Palestine far precedes the 1967 occupation or the 1948 establishment of the Israeli state, and the firing zones were established on existing Bedouin communities. Therefore, it is clear the true reasoning behind these demolitions is the Israeli quest to judaize all of historic Palestine. The city of Hebron saw a number of demolitions this February, in the neighbourhoods of Farsh al Hawa on the 14th of the month, and in Khashem ad Daraj on the 23rd. The 20th of February saw a number of demolitions taking place on the same day, some in Al Hadidiya, near the city of Tubas in the northern Jordan Valley, and some in Khan al Ahmar near Jerusalem in Area C. More structures in Khan al Ahmar are currently under threat from the Israeli state, including a school which serves 150 Bedouin children. The threat of demolishing the school has lead Bedouin residents to argue that Israel is trying to “ban them from their right of education”. A further 40 homes in Khan al Ahmar have since been served with demolition orders, and if these are materialised they would mean the destruction of the entire community.
Like in the OPT, Bedouin residents in Israel did not escape the wrath of the Israeli state this February, and demolitions took place on the 15th in the unrecognised village of al-Zarora. The demolition left a wheelchair-bound woman in her 40s homeless, and is part of a larger campaign to rid the Negev region of its Bedouin inhabitants who have been living there for generations. Head of the regional council for unrecognised villages, Attiya al-Assam, stated the demolitions “had a crossed all lines” for specifically targeting the homes of disabled Bedouins, and was motivated purely by “hatred for Arabs”. This is not the first time in recent weeks Israel has specifically targeted the most vulnerable of the Arab civilians. On the 18th January 2017, Israel demolished the unrecognised Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, leaving 100-year-old resident Musa Hussien homeless, along with many other elderly residents, young children, and the rest of the community who were moved onto the land by the Israeli state in 1956.