As Obama Was in Cairo, Israel Was Demolishing Homes…

Read this statement by Human Rights Watch that was released late Friday and ask yourself how Washington should react to Netanyahu’s claims that families in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem should be to entitled to “natural growth.” One wonders if the demolitions described below were timed to coincide with Obama’s speech at Cairo University.

Israel: Stop Demolishing Palestinian Homes
West Bank Homes of 18 Families Destroyed; Others Given 24 Hours to Evacuate

(Jerusalem, June 13, 2009) – The Israeli government should immediately stop demolishing Palestinian homes and property in the West Bank and compensate the people it has displaced, Human Rights Watch said today.

Israeli authorities destroyed the homes and property of 18 shepherd families in the northern Jordan Valley on June 4, 2009, displacing approximately 130 people, after ordering them on May 31 to evacuate because they were living in a “closed military zone.” Some of the families whose homes and property were destroyed had been living in their village since at least the 1950s.

“Giving families less than a week to evacuate their homes, without any opportunity for review or appeal, is as heartless as it is unfair,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Israel should have given these people due process to contest their displacement.”

At 7:30 a.m. on June 4, witnesses said, around 20 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) jeeps, three bulldozers, and several white cars belonging to the Israeli Civil Administration Authority arrived and blocked off the dirt access roads to the shantytown of ar-Ras al-Ahmar. The demolition operation began at 8 a.m. and destroyed 13 residential structures, 19 animal pens, and 18 traditional, underground ovens, according to the UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The 18 displaced families included 67 children, the agency reported. Israeli soldiers also confiscated a tractor, a trailer, and a portable water tank that residents used to truck in water, witnesses said.

Members of the Israel Defense Forces and the Civil Administration Authority delivered eviction and stop-construction orders to 30 families, comprising approximately 250 people, at about 5 a.m. on May 31 in ar-Ras al-Ahmar and the nearby community of Hadidiyya, according to witnesses and Tawfiq Jabarin, a lawyer for some of the families. The orders stated that 18 families in ar-Ras al-Ahmar were living in a closed military zone and gave them 24 hours to leave, without any opportunity for appeal.

Israeli authorities had declared the area a closed military zone years ago and could have issued eviction orders at any time. The District Coordination Liaison Office (DCL) of the Israeli Civil Administration told Human Rights Watch that the eviction orders were issued because “it is dangerous to live there. They [the residents] could be hurt by ammunition or military exercises.” The liaison office did not explain the reason for issuing the orders long after the area was declared closed, but this practice is not uncommon, according to Israeli and Palestinian nongovernmental organizations.

Jabarin told Human Rights Watch that after the demolitions on June 4, “most of the displaced moved to a different part of ar-Ras al-Ahmar about 300 meters away, and the army came back again, at night on Saturday [June 6], and told them that they had to leave.” The displaced are depending on emergency assistance, he said.

Under an Israeli military order from 1970, the government may evict persons living in a “closed military zone” without any judicial or administrative procedures. Section 90 of the order states that “permanent residents” can remain in an area later designated as closed, and that eviction orders cannot change their status as permanent residents. However, the Israeli High Court of Justice has ruled that because the shepherds in the area are pastoralists, the term “permanent residents” does not apply to them.

Residents say that ar-Ras al-Ahmar and al-Hadidiyya date from at least the 1950s. The Israeli settlement of Ro’i was built between the two villages in 1978. The two communities and Ro’i lie within “Area C” of the West Bank, over which Israel retains near-total control under the Oslo Agreements of 1995.

“It’s astonishing to see Israel evict Palestinians from their villages in the West Bank, yet again violating the rights of the occupied population, while allowing a settlement which by law should never have been built in the first place, to remain,” said Whitson.

