Co-founded (with Meir Marglit) and directed by Jeff Halper, the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) "is a non-violent, direct-action organization established in 1998 to resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories."
ICAHD also helps rebuild homes. In addition, it resists "land expropriation, settlement expansions, by-pass road construction, policies of 'closure' and 'separation,' " as well as destruction of agricultural land and crops. It also works for peace, equity, and ending Israel's illegal occupation.
Access its web site through the following link:
It estimates over 24,800 West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza houses demolished since 1967 (4,247 during Cast Lead, according to the UN).
It classifies demolition types as:
-- punishment for actions associated with the structures (about 8.5%);
-- administrative for lacking building permits (about 26%);
-- land-clearing/military demolitions for any reason, including achieving IDF goals or accompanying extrajudicial assassinations (about 65.5%); and
-- other undefined reasons.
In fact, Israel's demolition and displacement policies are serious international law breaches for any reason. Nonetheless, they continue as official state policy to steal Palestinian land for Israelis, an issue Western media ignore, as well as other Israeli crimes of war and against humanity.
On June 27, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee passed a first draft of a law requiring Palestinians to pay house demolition costs with no judicial review.
ACRI and Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights petitioned the committee, calling the measure extreme, adding that without judicial review "there is no option for the owners to demolish the structure themselves," a much cheaper procedure.
Moreover, this legislation gives administrative authorities "unbalanced" demolition freedom, including to bulldoze homes in "structurally disadvantaged communities such as Bedouins in unrecognized communities" and Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
A "softened version of the bill" lets courts decide whether costs should be imposed and how much. It's expected to become law.
On July 21, a new UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report documented alarming numbers of West Bank Area C demolitions and forced displacements, saying more occurred (342) so far in 2011 than in 2009 and 2010 combined.
Based on field visits to 13 Area C communities, the report said "restrictive policies and practices of the Israeli authorities, including movement and access restrictions, settlement activity and restrictions on Palestinian construction" force most Palestinians to leave.
It added that thousands more are at risk because 3,000 demolition orders have been issued, including against 18 schools.
On July 18, ICAHD reported "a new wave of demolition orders, stop-building orders, property confiscations, settler harassment and multiple warnings of imminent eviction(s) by the Israeli Civil Administration...."
Most affected are Jerusalem periphery Bedouin communities, "exhausted of alternative coping strategies." As a result, they're appealing for international protection against demolitions, forced displacements and relocations, what many of them have experienced before.
Khan al Ahmar and Wadi Abu Hindi communities (near Maale Adumim settlement) are especially targeted. Since May, all Wadi Abu Hindi structures got stop-building orders. The community was also told that their land was expropriated for the Separation Barrier.
Khan al Ahmar got four new stop-building orders and notification that final stop-work/demolition orders for 10 - 12 houses will be executed. Moreover, Jahilin community residents fear they may be next.
More Land Theft Planned
On July 22, Haaretz writer Akiva Eldar headlined, "IDF Civil Administration pushing for land takeover in West Bank," saying:
According to an internal IDF document, new construction is planned "not only around settlement blocs like Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion, but also in strategic areas like the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea."
Prepared by Lt. Col. Zvi Cohen, it says the custodian of government property may take possession of undefined ownership lands, including in the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea. Doing so, however, will further cantonize Palestine, making it harder than ever to establish an independent continuous territory state.
In response, Rabbis for Human Rights said:
"(A) politically motivated land policy must not come at the expense of the rights of a population subjected to occupation, which is excluded from the decision-making processes of those shaping its destiny. The procedures empower the ability to use the mechanism Israel set up for declaring 'state lands' for the purpose of dispossessing Palestinian communities and individuals of their rights and lands."
According to Dror Etkes, an activist monitoring settlement construction, the IDF document reveals how political and military officials work against Palestinians' interests. Nearly always, procedures for declaring state lands benefit settlers alone.
"That's the main way Israel enforces its discriminatory land policy which aims to evict the Palestinians from most of the West Bank and take possession of these territories."
Moreover, Israel's Interior Ministry recently authorized "the enlargement of 2,000 illegal homes" in East Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood.
And now this, according to Haaretz writer Jack Khoury. On July 27, he headlined "Israel sues 34 Bedouin(s) for costs of repeated demolitions of their homes," saying:
The unprecedented suit seeks 1.8 million NIS (New Israeli Shekels) in damages. About 3.4 NIS = one dollar.
Despite Bedouins and other Palestinians building on their own land, the Israel Land Administration (ILA) claims those charged built homes in Al-Arakib, northeast of Be'er Sheva, "on what had been state land since the time of Ottoman rule."
It ended in 1918. Israel became a state in 1948. ILA's claim is bogus, offensive and illegal, but it's not deterred from its longstanding policy to steal as much Palestinian land as possible, destroying their property and dispossessing them lawlessly.
According to ILA:
"The squatters against whom the suit was brought, of the Abu Madigham and the Abu Jaber families, already have houses built on land the state gave them in the area of Rahat." It said they keep returning to disputed land, despite court orders prohibiting them from doing so.
Israeli audacity gives chutzpah new meaning, calling Palestinian land "disputed," prohibiting them from living on it, demolishing their property when they do, and now suing them for demolition costs.
ILA also claimed Bedouins use PR deception, accusing Israel of repression when they're in breach of the law. It said the disputed land was leased until 1998 for seasonal agricultural activities. However, "defendants ousted the leasees and began squatting on the land."
In 1999, state authorities acted to evict them. In March 2000, a permanent injunction barred them from the land, except to visit a cemetery and mosque, the only structures there at the time. ILA said suing is "an efficient way to deal with squatters and illegal construction."
Al-Arakib village leader Sheikh Siyah Abu Madigham said neither he or his family were told about the suit. In fact, he first heard of it through the media, saying:
"We also submit a lot of complaints but no one listens to us, about all the buildings of ours that they destroyed - that the state does not care. The first demolition cost us NIS 4 million. The trees that were uprooted in the village cost us NIS 500,000. They destroyed the village 27 times. That cost us NIS 150,000 each time."
Awad Abu-Frih, Al-Arakib activist against the demolition, said residents expect Israel to compensate them for damages, not the other way around, explaining:
"The state is afraid of a precedent over Al-Arakib, and so they talk to us in a language reserved for enemies who must be defeated, so the hold over the land won't be an inspiration to other Bedouin(s) in the Negev."
He added that every time Israel destroys their village, hundreds of Bedouins, Jews and foreign volunteers rebuild it.
According to Thabet Abu Ras of the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights:
"The state recognizes ownership rights over the lands of Al-Arakib and is constantly offering (Bedouins) meager compensation for the land. What's more, a law requiring the builder of a house to pay for its demolition was not passed by the Knesset."
Previously, Israel demanded Galilee and central Israel Arab communities pay demolition costs, cases still being litigated. However, they're against homes built on private, not state, land. The new suit is the first time such a large number of Palestinians are affected. Indeed, it gives chutzpah new meaning.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
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