Demolishing Palestinian schools ‘a quiet population transfer’

Orly Noy, +972, January 24, 2018

By destroying schools in Palestinian villages in Area C and elsewhere, Israel is forcing Palestinians to make a cruel choice — between their land and their children’s futures.

Students sit in a classroom at school in the Jahalin Bedouin community of Khan Al-Ahmar, West Bank, February 22, 2017. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)Students sit in a classroom at school in the Jahalin Bedouin community of Khan Al-Ahmar, West Bank, February 22, 2017. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

When the children of Beit Ta’mar, a village south-east of Bethlehem, left their improvised schoolhouse for winter vacation about two weeks ago, they did not know if the building would still be standing when they came back.

To call the building a school is to exaggerate. It is comprised of five concrete rooms on the top of a hill, constructed by the village’s residents, who also built the road to the school.

“Last August, we asked the army for permission to build a school for the children in the village,” Hassan Brigiah says on our way to the site. “We didn’t receive an answer, and after we talked with a lawyer, we decided to set up six caravans to serve as classrooms. The army came and dismantled the caravans. While they were doing this I said to them, ‘but you didn’t give us an answer at all!’ It didn’t help. We decided to build a few classrooms out of concrete, and in the meantime, a lawyer managed to get an order to prevent them from being demolished until the government gives us an answer.”

The army has since provided an answer—negative, as expected. The reasons, as always, are technical and bureaucratic. Ever since, the threat of demolition has hung over the improvised first through third-grade classrooms. The Palestinian Authority provided tables and chairs, which is noted on a plaque. “We’ll build the homeland with the power of knowledge,” is spray painted on one of the walls.

The school is located in Area C, but close to Area B, in the West Bank, under Palestinian civil control, and entirely on privately owned land, Birgiah says, adding that the construction was financed by the villagers themselves.

“We are very close to Tekoa and Noqdim, where [Defense Minister] Liberman lives,” Birgiah adds. “They have a lot of influence on the government. Nearly every day, the settlers stand on the hill overlooking the school and survey our children with binoculars. The army is also here all the time, walking around, taking pictures, and leaving. They want to show us that they’re here, so that we’ll continue to live in fear.”

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Israel no longer bothers with the illusion of legal proceedings

Israel is so confident of its ability to expel Palestinian communities that it no longer even bothers to create the illusion of legal proceedings

B’Tselem, November 22, 2017

Over the past month, the state has informed three Palestinian communities that it intends to expel them from their homes and land. The notification was made by leaving orders on the roadside.

In the northern Jordan Valley, on 9 November 2017 the state notified two communities – Umm a-Jamal and Ein al-Hilweh – that they must leave their homes within eight days. These communities total 20 families, five of whom live in the area on a seasonal basis. The total number of residents is 130, including 66 youths and children under the age of 18.

In the Ma’ale Adumim area, on 16 November 2017 the state informed the residents of Jabal al-Baba that they must leave their homes within eight days. This community numbers about 60 families, and has a total of 284 residents, including 151 youths and children under the age of 18.

Israel has acted for years to expel communities around the West Bank. In the past, its efforts were based mainly on military orders concerning planning and building. However, the proceedings concerning such orders are protracted and require the precise mapping of the land and buildings, as well as the issuing of separate demolition orders for each building.

Now the state has found a new mechanism it hopes will enable it to circumvent such proceedings and accelerate the expulsion of residents: the “Order concerning Unauthorized Buildings (Temporary Provision) (Judea and Samaria) (No. 1539), 5744-2003.” This order was originally intended for the expulsion of settlers from “outposts” established around the West Bank, although the state very rarely used it for this purpose. The order allows the Military Commander to declare an area in the West Bank a “confined area,” and to order the eviction of all property in that area. On this basis of this order, GOC Central Command Major-General Roni Numa signed the new orders concerning the Palestinian communities.

It seems that Israel is so confident in its ability to expel entire villages without incurring judicial or international criticism that it is no longer bothering to create even the illusion of legal proceedings. However, the difference between the proceedings is purely technical. The planning and building proceedings never stopped the state; even if they managed to postpone expulsion, they never removed the threat of expulsion from thousands of people. Over many years, thousands of Palestinians in dozens of communities have lived under a constant and real threat. The state has refused to regulate their status, allow them to connect to the water and electricity infrastructure, establish educational institutions for their children, pave roads to their living areas, and maintain a reasonable living routine.

The state has recently declared its intention to expel two additional communities over the coming months – Susiya in the southern Hebron Hills and Khan al-Ahmar close to Ma’ale Adumim. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that in the absence of opposition from the American Administration, these communities will be expelled by April 2018. The expulsion proceedings against these communities have continued for years before the Supreme Court, which has refrained from prohibiting their expulsion.

