West Bank Demolitions Are Not Law Enforcement but Expulsions

Since the beginning of the year Israel has demolished over 300 Palestinian structures - the purpose is clear: to pressure local Palestinians to leave the Israeli controlled Area C.

Palestinian flag and tents in Susiya village, south of the West Bank city of Hebron July 20, 2015.
Palestinian flag and tents in Susiya village, south of the West Bank city of Hebron July 20, 2015. Reuters

Bulldozers and inspectors from the Civil Administration, accompanied by an Israel Defense Forces unit, demolished 22 structures in four Bedouin communities east of Jerusalem and north of Ma’aleh Adumim on Monday morning – 11 were residential buildings and the rest pens for goats and sheep and other agriculture structures. Undeterred by the intense heat, the Civil Administration took only a few hours to deprive 74 people, including 48 children, together with their flocks, of the roofs over their heads in the communities of a-Sa’idi, Wadi Shneisel, Bir al-Maksub and Abu-Falah, in the Khan al-Ahmar area.

Tuesday, the Civil Administration and IDF demolished another 17 buildings in Fasil, in the Jordan Valley, belonging to 48 people. On August 11, they demolished three buildings in Khirbet Homsa, in the northern Jordan Valley, On August 6 – 14 buildings and tents in the Al-Mita community and in the village of Al-Aqaba, also in the northern Jordan Valley.

From January 1 to August 18, Israel demolished 331 Palestinian structures in Area C (not including East Jerusalem) and 457 people, including 263 children, lost the roofs over their heads, according to data from the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and B’Tselem.

The buildings that were demolished were simple and meager, unlinked to water and electricity networks. The communities are geographically distant, primarily from the attention and consideration of most of the Israeli public, which apparently makes do with the usual statement by the spokesman of the Civil Adminstration and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories that the buildings were constructed without permits and they were simply enforcing the law.

What is happening is not law enforcement, but just the opposite. It’s a crude violation of the principles of justice and of international law, which requires the occupying military force to respect the rights of the native occupied population to housing and a livelihood, and prohibits its forcible removal.

The buildings were constructed without a permit, because Israel has refused and still refuses to prepare a master plan for the Palestinian communities living in what is today defined as Area C. The purpose of the ongoing demolitions is transparent: To pressure the Bedouin into agreeing to plans that would concentrate them in permanent towns, and to evict them and the rest of the Palestinians from Area C to Areas A and B, which are under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

In that way, more and more space will be available for the construction and expansion of settlements. And, when the time comes, Israel will be able to say that because so few Palestinians live in about 60 percent of the West Bank and there are so many Israelis, it has a right to annex the territory.

The silence on the part of the media and the public on this issue does not befit the severity of its consequences for our future and the future of our shared life with the Palestinians. All those who are concerned about that future must demand that the government desist from the policy of demolition and expulsion on the West Bank.