One of the more discouraging things I witnessed while in the Holy Land were demolitions. I can’t think of any reason why the destruction of personal property–homes, things like solar panels and water cisterns–is warranted. Especially when the reasons are for the expansion of settlements, which are illegal by international law, and deeper encroachment of the Israeli government into Palestinian land.
Picture this. You own a house. Someone says your waterline is taking water from the neighbor’s well. You have legal papers drawn up by an engineer that demonstrates this in not the case. “Well, we’re going to destroy it anyway!” What is not stated but is becoming increasingly clear as an overall strategy by the Israeli government hangs in the air behind every demolition I observed the last 3 months; We want your land because we are expanding our neighborhood and don’t want you here. Several of the demolitions in our region recently included several Palestinian homes; a set of solar panels in a rural section of South Hebron Hills [serving the needs for a primary school, 40 families and a health clinic], and several water cisterns for local farmers. Its bad news. It’s going on all the time. It’s increasing in numbers per year. More displacement of Palestinians, some who are our Christian brothers and sisters, occurs on a regular basis.
Here is a story from the organization I served with in the West Bank.
As the season of advent draws to a climax, Christians around the world tell each other the great story of redemption that began in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. We sing songs of the mother on a donkey, the closed inn and the child in the manger. But this Christmas, spare a thought for the oldest community of Christians in the world: Palestinians who still live within a few miles of Jesus’ birthplace and resurrection.
The Ziedans are a Christian family from Beit Jala, a village next to Bethlehem. On the morning of 13 December, Miranda Ziedan received a call from a neighbour, telling her that the Israeli army was demolishing a house belonging to her family.
“We are the owner of the land; we have legal papers,” Miranda told EAPPI. But Israel’s discriminatory planning practices in Area C, some 62% of the West Bank, make it almost impossible for Palestinians to get permission to build “legally.”
One of the Ziedan family on the ruins of the house near Bethlehem. Demolitions are markedly up on last year. (Photo: EAPPI)
The Ziedans had received no demolition order, although the army claims one was issued. Such orders are often left under rocks and not found, so the owners have no idea one has been issued until the bulldozers turn up. Within a few minutes of their arrival on Monday, the house was destroyed.
The Ziedans were lucky – this was a hut for use whilst out on their land, not the family home. Many Palestinians who fall victim to the Israeli authorities’ discriminatory planning regime are not so fortunate.
The UN reported that the army demolished over 199 homes this year to 12 December, along with 340 structures such as rainwater cisterns and animal shelters – the very basis of farming livelihoods in Area C. The occupation has displaced over 1,051 Palestinians this year, some due to violence by Israeli settlers but mostly due to demolitions. This compares to 606 for the whole of 2010.