Whatever the proceedings used by the state in its attempt to expel Palestinian residents from their homes, the crime is the same: the forcible transfer of a protected population, which amounts to a war crime. This is the case whether the violence used is direct or indirect, physical or administrative. Whether the expulsion is undertaken by force or by creating an intolerable reality that forces the residents to leave their homes and land – the essence is the same. All those involved in committing this crime – including the Prime Minister, Defense Minister, the justices who approve the expulsion, and the GOC who signs the orders – bear personal liability.

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A Policy of Displacement

Visualizing Palestine, September 2012

“‘Policy of Displacement’ focuses on the Israeli government’s widespread practice of demolishing Palestinian homes in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967. The data for the graphic draws primarily on research by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). The graphic was first published by Al Jazeera English on 28 August, two days after the verdict on Rachel Corrie’s case. It served as a reminder of the outrage home demolitions spur, both within Palestinians and among the international community. This was our first release by a major media outlet.”

Click on image for full screen, & scroll up & down with mouse. [Esc] to return.

Sources and Data
ICAHD, 2012. The Judaization of Palestine: Displacement Trends in 2011 (PDF)
ICAHD, 2010. Statistics on House Demolitions (1967-2010). (accessed on 6 April 2012)
UN OCHA, 2009. Locked In: The Humanitarian Impact of Two Years of Blockade on the Gaza Strip (PDF)
ICAHD, 2011. No Home, No Homeland: A New Normative Framework for Examining the Practice of Administrative Home Demolitions in East Jerusalem (PDF)
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 2011.The state of Palestine (accessed on 17 July 2012)
ICAHD-USA, 2006. Israel’s Policy of Displacement. (accessed on 9 August 2012)

Ilan Pappe: No, Israel Is Not a Democracy — And Never Was

Ilan Pappe, Jacobin: No, Israel Is Not a Democracy – And Never Was

Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East.
In fact, it’s not a democracy at all.

Ilan Pappe, Jacobin, May 5, 2017
Excerpted from Ten Myths About Israel, Verso Books

In the eyes of many Israelis and their supporters worldwide — even those who might criticize some of its policies — Israel is, at the end of the day, a benign democratic state, seeking peace with its neighbors, and guaranteeing equality to all its citizens.

Those who do criticize Israel assume that if anything went wrong in this democracy then it was due to the 1967 war. In this view, the war corrupted an honest and hardworking society by offering easy money in the occupied territories, allowing messianic groups to enter Israeli politics, and above all else turning Israel into an occupying and oppressive entity in the new territories.

The myth that a democratic Israel ran into trouble in 1967 but still remained a democracy is propagated even by some notable Palestinian and pro-Palestinian scholars — but it has no historical foundation.

Israel seizes solar panels donated by Dutch government

Israeli soldiers carried out raid on solar farm which allegedly did not have proper building permits

solar-panels-west-bank.png

Bethan McKernan, The Independent, 3 July 2017

The Netherlands has lodged a complaint with the Israeli government after dozens of Dutch solar panels donated to a West Bank village were confiscated by Israeli authorities.

The hybrid diesel and solar power electricity system was installed last year in remote Jubbet al-Dhib, a village home to 150 people in an area of the West Bank occupied by Israel.

The panels were not built with proper permits and permissions, the authorities said, confiscating equipment belonging to the £307,000 humanitarian project last week.

Critics points out that building permissions for new Palestinian homes and infrastructure are almost impossible to obtain.

The village mayor told Palestinian outlet Ma’an News that the panels were destroyed, although Comet-ME, the aid organisation which installed the panels, said that between 60 and 90 were taken away intact and other equipment at the site destroyed and left behind by Israeli forces.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry has asked for the equipment to be returned to Jubbet al-Dhib and is considering what “next steps can be taken”, according to a report in Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz published on Saturday.

The issue has sparked anger both in the Dutch government and in the Palestinian territories over how it was handled.

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Banksy’s Murals Turn Up In The Gaza Strip

Krishnadev Calamur, NPR, February 26, 2015

Banksy’s work is now in the Gaza Strip.

The artist, who uses public spaces for his often-provocative murals, posted images that he said were of art he created in the Gaza Strip, along with a two-minute video of life in the Palestinian territory, titled “Make this the year YOU discover a new destination.”

Here are some of the murals, which you can also see on Banksy’s own website.