On June 9, Jabarin said, the Israeli High Court of Justice temporarily enjoined the state from further demolitions against the people remaining in ar-Ras al-Ahmar. In al-Hadidiyya, Jabarin said, seven families who received stop-construction orders will have the chance to appeal and to apply for building permits at the hearing.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in December 2006, the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected a petition against earlier demolition orders for al-Hadidiyya, because the affected buildings were in an area defined as agricultural in master plans from the British Mandatory period and posed a security threat to the nearby Ro’i settlement. Israeli authorities demolished homes in al-Hadidiyya in February and March 2008, displacing about 60 people in all. Some of the displaced families returned to the area later, but due to repeated evictions over the years, more than a dozen households from al-Hadidiyya have been permanently displaced.

While Israel, as the occupying power in the West Bank, may in some cases lawfully require residents to leave their homes, it must not do so arbitrarily and must afford affected persons meaningful due process. Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), among other treaties to which Israel is a party that apply in the West Bank, prohibits arbitrary or unlawful state interference with anyone’s home.

Israel’s policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian residents of the West Bank, while allowing the construction and growth of nearby settlements, is discriminatory. The prohibition against discrimination is spelled out in Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and codified in the major human rights treaties that Israel has ratified, including the ICCPR, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Ongoing home demolitions prevent residents of the West Bank from enjoying the right to adequate housing. In its General Comment 4, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which monitors the compliance of states parties to the ICESCR, held that “the right to housing should not be interpreted in a narrow or restrictive sense which equates it with, for example, the shelter provided by merely having a roof over one’s head or views shelter exclusively as a commodity. Rather it should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity.”

Some of the displaced people from ar-Ras al-Ahmar were previously displaced. One of Jabarin’s clients, Abderrahim Hossein Bisharat, moved to ar-Ras al-Ahmar after Israeli authorities demolished his home in the nearby village of al-Hadidiyya, twice, most recently in 2008.

Background and Accounts
According to Bimkom, an Israeli nongovernmental organization that specializes in planning and zoning issues, Palestinians in the West Bank commonly build homes without first applying for building permits because the application process is expensive, time-consuming, and usually unsuccessful. Israel denied 94 percent of Palestinian building permit applications in the West Bank between 2000 and 2007, according to the UN (OCHA), and there are approximately 3,000 Israeli demolition orders outstanding in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem. In 2009, prior to the demolitions in ar-Ras al-Ahmar, Israel demolished another 27 Palestinian structures in the West Bank, displacing 120 people.

Earlier in May, OCHA reported that Israeli authorities distributed seven stop‐work orders for construction in Khirbet Samra, north of al-Hadidiyya, affecting 35 persons, including 22 children; and six demolition orders that gave 25 persons, including 15 children, in the Qalqiliya governorate a maximum of 48 hours to evacuate. Their homes may be demolished at any time.

Abu Ahmad, a 62-year-old resident of ar-Ras al-Ahmar, was visiting the nearby village of Tammun when a relative called to tell him his home was being demolished. Ahmad told Human Rights Watch he tried to return, but that Israeli soldiers stopped him until 10 a.m., when it was too late. “Of my property, they destroyed a water tank, three sheep pens, and two tents,” he said. “There were 10 of us living there. Now our house is destroyed, and we have nowhere to go. We had to put up a plastic sheet over where our home was.” Abu Ahmad added that he had moved to ar-Ras al-Ahmar after Israeli authorities repeatedly demolished his residence in al-Hadidiyya, most recently in 2008.

Ahmad’s son, Salah Abdallah Bisharat, 28, was living in his father’s household when the demolition was carried out. He told Human Rights Watch that a bulldozer and 14 Israeli army jeeps arrived at the family’s residence at 8 a.m. The soldiers ordered the family to leave their home, entered it themselves, and removed some of the pieces of furniture and set them aside, and then demolished the tents and sheep pens. Bisharat is now living with his wife and three children in a tent 200 meters from the demolition site.

Fathi Khodirat, a fieldworker with the Ma’an Development Center, witnessed the demolitions in ar-Ras al-Ahmar on the morning of June 4. He told Human Rights Watch:

“The soldiers knocked everything down; they even confiscated a tractor that belonged to someone who was just stopping by to collect animal waste to use as fertilizer. But these people can’t leave this area. They depend 100 percent on raising animals. Some of them moved here after their homes were demolished in other villages. Today, they’re still living there, or a few hundred meters away from where they were, and they have nothing.”

