Wave of Home Demolitions in West Bank Town Anata
From The Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (a long-time partner of PSP).
Israeli authorities demolished Beit Arabiya (“Arabiya’s House”) Monday, January 23rd for the fifth time, along with structures in the East Anata Bedouin compound. Beit Arabiya, Located in the West Bank town of Anata (Area C) just to the northeast of Jerusalem, is a living symbol of resistance to Occupation and the desire for justice and peace.
As its name suggests, Beit Arabiya is a home belonging to Arabiya Shawamreh, her husband Salim and their seven children, a Palestinian family whose home has been demolished four times by the Israeli authorities and rebuilt each time by ICAHD’s Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists, before being demolished again last night.
At around 11p.m. Monday, a bulldozer accompanied by a contingent of heavily armed Israeli soldiers appeared on the Anata hills, to promptly demolish Beit Arabiya, along with residential and agricultural structures in the nearby Arab al-Jahalin Bedouin compound. 3 family homes were demolished along with numerous animal pans, and 20 people including young children were displaced, left exposed to the harsh desert environment. While standing in solidarity with Palestinians, ICAHD staff and activists were repeatedly threatened by Israeli soldieries. ICAHD Co-Director Itay Epshtain was beaten and sustained minor injuries.
Beit Arabiya was issued a demolition order by Israeli authorities back in 1994, following their failure to grant a building permit. It has since been demolished four times, to be rebuilt by ICAHD activists. Following a reissue of the demolition order last Thursday, came last night’s fifth demolition. ICAHD Director, Dr. Jeff Halper, standing astride the ruins, vowed to support Salim and Arabiya in rebuilding their home. “We shall rebuild, we must rebuild forthwith, as an act of political defiance of the occupation and protracted oppression of Palestinians” said Halper.
Beit Arabiya has become a symbol of resistance to the Judaization of the Occupied West Bank and Israeli demolition policy. “ICAHD is as determined as always to rebuild the home, and endure in its struggle to bring about justice and peace” added Halper.
Salim and Arabiya, along with their neighbors and friends stood last night and watched as this tragedy unfold once again. Arabiya and Salim have dedicated their home as a center for peace in the memories of Rachel Corrie and Nuha Sweidan, two women (an American and a Palestinian) who died resisting home demolitions in Gaza. In the past decade ICAHD has hosted numerous visitors at Beit Arabiya, and based its annul rebuilding camp at the house, rebuilding 185 demolished Palestinian homes.
UPDATE January 24th: Anata Home Rebuilt by ICAHD Demolished
This morning, Israeli authorities demolished the home of the Abu Omar family, rebuilt by ICAHD in July 2011. The Abu Omar family home, built in 1990 on privately owned land, was demolished by the Israeli military in 2005. Ahmed Abu Omar (46) had applied for a building permit, but was refused on the grounds that his land was zoned as an “agricultural area.” This is a story we hear often, and it reflects Israel’s long-time, unlawful policy of curtailing all construction by Palestinians since 1967. They were offered neither alternative housing nor compensation for the demolition, violating international law. The construction of the Abu Omar family home, long waited since the 2005 demolition by Israel, was completed on July 24th 2011, exactly six months ago. The keys to the home were handed over to the family in a celebratory dedication ceremony marking the end of a two week rebuild. Volunteers were joined by members of the larger Anata community, civil society activists and Palestinian Authority high ranking officials, as family members began life in their rebuilt home. ICAHD staff visited with the family shortly after the demolition of their home took place to find them somber, traumatized, and grief stricken. ICAHD has vowed to support the family in rebuilding their home, once more. This is the second ICAHD rebuilt home demolished within 24 hours, in what seems like a concerted, yet futile, effort to discourage ICAHD from rebuilding demolished Palestinian homes.
(PSP Editorial Note: Palestine Solidarity Project Co-Founder Bekah Wolf has been helping with the training for ICAHD’s rebuilding camp for two summers, including the amazing team who helped build the Abu Omar home in 2011).
For more information and coordination of visits to Beit Arabiya, kindly contact Itay Epshtain at firstname.lastname@example.org or +972-54-2623306
House demolitions and forced evictions are among Israel’s most heinous practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). In 2011, a record year of displacement, a total of 622 Palestinian structures were demolished by Israeli authorities, of which 36% (or 222) were family homes; the remainder were livelihood-related (including water storage and agricultural structures), resulting in 1,094 people displaced, almost double the number for 2010. The Jordan Valley sustained the largest number of demolitions (32% of total structures demolished, 40% of residential structures demolished, 37% of people displaced), with 199 structures demolished and 401 people displaced.
Israel now controls 40% of the West Bank through 149 settlements and 102 outposts, housing more than 500,000 Jewish Israelis, as well as through closed military zones and declared nature reserves. In addition, house demolitions, forced evictions, and land expropriation, exacerbated by settler violence and the economic effects of movement restrictions, have left Palestinian communities struggling to make a living. Palestinians live in constant fear of displacement and dispersion, while Israel secures its domination and control.
The demolition of Palestinian homes is politically motivated and strategically informed. The goal is to confine the 4 million residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza to small enclaves, thus effectively foreclosing any viable Palestinian state and ensuring Israeli control, and to allow for the expropriation of land, the ethnic displacement of Palestinians, and the Judaization of the Occupied West Bank.