There has been much coverage in the U.S. news media about the settlements issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Obama administration has called for Netanyahu to freeze construction of new settlements (albeit with absolutely no meaningful consequences for Netanyahu’s refusal to do so). But an op-ed in Al Jazeera highlights another huge, long-standing, and continuing violation of Palestinian human rights: the ongoing destruction of Palestinian homes and property.
The article is not long and should be read in its entirety, but I’ll just highlight this part (bold emphasis is mine):
Both the construction of illegal settlements and the destruction of the homes and property of the native Palestinians stem from the same origin: Israel’s unbridled assertion of power over the native Palestinians in the context of total impunity.
Much destruction occurs in Area C of the West Bank. This territory comprises roughly 60 per cent of the West Bank, and Israel maintains full control over security, planning and zoning.
The United Nations Organisation for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Territories (UNOCHA) noted in a recent report:
“In the first six months of 2011, OCHA recorded the Israeli authorities’ demolition of 342 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, including 125 residential structures, displacing a total of 656 Palestinians, including 351 children. This is almost five times as many structures demolished and people displaced as during the equivalent period in 2010.”
Take, for example, the time when 30 Israeli vehicles and 100 soldiers entered the village of Ein al-Duyuk and demolished the homes of four different Palestinian families deep in the West Bank. Or the dawn raid of Jaba’a near Hebron which led to the demolition of another family’s home. Or the demolition of five homes in Khan al-Ahmar, near Jerusalem, which left 71 people, including 60 children, homeless. Or when a mosque, two homes and a barn housing children’s pet rabbits were demolished in the village of Um Fagareh. Or the demolition of wells near Idhna, which debilitated Palestinian farmers. Or Khirbet Susa’s rural primary school, which currently educates 36 Palestinian children and has recently received demolition orders after it was last demolished a year ago. Or the solar panel complex, built by a Spanish NGO for €300,000 ($401,310) in 2009 to provide much-needed sustainable electricity to the isolated Palestinian village of Imneizel, which also has demolition orders pending.
Or, perhaps most disturbing of all, is that all of the above-mentioned Area C demolitions and demolition orders were executed or handed down only in the past 90 days.
Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes and buildings, like the construction of illegal settlements, is part of a matrix of control aimed at limiting Palestinians to an existence on only a fraction of a fraction of their land. No objective observer can take the argument that the destruction of Palestinian village schools, water wells, solar panels and homes provides anyone with security. Likewise, Palestinian villagers left homeless at the hands of an Israeli bulldozer will rightly find claims that Israeli politicians want peace to be farcical.
Yet this destruction persists today at accelerated levels, with little objection from an Obama administration that races to show its support for Israel as we enter an election year.