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Home arrow Blog arrow June 2009 arrow June 11, 2009

June 11, 2009
June 11, 2009: Winning the War of Legitimacy UPDATED @ END June 14 

[West Jerusalem, June 10, 2009]- Thirty-three CODE PINK activists gathered in the West Jerusalem office of American Israeli Professor Jeff Halper, founder and coordinator of ICAHD/Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions who said, "There are reasons for hope and we are all making a difference. We're in a weak position because governments work with governments not civil society; countries don't have friends they have interests. But we are winning the war of legitimacy because it is getting harder for Israel to justify their actions.

"The encouraging thing about Obama's speech is that we turned a corner, but we must keep struggling to end the occupation, and ICAHD's vehicle is rebuilding Palestinian homes that Israel demolishes...Congress has always been Israel's trump card and the democrats have been more pro-Israel than the republicans. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are the problem, not Netanyahu. When you meet with your congressional reps ask them how their uncritical support for Israel-and what is seen throughout the world as a USA-Israeli occupation of Palestine can possibly be in the best interest of America. It is Congress that is keeping Palestinians fragmented by not dealing with Hamas.

"Before 1947, the Palestinians owned 94% of the country. Then the UN gave aways 56% to the Jews and today they have 78% of the land. Hamas cannot accept the legitimacy of Israel stealing their land, just as no colonial people would ever give up the claim to their homeland."


The first house ICAHD rebuilt was in 1998-the Beit Arabyia house-the name for the home of the Arabiya family with seven children which has been rebuilt four times by the efforts of ICAHD and the JCHR/Jurist Center for Human Rights, a Palestinian NGO focused on legal advocacy for Palestinians in the Jerusalem area.


In 2005, I met with Jeff in his office and learned he is from Hibbing, Minnesota and knew Bob Dylan when he was still Zimmerman. Jeff smiled when he said, "It was during the Vietnam years that I decided to move here and when I told my grandmother she replied, 'That is no place for a nice Jewish boy!'

Jeff informed me that, “Israel has no constitution but has a Declaration of Independence which promised that Israel would abide by conditions and UN resolutions. They have not fulfilled the agreement which was the basis of their independence.”

The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was signed May 14, 1948 the day the British Mandate over Palestine expired. The USA recognized Israel that very night and the USSR three days later. The Declaration affirms that the state of Israel:

“Will be based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisioned by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion...and will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, education and culture: it will safeguard the Holy places of all religions, and it will be faithful to the principals of the Charter of the United Nations.”

I heard Jeff speak for the first time at Holy Land Trust’s Celebrating Nonviolent Resistance Conference, in Bethlehem, in December 2005. Members of Hamas attended but Israel denied entry to Ghandian activists from India and many internationals.

Jeff informed the conference crowd, “We really are only but actors in a play. When we wake up to that, and become an active participant in the human drama and pursue justice, things must change because injustice is unsustainable…One out of three Israeli children lives below the poverty line. It’s probably about 80% for Palestinians. Jews are like everyone else, those who have been abused grow up to be abusers. Things here have been turned on their head: its victim mentality and denial about the occupation. Once Israelis accept the fact that they are occupiers they will have to admit their State Terrorism."

Jeff has also said, “It was at the time when the Oslo peace plan collapsed and the occupation reasserted itself. Many Israeli peace activists began asking Palestinians what the best way to engage with each other was and the answer was blowing in the wind: ‘STOP the home demolitions!’

“Since 1967 the Israeli government has destroyed over 18,000 Palestinian homes. 95% of the cases have nothing to do with security. All these homes are on Palestinian private property. The Israeli government will not grant permits for them to build on their own land, and in reality are quietly transferring the Palestinians administratively from the land. They make conditions so intolerable that the Palestinians give up and leave and this is exactly what they are after. Not only do the Palestinians receive no warning when their homes are to be destroyed they are fined $1,500.00!

“I’ll get a call at 5 AM from a Palestinian telling me the bulldozers have arrived and we activists go out and engage in civil disobedience by standing up to the bulldozers. We also raise funds to rebuild these homes right where they had been before.