Israeli authorities have repeatedly demolished homes and other property in al-Hadidiyya in recent years. Abu Saqqir, a 59-year-old man who was born in the village, told Human Rights Watch:

“In my own case, they’ve demolished my home four times. Now, we just have some pieces of wood and a tent to live in.”

Author: Jim Lobe

Visit for the latest news analysis and commentary from Inter Press News Service's Washington bureau chief Jim Lobe.

23 thoughts on “As Obama Was in Cairo, Israel Was Demolishing Homes…”

  1. If only those pesky sub-human Palestinians would just disappear into thin air! It would make things so much easier for Israel. Your taxes are paying for this people. We give these fascists three billion dollars every year.

    1. Well, this is the attitude of many US fundamentalists. They identify the Palestinians with Philistines or Canaanites and similar nonsense.

      1. “Rabbi Shmuel Derlich, issued his troops a 1,000-word pastoral letter enjoining them to apply the biblical commandment to exterminate the Amalekites as “the enemies of Israel.” Nobody has recently encountered any Amalekites, so the chief educational officer of the Israeli Defense Forces asked Rabbi Derlich whether he would care to define his terms and say whom he meant. Rather evasively—if rather alarmingly—the man of God replied, “Germans.” There are no Germans in Judaea and Samaria or, indeed, in the Old Testament, so the rabbi’s exhortation to slay all Germans as well as quite probably all Palestinians was referred to the Judge Advocate General’s Office. Forty military rabbis publicly came to Derlich’s support, and the rather spineless conclusion of the JAG was that he had committed no legal offense but should perhaps refrain in the future from making political statements on the army’s behalf.”

        The Palestnians are the Amalekites,the Midianites,etc.

      2. Well, I don’t think that. That sounds racist to me. Finding brave young children to blow themselves up in crowded Isaeli shopping malls shows their dedication to establishing a peaceful, tolerant middle east where all can enjoy liberty and freedom of religion.

  2. Enjoyed the above…

    War and a Thug-Bloody Kill
    June 13, 2009 by Philip Edwards

    America and Capitalism and War and a last look at America the Beautiful. Face it; we are a nation at war with the world. We have already destroyed societies’ last wiggle-look at freedom and (a-drum-roll-please) survival. Hard times and big guns and bang-bang your dead…Add Iraq (Oil), Afghanistan (destroy the made in America) Taliban terror and other places across this planet. Our military, our CIA and our NSA, three and boom an unholy trinity…Wow!
    We have either fought in or started wars in: Panama, Argentina, Haiti,Venezuela, Columbia, Nicaragua, Pakistan and etc. (Weapons and the killers’ soul and proxy wars and the Generals of Rome would be proud of our War-Machine). Truth! That without war, America’s economy would fail?
    The CIA is a Thug-Bloody Monster. Over the last (50-60) years Agents-of-Death have crawled into many countries and in the guise of fighting Communism or lately drugs, have aided dictators and revolutions around the world. What is Colonialism?
    If one person is tortured then America has tortured a country. Cause a government to fail and then civil war? Slip and slide with a Dictator or a King and America destroys our morals, our credibility, and our visions of ‘whatever’ and our future hope of the freedom bell and their bell of something governmental.
    Call this, a war against Communism, drugs and other reasons and reasons and reasons and the thrill of the Hunt. The result is always the killing and the blood-spilling. Gain a death and we have lost a life.
    Bullets and Killing and War…oh my!


    Phil E.

    1. PE certainly manages to throw plenty into his mix-master — without a cogent result. The bloodthirsty activities of the government of both the US and Israel certainly, however, have little or nothing to do with the voluntary exchange of goods and services between consenting adults — which is another definition of capitalism. However, their politically controlled agendas do have everything to do with socialism — which is the coercive control of resources by politicians. Please, Phil, we all share your disgust with both governments, but please don’t confuse their activities with those of peaceful trading people who do not compel either the sale or purchase of willingly purchased items. The pseudo-capitalism practiced by “controlled economies” such as those in the US and Israel are a product of the invasion of the peaceful free market by the putrid sphere of politics.