Banksy writes about this image:

“A local man came up and said ‘Please — what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website — but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”

A mural is seen on the remains of a house that witnesses said was destroyed by Israeli shelling during a 50-day war last summer in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. Suhaib Salem/Reuters/Landov

And on his website, he writes about the mural below: “Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open air prison’ because no-one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons — they don’t have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day.”

A mural on a wall in Beit Hanoun. Suhaib Salem/Reuters/Landov

Banksy is known for his political art that is often provocative. And these images, and the video below, are likely to have supporters as well as detractors given that they deal with the impact last year’s fighting between Hamas, which runs Gaza, and Israel had on the territory.

YouTube

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Israel Bulldozes Democracy

AYMAN ODEH, The New York Times, February 11, 2017

A Bedouin woman reacts to the destruction of houses by Israeli authorities on January 18, 2017 in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, which is not recognized by the Israeli government, near the southern city of Beersheba, in the Negev desert. (Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

HAIFA, Israel — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is expected to visit Washington this week to meet with President Trump, presumably to discuss the political philosophy they share: power through hate and fear. A government that bars refugees and Muslims from entering the United States has much in common with one that permits Israeli settlers to steal land from Palestinians, as a new law that Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition pushed through Parliament last week did.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu used blatant race-baiting tactics to win his last election, in 2015. Since then, he has made discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel central to his agenda. This takes many forms; a particularly painful one is his government’s racist, unjust land use and housing policies.

Arabs make up one-fifth of Israel’s population, yet only 2.5 percent of the state’s land is under Arab jurisdiction. And since the founding of the state, more than 700 new towns and cities have been built for Jews, while no new cities have been built for Arabs.

In Arab towns, the government has made building permits so difficult to obtain, and grants them so rarely, that many inhabitants have resorted to constructing new housing units on their properties without permits just to keep up with growing families that have nowhere else to go. As a result, Arab communities have become more and more densely populated, turning pastoral villages into concrete jungles.

In southern Israel, more than 100,000 Arab citizens face a particular crisis. In the Naqab desert, known in Hebrew as the Negev, there are 35 villages that are officially “unrecognized” by the state. The residents of these unrecognized villages have Israeli citizenship, yet the state has refused to provide even basic services like water, electricity utilities, paved roads and schools.

Worse, because the Israeli government refuses to recognize these villages’ existence, they all live under the shadow of demolition orders from the state. Residents never know when the police will come to evict them and bulldoze their homes.

These policies have existed for decades, but Mr. Netanyahu has turned them into a political bludgeon. Several weeks ago, when it became clear that the government would be forced to implement an Israeli High Court ruling to evacuate Amona, an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank built on land stolen from Palestinians, Mr. Netanyahu vowed to destroy Arab homes throughout Israel in retribution.

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Palestinians protest moving US embassy to Jerusalem

Israeli forces suppress weekly marches in Bilin, Kafr Qaddum

Ma’an News Agency, January 21, 2017

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Israeli forces Friday suppressed weekly marches held in the villages of Billin and Kafr Qaddum in the occupied West Bank districts of Ramallah and Qalqiliya.

In Bilin, the weekly march, which occur every Friday to protest the Israeli separation wall and illegal settlements, was launched in solidarity with the Bedouin village of Umm Hiran on Wednesday which was violently raided by Israeli forces on Wednesday, leaving a local teacher and an Israeli police officer killed, before Israeli forces carried out home demolitions in the village.

The demonstration was also centered on protesting President Donald Trump’s support of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Palestinian and international solidarity activists held up Palestinian flags and signs condemning the potential embassy move and threatening an escalation of the resistance if such a decision is made.

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U.S. criticizes Israeli settlement expansion, demolitions


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been looking to improve its relations with the White House. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

Ruth Eglash and Carol Morello, The Washington Post, July 28, 2016

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government’s plans to build new units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and a spate of home demolitions in Palestinian areas over the past week have drawn sharp criticism from the Obama administration.

Israel “is systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution” with the Palestinians, State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement Wednesday.

“We strongly oppose settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace,” the statement said.

Separately, Kirby also said Secretary of State John F. Kerry will travel to Paris for a meeting Saturday with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. The purpose of their talks, the spokesman said, is to explore whether it is possible to “make progress on creating conditions where a two-state solution can be realized.”

The strongly worded State Department statement was widely seen as a warning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, which is renegotiating a multibillion-dollar military aid package with the United States and has been looking to improve its relations with the White House.

Netanyahu’s office did not respond to the statement.

“We are witnessing a signal from the Americans to Netanyahu that they do not like what they see,” said Hagit Ofran, director of the Settlement Watch team for the left-wing Israeli human rights organization Peace Now.

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