"The reasons for the demolitions are: for The Wall, to establish illegal settlements, build roads and because the Israeli government wants to keep Palestinians confined to the islands [areas A and B] in the West Bank and so Palestinian land remain under the control of the Israeli government.”

“When you incorporate occupied territories, highways, settlements and use resources it is all illegal according to the Fourth Geneva Convention which states the status quo must be retained so that negotiations can happen. Unilateral actions are illegal. The occupying power is responsible for those under its control.

“Tony Blair said 70% of all the conflicts in the world can be traced back to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. What gives us hope is that as this conflict worsens maybe Europe will figure out that American policies are against their interests and intervene...This conflict impacts the global community and especially everyone in the USA.

“If we do fix this conflict it would be a tremendous step forward in global reconciliation...This whole issue is based on Human Rights and it is a global issue requiring global intervention.

“It has been said that the Israelis do not love this land, they just want to possess it. There have been three stages to make this occupation permanent. The first was to establish the facts on the ground; the settlements. There are ½ million Israeli’s and four million Palestinians here. They have been forced into Bantustan; truncated mini states; prison states. It is apartheid and Bush and Hillary are both willing collaborators.

"Israel is not a democracy, it is an ethnocracy: full rights to Jews, but not Palestinians.

"In 1977, Sharon came in with a mandate, money and resources to make the Israeli presence in the West Bank irreversible. The second stage began in April 2004 when America approved the Apartheid/Convergence/Realignment Plan and eight settlement blocs. This is just like South Africa! The Bush Sharon letter exchange guaranteed that the USA considers the settlements non-negotiable. The Convergence Plan and The Wall create the borders and that is what defines Bantustans. Congress ratified the Bush plan and only Senator Byrd of West Virginia voted no and nine House Representatives.

“Israel has set up a matrix of control; a thick web of settlements guaranteed to make the occupation permanent by establishing facts on the ground. Israel denies there is an occupation, so everything is reduced to terrorism. It is our job to insist upon the human rights issue, for occupied people have International Law on their side.”

I once asked Jeff if the settlements were in actuality colonies; meaning foreigners had invaded and set up residence in another’s territory. He agreed and added that, "When Jerusalem was controlled by Jordan, the East side was 6 sq. km. Since 1967, Israel has added 64 km. The West side was 38 sq. km until ‘67 and is now 108 sq. km’s. Israel plans to develop 17 settlements. Israeli policy is to maintain a 72% Jewish and 28% Arab population. Palestinians cannot get building permits to build upon their legally owned land. The Arab land has been re-zoned as green space, and the green space will be re-zoned for the settlements. Every single Palestinian home in Jerusalem has a demolition order. The entire West Bank has been zoned as agricultural land by Israel, and that will also be re-zoned again for more settlements.”


Orwellian doublespeak has also been employed in the USA government and media by referring to the illegal colonies as “neighborhoods”  but under international law all the settlements are considered illegal. Roadways that Palestinians are denied access to link the settlements in a ring around the Old City of Jerusalem and during an ICAHD bus tour, we rode past acres of olive trees that had been chopped off by the Israeli army, on our way to the Beit Arabiya Peace House.

Jeff commented, “I don’t just have a political problem with this Judiaization of the Old City, it is ecologically and environmentally offensive.”

It also is spiritually impoverished for the raping and pillaging of what is claimed holy ground refutes and denies the biblical meaning of dominion. The ancients understood dominion meant to nurture, love and protect but the destruction of Palestinian homes, the stealing and destroying of their legal property, has got to be an abomination unto God as well as a crime against humanity.

The Beit Arabiya Peace House, is at the crossroads of Areas A, B and C and the home has become a symbol of nonviolent persistent resistance and a meeting place for Israelis, Palestinian and International peace activists at the intersection of Areas A, B, and C. The smallest of the three is Area A, which is under Palestinian authority. Areas B and C are under Israeli control. Since 1967 over 18,000 Palestinian families in the occupied territories have been left homeless due to home demolitions and at this moment 22,000 more homes have demolition orders, which includes a third of all the homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

ICAHD has determined the reasons for home demolitions is purely political: to confine the 3 ½ million residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza into small, crowded, impoverished and disconnected enclaves; bantustans.

