Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Week of cruelty and despair - Palestinian families of East Jerusalem loose their properties at the hands of the Israeli forces.

In less than a week four families lost their homes or livelihoods in demolitions and evictions and dozens of new demolitions have been ordered. Nobody here knows the answer to the reason for this intensity of this new wave of destruction. Some say that before the upcoming Israeli elections Netaniyahu wants to appease his electorate by proving than he can be even tougher on Palestinians than usually. Other say that Jerusalem municipality has released money for new demolitions before the end of the year. No matter what and why, these are not easy nights for Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and around.

The way demolition and evictions have been executed follow certain path of cruelty and disproportionality. While each of the families that lost their houses and properties deserve to tell their stories separately let me first introduce to some basic methods in which the enterprise of depriving people of their house has been carried away.

 How demolitions are carried away

  • Palestinian families are often not aware of the imminent threat of demolition or eviction. That is either because demolition orders have not been delivered properly or because demolition orders are delivered only in Hebrew in a country where Arabic is an official language. And many Palestinians do not read Hebrew. 
  • Demolitions are carried out at night or early in the morning to make sure that the affected will family be unable to resist and in the most vulnerable mode. They are carried out at night also because the only democracy in the Middle East cares about its own PR. It would be a very bad picture to see how the army destroys a house of an elderly lady or young family with seven kids. 
  • There is a complete lack of proportionality - demolitions look like huge military operations with dozens of police, border police and special forces involved as well as the use of heavy military cars and, of course, bulldozers. Often against light animal structures like in Nabi Samwil. 
  • The affected families are given little or no time to evacuate their properties. While the demolitions are completed people are left alone with the rumbles of their house and belongings. They are offered no compensation and no assistance of any kind by Israeli authorities. What they do receive however is a check for bulldozers’ work. 
  • Victim families need to rely on few aid agencies and NGOs like Red Cross or ACTED are able to offer them immediate relief assistance like shelter, water or food, but certainly unable to provide long term help. Even the aid is not immediate. Families need to wait for UN OCHA assessment and after this has been issued other agencies could work. Sometimes it can be days before help reach the victims.

Read stories about four families that lost their properties this week and see the photographs

Salim and Arabiya Story. Beit Arabyia Demolition in Anata - coming soon. 
Fatma Al Huwa Story. A house taken over by settlers in Al Tur - coming soon. 

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