    2. You’re right! We should have followed the example that Stalin set and be a peace-loving people who never did anything really bad unless it was for a just cause.

  3. I’m glad that the Israelis now use the term “natural growth” – it is so much more politically correct than “Liebenstraum”

  4. Israeli Lebenstraum, American Global Benevolent Hegemony–it’s all good.

    When you are the Crusaders for Global Democracy and Freedom and Human Rights, you can genocide, kill, and colonize as many people as you like.

    After all, it’s all for a good cause.

    Onward Judeo-Christian soliders!

    1. Why don’t we colonize some worthwhile places like Tahiti and Antigua? Who the hell wants these hell holes like Afghanistan? Their hotels and tourism is abysmal.

    1. But on the plus side, Hezbollah and Hamas are peace-loving, democratic groups. Hopefully they won’t be persecuted by those nasty Israelis. I can’t understand why those war mongering Israelis would be so mean. I mean, isn’t that overreacting to a few thousand missles launched at them. That’s not fair at all!

  5. Al-Quaeda are terrorists Phil. The Taliban were just concerned w/mopping=up a civil war in their own country..Supporting the mujiahdeen against the Soviets wasn’t wrong, GETTING INVOLVED IN THE FIRST GULF WAR WAS..The Taliban even offered to help hunt down OBL if the US would provide some proof that he was responsible..Bush’s IMMEDIATE response? “We don’t need your help, we need to occupy your country to: 1. Surround Iran.2. Make $$ off the opium trade and 3. Try and build those pipelines you refused to partner with us on…” OK, I’m paraphrasing..

    1. Yeah, I don’t get it either. The Taliban are persecuted nice guys. Even Pakistan thinks so…oops, I forgot they’re fighting against them as I write. No doubt just another example of ethnic cleansing.

  6. “Al-Quaeda are terrorists Phil. The Taliban were just concerned w/mopping=up a civil war in their own country..Supporting the mujiahdeen against the Soviets wasn’t wrong, GETTING INVOLVED IN THE FIRST GULF WAR WAS..”

    That’s right. Supporting the Afghan Mujahideen like Usama Bin Laden wasn’t wrong at all.

    Oh sure, the USA actually started supporting these brave freedom fighters (as Ronald Reagan called them) BEFORE the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan–contrary to official American history.

    And there is that little Sept. 11th thingie.

    But hey, this was all part of the Afghan Trap that the USA laid for the Soviet Union.

    Machiavelli would be proud.

    As former Carter Nat. Sec. advisor (and Obama’s “mentor” at Columbia Univ) Zig. Brzezinski might put it, these things were just a case of some “stirred-up Moslems.”

    What’s a little blowback when you are playing Masters of the Universe with the world?

    Zbigniew Brzezinski: How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen

    1. The British went into Afghanistan and it was a disaster for them. Ditto with the Soviets. The unlearned lesson seems to be to avoid this country like the plague.

    1. Carter endorses Gush Etzion settlements (extract)
      Tovah Lazaroff, JPost, Jun 14 2009

      Former US president Jimmy Carter gave his endorsement Sunday to settlements in Gush Etzion, located just south of Jerusalem. Carter said to the press at the end of his afternoon visit to Neveh Daniel, in Gush Etzion, as he stood with Shaul Goldstein, who heads the Gush Etzion Regional Council:

      This particular settlement area is not one I ever envision being abandoned or changed over into Palestinian territory. I think [it] will be here forever.

  7. I know that some people on this site are unabashed Israel haters, and that is your right. But there are also others who are thoughtful, critical thinkers and if you really want to understand the history of Israel and of this conflict, please check out this speech on the floor of the US Senate today by Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey:

    PS: Try to put aside your emotion and listen with an OPEN MIND.

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