When I visited the Beit Arabyia home there was a mural painted on the outer wall by the North American Workers Against the USA occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The mural depicted Rachel Corrie, the American who was run over by a USA made Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza when she stood up to defend the home of a pharmacist with five children just a few days before Bush began bombing Baghdad. Also depicted was a pregnant Palestinian woman of ten who also was run over by a Caterpillar in Gaza. The angelic images of the two women floated above a depiction of a USA made Caterpillar bulldozer that had tipped to one side and was flanked by tanks and images of weapons of destruction and many people along a railroad track-a reminder that prior to 1948, Jews and Palestinians had worked together in peaceful solidarity to build a railroad.

The Arabyia home/Peace Center is at the cornerstone of the village of the Anata and the Shufat refugee camps, in the very area where the prophet Jeremiah in the 6th century B.C. critiqued the violent conflicts in the Mid East, which were already old news: “I hear violence and destruction in the city, sickness and wounds are all I see.” [Jeremiah 6:7]


Mohammad Alatar, film producer of “The Iron Wall” addressed my group after we broke bread and ate a typical Palestinian feast prepared by the Arabiya family: “I am a Muslim Palestinian American and when my son asked me who my hero was I took three days to think about it. I told him my hero is Jesus, because he took a stand and he died for it. What really needs to be done is for the churches to be like Jesus; to challenge the Israeli occupation and address the apartheid practices as moral issues. Even if every church divested and boycotted Israel it would not harm Israel. After the USA and Russia, Israel is the third largest arms exporter in the world. It is a moral issue that the churches must address.”

Two days ago, Jeff was arrested again for his nonviolent persistent resistance to the occupation and in 2005, he told me that every time he is arrested and sentenced to community service for his ICAHD actions, he tells "the judge I am serving the community but they just don’t get it!

"The Israeli government simply does not want to take responsibility and the USA government ignores the situation....Look, Jesus was all about justice and love. Jesus was no magician and his message has been lost by Christian Zionists who want Armageddon. They have taken Jesus’ teachings and turned them into a travesty by justifying the occupation.

"Do you know why Israel does not want to become America’s 51st state? Because then they would only have two senators!"

Read more: Memoirs of a Nice Irish-American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory, eileen fleming



June 14, 2009: Governments will only act if pushed by the people.

'AN APPEAL TO SAVE AN IMPORTANT PALESTINIAN HOME FROM DEMOLITION

Urgent action required: The Israeli Supreme Court has just ruled that the home of Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh in Anata, which has already been demolished by the Israeli authorities four times, can be demolished yet again. The Shawamreh home has become a symbol of resistance to Israel’s house demolition policies and deserves our support. Please forward this to your lists and raise this issue in your advocacy campaigns. Contact your political representatives and the Israeli embassies and consulates in your country. Tell them that the Shawamreh home (Beit Arabiya) cannot be demolished again. Indeed, tell them that NO Palestinian home should ever be demolished again!


For more information, contact the ICAHD office at < > or +972-(0)2-624-5560.


Since 1967, the Israeli authorities have demolished more than 24,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories, some as “collateral damage” in military operations (4000 homes were demolished in the recent invasion of Gaza), some as collective punishment (the obliteration of the Jenin refugee camp in 2002 being just one example), many others for lack of a building permit, though Israel intentionally withholds building permits from Palestinians. In a particularly cruel twist used by the courts, thousands of Palestinian families have been forced to demolish their own homes under pressure of fines and imprisonment. Tens of thousands of demolition orders remain outstanding in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and can be implemented at any time.

