Israeli Demolition Firm Takes Pride in West Bank Operations

Having relatives in the West Bank is a problem. So is a school in the South Hebron Hills. The list of prohibitions is endless.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

They passed by us proudly in their shiny shields and glittering wheels, these pot-bellied, gas-guzzling SUVs and a few jeeps with more modest engine sizes. They were returning from their operation's destination. It was Thursday, November 24, 2011. We didn't manage to see them in action, but we knew they were returning from routine demolition activity that doesn't get reported in our parts and understood as yet another detail in the ever-expanding historical reckoning this land's residents have with its masters.

The banal key words: Area C (South Hebron Hills), Civil Administration, military, Border Police, police, two bulldozers. Demolition orders for ICs (illegal construction ), trampled tents, tiny concrete structures in pieces. An adjacent water tanker, because hooking up to the water grid is against the law. And nearby, the glittering rooftops, set amid greenery, of the Jews' houses at the settlement Susya. And the little pool for taking a dip that the occupants of Mitzpeh Avigail fill with water from the adjacent spring.

For their own good: A bulldozer destroying a family’s tents in the West Bank village of Susya.Credit: Rabbis for Human Rights

Discrimination familiar ad nauseam.

Still, we learned something new: The contracted demolition company was E.T. Law Services Ltd., as it said on the vests (fluorescent yellow ) that the half dozen workmen were wearing. Their job was to remove everything from the tents and little buildings earmarked for destruction: mattresses, sacks of flour and rice, more mattresses, an iron bed frame, pots, blankets, clothes, textbooks.

E.T. Law Services specializes in executing all the Bailiff's Office actions, its website reports. Demolitions represent merely one of its several fields, which include repossessions, the impounding of vehicles and evictions.

"Building demolitions are generally carried out on behalf of engineering departments at municipalities, the Civil Administration in the territories, local building committees and the like .... After a suitable order has been received for executing the demolition of an illegal structure, its demolition is carried out by professional teams, in coordination with the relevant authorities such as the Israel Police, the Israel Defense Forces, Magen David Adom, suppliers of heavy equipment and so forth."

A subcontractor brings the bulldozers. This is the second year in a row that E.T. Law Services has won the bid "from the Civil Administration in the territories to serve as the demolition contractor and the supplier of the mechanical engineering equipment and workers." The company has also been surveyed by The Standards Institution of Israel and found to meet the requirements of the Israeli and international standard in bailiff's office services, storage, building demolition and collection services for municipalities.

Our minds are at rest. On November 24, the following demolitions were carried out in accordance with the international standard: two tents in which the Mughnem family lived on their land in the village of Susya; a small stone mosque in the little cave village Umm Faqara; a small residential structure belonging to one family; an improvised guest room of another family; and a rabbit pen.

Not in keeping with the standard, the demolition also damaged the residential cave in Umm Faqara, which is not illegal. Illegal electricity poles that were meant to connect Umm Faqara to the 21st century had already been uprooted on November 3. In Umm Faqara two teenage girls were arrested; an officer in the Israeli Border Police said they had attacked the detachment. One of two rabbits was killed. In Susya the demolition work was accompanied by silence.

There is no rest for the guardian of law and order. Only one day before the demolition in Susya, the Civil Administration posted more stop-work orders, the stage that precedes a demolition order. In danger of being demolished, then, are the school's main building, the bathrooms, the water cistern (when the law prohibits you from hooking up to the grid you go back to water cisterns ), and the road leading to the school.

There is no dispute that the Palestinian school was built without permits from the Israeli Civil Administration (after all, there are no permits when there is no master plan, and a master plan exists for the settlement Susya and not for the Palestinian Susya ). The Civil Administration guy's GPS also proved that the school, in its second year of operation, was built in Area C, 100 meters from Area B, which is under Palestinian civil-administrative jurisdiction.

Relatives in the West Bank

S., an American citizen who works for an international organization registered in Jerusalem, applied for a work permit from the Israeli Interior Ministry. Her fellow foreign nationals had already received such a permit. She received the following written reply: "Since first-degree relatives reside in the territories and your father is a former resident of the territories, the decision of the headquarters of the Population and Immigration Authority (at the Interior Ministry ) is to deny the request."

Perhaps relatives in the West Bank is a sweeping criterion for not granting a work permit? According to Sabine Haddad, spokeswoman for the Population and Immigration Authority, "There is no criterion that distinguishes between foreign nationals of Palestinian origin and other foreign nationals in granting a work permit. However, with every application that is submitted for receiving a work permit, different parameters are examined, including the applicant's intent of settling down, the applicability of the temporary order and so on and so forth."

When S. applied for her work permit, she was required to specify in writing the names of all her relatives who live in the West Bank, to stipulate how frequently she sees them, and to detail the migration history of her father and mother (likewise from a Palestinian family ).

It was not of his own volition that the father, a West Bank native, became "a former resident." Israel used various tricks to make sure that Palestinians who, like him, left after 1967 for school and work lost their residency status. The Interior Ministry never rests. It does everything it can to prevent the daughter from returning, heaven forbid, to her family's home. She might settle down here and disrupt the demographic balance, God forbid.



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