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Israeli house demolitions are the true crime — not BDS

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Israel is at it again. It remains consistent in engaging in one of its favorite activities: stealing Palestinian land and tormenting Palestinians.

On Monday, Israeli bulldozers, escorted by hundreds of Israeli soldiers, demolished no less than 16 residential buildings containing around 100 apartments in the village of Sur Baher, which is on the outskirts of East Jerusalem.

Israel’s reasoning for demolishing these homes is that they are too close to its “separation wall” (or more accurately, the Israeli apartheid wall), and it claims that the homes pose a security risk. This is not surprising, because Israel’s “security” is commonly cited as an excuse to steal Palestinian land and resources, and to impose full control over every aspect of the lives of Palestinians.

Correspondents reporting from the demolition area described seeing homeowners watch with horror as their homes turned into dust.

Let that sink in. Imagine your own home being destroyed in front of your eyes while you are powerless to do anything to stop its demolition by armed soldiers. Living under military occupation, there is no insurance to reimburse you or to rebuild your house on the land that rightfully belongs to you.

Even the American concept of “eminent domain,” where your property could be taken by the government for public use, although with “just” compensation, does not apply. In the US, no one would ever accept such a despicable injustice and outright theft.

But this is the reality that the Palestinians of East Jerusalem (and throughout Palestine) face. One man who has four children said that when their house is demolished, they will become homeless and forced to live in the streets.

To see how Israeli demolition of homes and theft of Palestinian land is done out of spite, cruelty, and cold-heartedness, rather than “security,” one only has to watch this video.

In the video, Israeli forces in charge of imploding a Palestinian building are seen counting down to the detonation of explosives. A masked soldier initiates the demolition and the explosive charges go off, reducing the building to a large pile of rubble and dust within a matter of seconds.

The Israelis laugh, cheer, and whistle in the aftermath of their barbarism. One of the soldiers hugs the man who set off the explosives, shakes his hand, and poses with him for the camera with a huge grin on his face. There is absolutely no doubt that they enjoyed the destruction of the homes and property of innocent Palestinians. People who are genuinely concerned about their security would not celebrate another human being’s devastation in such a sickening way.

This destruction and theft of Palestinian property and land is an indisputable violation of international law. Israel has no right to occupy even one square centimeter of the West Bank and East Jerusalem (or the Syrian Golan Heights, for that matter), which are territories that it seized with aggressive force in 1967.

This fact is why the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement exists. BDS is a peaceful, nonviolent campaign that aims to pressure and hold Israel accountable for its occupation and oppression of Palestinians. It is very similar to the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) that targeted the South African apartheid system. Eventually, the boycott movement aimed at South Africa helped lead to “The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act” that was approved by the US Congress in 1986. This law imposed strong economic sanctions against South Africa and helped lead to the dismantling of the apartheid system.

But on Tuesday night, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (398-17) in favor of a bill (House Resolution 246) that opposes “efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement [BDS] targeting Israel.” What is worse is that the right to boycott is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, yet American politicians are conveniently ignoring this fact.

The objective of BDS is to put pressure on Israel so that it thinks twice before engaging in merciless human rights violations against Palestinians that are blatant breaches of international law. BDS may be trying to “delegitimize the State of Israel,” but that is because Israel is in fact engaging in highly illegitimate activities. How else can one describe Israeli demolition of homes, theft of property and resources, imprisonment of adults and even children without charges, restricting freedom of movement, discrimination, total siege of Palestinians, and many other fascist policies?

Today, Democrats and Republican clash with each other perhaps more than ever before, whether on immigration, healthcare, climate change, and so many other issues. Yet when it comes to Israel, both parties are amazingly united. If only they could work in such a bipartisan fashion to solve many of the problems in our own country, rather than to protect a foreign state oppressing millions of indigenous people.

Despite changing attitudes among Americans (including Jewish Americans) that are more sympathetic toward justice and freedom for Palestinians, US politicians unfortunately lag behind. For example, Democratic Representative Ayanna Pressley campaigned as a firm progressive and shares many of the views of her fellow progressive lawmakers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, the four of whom have been recently labeled as “the squad.” Yet, Rep. Pressley voted in favor of the resolution condemning BDS.

Perhaps Rep. Pressley voted against BDS in order to protect her own interests, since she is a politician who seeks campaign funds and reelection. Regardless, it is highly discouraging that a politician who claims to be so progressive votes this way, and it is a reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done.

Until the American public holds their elected representatives accountable, and until these politicians then hold oppressive states accountable for their crimes, Israel will continue to act with immunity and there will be no justice for Palestinians.

Mohamed Mohamed

Mohamed Mohamed is the Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development in Washington DC. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, where he majored in Political Science and completed his senior thesis on statelessness and its practical implications on Palestinians living in the refugee camps of Lebanon. He also earned an M.A. in International Relations and an M.S. in International Political Economy from the University of Texas at Dallas. Follow him on Twitter at @mykm47

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5 Responses

  1. bcg on July 26, 2019, 12:56 pm

    About the whole security argument:

    …Yair Golan is quite well known in Israel. He’s a very clear member of the Israeli military elite. He is respected and extremely high ranking. His prior position before he became vice to the chief of staff, was to be the high commander of the military forces in the occupied West Bank. So actually, he was a colonialist military officer in charge of controlling an occupied population….And I had the opportunity actually to listen to him when he gave the talk in the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, and he spoke about his job as the head of the military forces in the West Bank, and he said very frankly that they were building the wall of separation in the West Bank and that the instructions that the military received from the government were not to build the wall out of security consideration, because he said we could provide security by cheaper and better and more efficient means than the wall, but the wall was there to separate the populations….The wall was built in order to prevent Israeli and Palestinians from meeting each other, from becoming friends, from falling in love and getting married, from conducting business with each other. Those were his words. And everyone in the room when he said that were quite astounded. Not by the fact, because I think nobody, everyone in the audience was aware of this reality, but the fact that he acknowledged it, by the fact that he was so honest.