 

The issue of house demolitions first penetrated the public consciousness on July 9, 1998, when the Civil Administration, Israel’s military government in the West Bank, came to demolish the home of Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh and their six children in “Area C” of Anata, northeast of Jerusalem. Mobilized in time by Israeli and Palestinian activists, it was the first opportunity Israelis, diplomats and journalists actually had to witness a home demolition. The courageous resistance of the Shawamreh family and the international attention the demolition received put the issue of house demolitions on the political map. Over the years many local and international NGOs have highlighted this issue, including Amnesty International. Recent reports by OCHA and the EU have also focused on the illegality of house demolitions. Today the obligation of Israel to cease demolishing Palestinian homes is enshrined in the first phase of the Road Map initiative. Much of this success is due to the Shawamreh family’s resistance.

 
Now they need our help. Last week, after a delay of more than two years, a three judge panel of the Israeli Supreme Court (Justices Eliezer Rivlin, Ayala Procaccia and David Cheshin) rejected the Shawamreh family’s second appeal to have the 17-year demolition order on their home rescinded. The Shawamrehs’ petition to the Court to issue them a building permit was also rejected. As of Sunday, June 7th, the Civil Administration is authorized to demolish their home for the fifth time. It is clear that the Shawamrehs cannot find justice in the Israeli court system. One of the family’s chief claims, rejected out of hand by the Court, argues that the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids an Occupying Power from extending its law and administration into an occupied territory, rendering the very process of granting or denying permits to Palestinians patently illegal under international humanitarian law.

Understanding that this argument has no standing in Israeli courts (who rule on the basis that there is no occupation and therefore the Fourth Geneva Convention protecting civilians under occupation is irrelevant), the family then argued that the legal basis accepted by Israel for demolishing their home and thousands of others in the West Bank – RJ-5, a 1942 British-era plan that designated the entire southern portion of the West Bank as “agricultural land” – was itself illegal since it has never been revised over the past 67 years despite significant changes in demography and land use. Besides using the plan to deny the Shawamrehs their fundamental right to housing, RJ-5, they argue, is also used in a discriminatory manner, since the Israeli authorities set it aside when approving dozens of Israeli settlements on the same land denied to Palestinians for building. This argument, too, was rejected by the Court.

 
The Shawamrehs then argued that their failure to obtain a permit, despite repeated requests for building permits from the Civil Administration (for which they had to spend $15,000 in fees), was based on no substantive reason. Indeed, the Civil Administration itself had declared in an interview in Ha’aretz newspaper that the Shawamrehs would be granted a permit if they provided what the Civil Administration claimed were two missing signatures on their deed of ownership – yet it would not reveal what signatures were required despite repeated queries, finally saying they lost the Shawamreh file altogether.


All this, plus their repeated appeals to the Supreme Court, constituted, the family argued, an unreasonable state of affairs in which all legal channels of redress were denied or closed. They had demonstrated good faith and a willingness to do whatever the Israeli authorities required, despite the illegality of Israeli policies, but were nevertheless refused. Not only did the judges reject this argument, but in their ruling they accused the Shawamrehs of “bad faith” and “unclean hands” since they had rebuilt their home four times without the proper permit. To add insult to injury, the judges then fined them $2000 for having the audacity to bring their case to court.


ICAHD is extremely concerned that the Shawamrehs’ home will be quickly demolished by the Civil Administration. Beit Arabiya, as it has become known, is a central meeting place for Palestinians, Israelis and international peace activists. The Shawamreh family deserves the support of the international community in their time of need. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, residents of occupied territories are supposed to enjoy double protection. The Occupying Power, Israel in this case, is enjoined to protect the rights and well-being of Palestinians under its control, while the international community, through the High Contracting Parties, is required to guarantee the same. In both cases the Shawamrehs and the thousands of families they represent have been let down. When they take steps to actualize their fundamental rights, such as rebuilding their demolished homes, they find they have no effective legal or political protection.


Governments will only act if pushed by the people.

We call on you to raise your voices against the impending demolition of the Shawamreh home – and in so doing against Israel’s overall policy of demolishing Palestinian homes as it attempts to drive them from the country. 

 The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Please visit our websites:
www.icahd.org
www.icahduk.org
www.icahdusa.org

   
 
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