In East Jerusalem al-Quds alone, since 2004, Israeli home demolitions have left 3,459 Palestinians homeless (including 1,847 minors), which is concerning enough, without the added stress to local Jerusalemite Palestinians of this year being on track to break all previous records for the number of home demolitions since 1967.
What the refusal to confront this issue shows is the complete lack of care from the international community and also when it is properly investigated, that house demolitions in of themselves, reveal that inside of Israel itself, there is no democracy for Palestinians.
In order to understand the issue of house demolitions, we have to differentiate between the succinctly three different circumstances under which Palestinians experience this form of ethnic cleansing. The three key areas are inside of what is now Israel, inside of East Jerusalem al-Quds and inside of the West Bank. The Gaza Strip is not included due to the fact that these demolitions are not undertaken in the same way, but rather occur primarily due to airstrikes.
House demolitions in East Jerusalem al-Quds
So far this year, according to Israeli Human Rights Group B’Tselem, 89 housing units and 27 non-residential buildings were ordered to be demolished in East Jerusalem al-Quds by the Israeli regime. Israel is in fact on track for a record number of house demolitions in the occupied territory this year, according to Israeli paper Haaretz, which will inevitably cause a record number of homeless cases.
Something key to understand about cases of home demolitions in East Jerusalem al-Quds is the ongoing effort to Judaize the city. Palestinians living in East Jerusalem al-Quds do not have Israeli citizenships or Palestinian citizenships, but rather Jerusalem ID cards. If Palestinians choose to live outside of the territory for more than 7 years or claim citizenship of any country (normally Jordan), they can also be stripped of this right to their ID and be expelled. As a result of such policies, significant numbers of Palestinian Jerusalemites have been forced out of Jerusalem al-Quds. Also on top of this is the issue of illegal settlement expansion, with hundreds of thousands of settlers moving into the area.
Despite the oppressive policies, Palestinians make up 40% of the total population of Jerusalem al-Quds, yet only are granted roughly 7% of the total building permits for the city.
The issue of Israeli issued building permits is the main reason for the forced destruction of Palestinian properties in Jerusalem al-Quds. Palestinians have to pay, often unaffordable, prices to apply for permits, yet the approval is near impossible even when they do pay. The reason it is nearly impossible, is because of Israeli implemented building schemes, under which Israel has designed a system built to bolster Jewish construction and prohibit Palestinian construction.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds in 1967, later formally annexing it in 1980, meaning that Israel imposes its own law of Palestinians living in the territory and has even built a wall through areas which constitute part of the East Jerusalem al-Quds territory. However, the Israeli application of its own laws over Palestinians are in violation of International Law as the territory is still considered as occupied territory, meaning that the laws of occupation apply to the area.
When Palestinians build and are not granted a permit, or start construction whilst the permit is processing – sometimes delayed until years later before a decision is made by Israel to destroy the home – or are told an old building has not got updated papers, the building is ordered to be demolished.
When Israel orders a home demolition, the pain does not end there, Palestinians are required to pay for the Israelis to forcibly evict their family and demolish their home. This has forced many to pay for bulldozers themselves in order to destroy their own home, so that they do not have to pay for Israel to do it, which often carries a fee double or triple the amount. For Palestinians who cannot afford demolition costs, they are forced to destroy their own homes by hand.
House demolitions in al-Naqab
According to a report released in June, by ‘The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality’, during the years 2017, 2018 and 2019, Israel ordered the demolition of 2,000 homes in the al-Naqab (Negev in Hebrew).
Key to this issue is the fact that Bedouin Palestinians living in the Naqab are Israeli citizenship holders, some of which serve in the occupation army, yet are still persecuted and pushed out of their home lands. At this point, Palestinian Bedouin’s can only inhabit 12% of their ancestral homelands and if they live in villages “unregistered” by the Israeli regime, they are “transferred” to overcrowded villages and camps, reminiscent of the way in which native Americans were crowded into reservations.
This year alone, hundreds of Bedouins have been made homeless, compounded by the fact that the pandemic is affecting these communities badly and they are still being crammed into overcrowded camps.
Some villages have even been demolished over 100 times. On the 17th of September for instance was the last time an entire village was demolished for the 178th time in a row.
House demolitions inside West Bank
From the start of 2020 until the 31st of August, 78 housing units were demolished in the West Bank, leaving 320 people homeless, including 166 minors according to Human Rights Organization B’Tselem.
In the West Bank, according to the United Nations, roughly 1.5% of building permits are approved by Israel, making it nearly impossible to obtain one. This is despite the fact that Israeli settlements and outposts continue to rapidly expand into West Bank territory. If a Palestinian does wish to attempt to attain a permit, it will often cost roughly around 30,000 USD just to file the application, a price most just cannot afford, or even for those who can afford the price, it’s too much of a gamble.
Often used propaganda, by Israel and its supporters, suggests that house demolitions are primarily done as a reaction to “Palestinian terrorism” and therefore they argue it’s justified. However, this is not the case. In fact, when Israel does blow up the homes of Palestinians in the West Bank, after the Palestinian in question has alleged to have committed a violent attack against an Israeli occupation soldier or illegal settler, it is not him who suffers for it.
Palestinians that either attempt to attack an Israeli, or are wrongly accused of it, are almost always shot and killed by the occupation forces. Following this, the family is not able to even grieve in peace, as family homes, sometimes housing multiple families are blown up leaving the entire family homeless. This policy has been described by Israeli Human Rights Group B’Tselem as follows: “Demolishing the homes of relatives of Palestinians who harmed or attempted to harm Israeli civilians or security personnel is prohibited collective punishment, and is one of the most extreme measures used by Israel. Over the years Israel has demolished hundreds of homes, leaving homeless thousands of people who had done no wrong and were not suspected of any wrongdoing. It is an immoral and unlawful policy. The fact that the High Court of Justice has upheld it does not make it legal, rather, it makes the justices accomplices to the crime.”
Despite the fact that these Israeli policies of house demolitions, ultimately aimed at ethnically cleansing Palestinians, are ongoing and have grown more aggressive over the past year, the story is relatively untouched by West Media and largely ignored by the International Community.
By Robert Inlakesh
Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer and political analyst, who has lived in and reported from the occupied Palestinian West Bank. He has written for publications such as Mint Press, Mondoweiss, MEMO, and various other outlets. He specializes in analysis of the Middle East, in particular Palestine-Israel. He also works for Press TV as a European correspondent.