  2. Elizabeth Block on July 27, 2019, 9:55 am

    I have thought for a long time that Israel is loved and supported by lots of non-Jews – especially evangelical Christians – because it is successful, strong, and violent.
    Can’t dispute the violence or, within strict limits, the success. (The Israeli economy relies largely on exporting weapons and “security systems.”) But the strength? How strong is a state, really, if it can be threatened by a herd of dairy cows [“The Wanted 18]? Or by a poet [Dareen Tatour]?

    As for Trump’s, or anyone’s, plans for Palestine: Palestinians know that if they build anything, a house or a business, the Israelis can confiscate or just destroy it at any time, for any reason or for none.

    I have a few friends and relatives who are still Zionists. I don’t often try to enlighten them. But I did send them information about these demolitions. One told me that an Israeli, Aviv Tatarsky, will be speaking in Toronto and telling us why Israel demolished these houses. Well, I think I know. Same reason that dogs and cats lick themselves between their hind legs: Because they can.

  3. Misterioso on July 27, 2019, 10:09 am

    Off topic, but good news:

    MEMO (Middle East Monitor) 24 July, 2019 — “A Chilean team of orthopaedic surgeons is carrying out urgent operations in the European Hospital in southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, Al-Resalah newspaper reported yesterday. Doctor Lautaro Campos headed the team which arrived in the Strip on Friday and is expected to leave tomorrow evening. In a statement, the Palestinian orthopaedic surgeon Jamal Abu-Hilal said that the three-member team carried out 16 surgeries and they are expected to carry out 30 more. The team is visiting Gaza for the second time in coordination with Palestine Children Relief Society. The first visit took place a year ago.”

  4. Misterioso on July 27, 2019, 1:28 pm


    Middle East Monitor

    “Gaza revived: How an Irishman is giving hope to Palestinian amputees”

    IMEMC/Agencies 23 July by Muhammad Hussein — Gaza.
    “The very name evokes images of Israeli bombardment, crumbling infrastructure, keffiyeh-clad protestors standing defiantly with Palestinian flags and slingshots, and screaming children shot by snipers in a fog of tear gas and smoke from burning tyres. All of these images are the unfortunate reality of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but there remains an untapped sporting potential within the population, and one man has dared to dig it out from among the most unlikely of people: the growing number of amputees. Over the past few years, the number of amputees in the Gaza Strip has risen exponentially, particularly since the beginning of the Great March of Return protests at the nominal border between Gaza and Israel since 30 March last year …

    “Speaking exclusively to Middle East Monitor from his office in Dublin where he works full-time as an accounts manager for a housing company, Simon Baker stressed his status as a football coach rather than someone who is trying to change the politics in occupied Palestine. ‘I was there to try and create a good image,’ he told me, ‘and the one thing I said to the players is I’m not telling you to forgive, I’m not telling you to forget, but if you don’t start focusing on tomorrow and you only focus on yesterday, you’re never going to move forward.'”

    “His mission in Gaza began with losing his own leg after an accident at a building site in 2004. The incident left him depressed and traumatised. He overcame this by getting back into sports, football in particular, where he discovered that being an amputee was no real barrier to his value as an active member of society….”

  5. Misterioso on July 27, 2019, 4:31 pm

    Words of truth and wisdom from eminent Palestinian, Samia Khoury, well known highly respected champion of her people and matriarch of the famous and greatly accomplished East Jerusalem Khoury family:

    “The demolitions of Sur Baher”
    By Samia Khoury
    July 26, 2019

    “There was a wide coverage by the media this past week of the brutal demolition of Palestinian homes in Sur Baher in the Palestinian territories. It was so brutal that the attack by some settlers from the Neve Yacov settlement on the St. James church in Beit hanina with yogurt cartons and tomatoes while they were celebrating the end of the summer camp seemed almost harmless despite its racist significance, and intrusion on the grounds of the church which is very close to our house and where I usually worship.

    “Israel claims that it had to resort to the demolitions for the sake of its security as the homes were too close to the separation wall. How ironic indeed because the Israeli claim for building the separation wall in the first place was for security reasons, but in reality the wall ended up snaking through the Palestinian territories. And now they claim that the buildings are too close to the separation wall so once again in the name of security those buildings had to be demolished although they were not illegally constructed as Israel claims, because they were located on Palestinian territory and had building permits from the Palestinian authority. Where does Israeli security stop? Is the sky the limit or is it the whole Palestinian territories ?

    “UN officials and the European Union condemned the demolitions and called for an immediate halt to the policy. Canada expressed its deep concern calling on Israel authorities to halt such demolitions which are illegal under international law and undermines efforts for a two state solution (as if there is a chance anymore for the two state solution!!)

    “At this stage of Israeli impunity, condemnation and concern have no impact any more, and Israel has been getting away with all its violations of human rights and international law. So unless there is action and Israel is made to pay for its impunity those statements are useless, and have no power to redress such a grave injustice. We all still remember that it was the boycott and sanctions that helped bring about the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa, yet the US staunchly shields Israel from such actions and criminalizes any party that imposes sanctions or boycotts Israel. It is worth reminding my readers of Dorothy Thompson’s quotation in 1951 in the early years after the Nakba when she said ‘The state of lsrael has got to learn to live in the same atmosphere of free criticism in which every other state in the world must endure.’

    “How long will the international community continue to accept such double standards?

    “Once again I would like to end with a quotation by Dr. Martin Luther King:
    ‘In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.'”

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