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‘I watched the terrifying way in which we Judaize the land’: an eyewitness account of the Sur Baher home demolitions

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Translator’s note: Below is the testimony of Yuval Abraham, a filmmaker and journalist, who stayed with a family in Sur Baher the night their home was demolished by Israeli forces. Abraham’s account, translated from Hebrew, was originally published on Facebook and addressed to fellow Israeli Jews. The story of Ismail’s family, described here through Abraham’s eyes, is one of many. That night, 72 other families had their homes demolished by Israeli forces. Abraham and filmmaker Rachel Shor made a short film about these events, available at 972 Magazine: A dark night in Wadi al-Hummus. — Yarden Katz

I’m mentally exhausted. I spent the night in Sur Baher. I saw with my own eyes how they ruined Ismail’s life and his home. A gentle man, with kind eyes. He planned every detail in his home. “My dream home,” he told me at three o’clock in the morning, before the catastrophe, as his foot was shaking. He kept saying, I wish it won’t happen. I wish they won’t destroy [my home]. The kitchen cabinets were painted bright pink, the style he loves, that he picked, and the walls of his four-year old daughter’s room were soundproof and insulated, to prevent the room from overheating in the summer. He sent her to sleep at her grandfather’s. His other kids were home. Everyone’s awake. Scared to death that the monster might come.

His voice trembled as he spoke of his kids. He didn’t look me in the eye. He kept repeating one thing: I want to speak with the judge who approved this. Help me find the judge. I just want to explain to him, I want him to see me, I want him to understand you can’t throw us out in the street. When Ismail told me he feels that he’s failed as a father, that he can’t protect his own children, he teared up.

And then the State of Israel demolished his home. Israel the racist, Judaizing, colonialist state that I’m embarrassed to be a citizen of. Tens of cops busted in. I was there. I saw the rage and the humiliation that filled Ismail’s eyes, and his children’s eyes, when they were pushed aside by the police and looked at their home from afar, knowing it’s about to be razed. The children screamed in pain. My body trembled, and their eyes reddened from the tear gas. Ismail was shaking all over. He cried, he hugged them and cried. He has no money, he has no way to build another home, he put all his savings in this one. The sun was rising, and the cops yelled at us to get out. To leave the place. The violence was vicious. The cops dragged everyone outside, strangled the family. I was searching for the cops’ eyes. One cop’s cell phone rang, and it was a popular tune, a happy one, a tune I listen to sometimes.

Area A, the zone where the house was built, is nominally under the control of the Palestinian Authority. But Israel, in order to have as much land as possible on its side of the wall, blocked the PA from accessing this particular stretch of land. The families living in the area are therefore in limbo. They had to provide all the basic services for themselves – water, electricity, roads. Israel gives them nothing but is perfectly willing to destroy their homes.

Ismail built his home legally. Completely legally. He obtained all the necessary permits from the PA, by the book. But the home, Israel decided, was too close to the wall it has built (!) and must therefore be destroyed. “National security.” Homes can’t be too close to the wall.

But the wall is a lame excuse. It’s perfectly obvious to everyone living in the village that it’s easy to cross the wall. Tens of thousands of Palestinians do it daily. Whoever wants to bypass the wall and hide in some home could do it without a problem. What’s more, there are some homes near the wall, in Sur Baher, that had only one floor demolished by Israel, which totally contradicts the idea these homes pose security threat. Is a house with two floors more dangerous than a house with one? And even if there was some security concern, it’s illogical to destroy a whole home when there are hundreds of other solutions. Ismail begged the police to let him be on guard at his home, himself, every night, or that they’d let him put security cameras near the home, or that the state would work with his sons to make the wall even taller, so that no one could pass through. It was awful, that supplication.

No, this is not a security matter. Don’t be fooled. Tonight, I watched the terrifying way in which we Judaize the land. We Judaize the land. Whoever finds this phrase difficult to understand, “Judaizing the land,” needs to reevaluate things and start reading. Read about what’s happening between the river and the sea, in East Jerusalem, in the Negev, the Galilee, the West Bank, read about discriminatory development plans that suffocate whole Palestinian towns and prohibit them from expanding, about state expropriation of lands, about villages in the Negev that are behind destroyed and Jewish settlements being erected in their place, about expulsions in the Jordan Valley, in the south of Mount Hebron, about the Nakba that never ended in this entire region. Whoever really wants to move beyond the state of ignorance we’re all indoctrinated into can come talk to me and I’ll help him/her. If you really care about security for Israelis, let’s make sure there’s security for Palestinians, and that we stop ruining their lives and expelling them from their lands and homes.

I can’t take it anymore. I’m suffocating from all this violence and the lives being destroyed. And everyone here is oblivious, blathering about a Jewish state, they don’t know Arabic and are utterly blind to those other people. Everyone who keeps silent is complicit with this filth. They destroyed Ismail’s life tonight. When I left, an hour ago, he was staring into space and muttering to himself. I saw that sparkle in his eye was gone.

Yuval Abraham

Yuval Abraham is an Israeli freelance journalist.

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4 Responses

  1. Lillian Rosengarten on August 3, 2019, 12:29 pm

    I am suffocating too from all the violence and lies by the Israeli government. Who can support this unless they are blind. As a German Jew, I am ashamed of Israel, Zionism and the hatred that consumes this violent country. The racism and hatred towards Palestinians has created a country of monsters.

  2. Misterioso on August 3, 2019, 3:44 pm

    @Lillian Rosengarten

    Then Secretary of State for India and the British cabinet’s only Jewish member, Lord Edwin Montagu’s response to Prime Minister Lloyd George following issuance of the illegal 1917 Balfour Declaration: “All my life I have been trying to get out of the ghetto. You want to force me back there.”

    Henry Morgenthau Sr., former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, 1919: “Zionism is the most stupendous fallacy in Jewish history…. The very fervour of my feeling for the oppressed of every race and every land, especially for the Jews, those of my own blood and faith, to whom I am bound by every tender tie, impels me to fight with all the greater force against this scheme, which my intelligence tells me can only lead them deeper into the mire of the past, while it professes to be leading them to the heights. Zionism is… a retrogression into the blackest error, and not progress toward the light.” (Quoted by Frank Epp, Whose Land is Palestine? p. 261)

    Asked to sign a petition supporting settlement of Jews in Palestine, Sigmund Freud declined: “I cannot…I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state….It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land….I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.” (Letter to Dr. Chaim Koffler Keren HaYassod, Vienna: 2/26/30)

    In 1939, Albert Einstein wrote: “There could be no greater calamity than a permanent discord between us and the Arab people. Despite the great wrong that has been done us [in Europe], we must strive for a just and lasting compromise with the Arab people…. Let us recall that in former times no people lived in greater friendship with us than the ancestors of these Arabs.” (Einstein and Zionism by Banesh Hoffmann, in General Relativity and Gravitation, eds G. Shaviv and J. Rosen, Wiley, 1975, p. 242)

    Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, 1944: “The concept of a racial state – the Hitlerian concept- is repugnant to the civilized world, as witness the fearful global war in which we are involved. . . , I urge that we do nothing to set us back on the road to the past. To project at this time the creation of a Jewish state or commonwealth is to launch a singular innovation in world affairs which might well have incalculable consequences.”

  3. Ian Berman on August 28, 2019, 9:11 pm

    “ISMAIL BUILT HIS HOME LEGALLY. COMPLETELY LEGALLY. HE OBTAINED ALL THE NECESSARY PERMITS FROM THE PA, BY THE BOOK. But the home, Israel decided, was too close to the wall it has built (!) and must therefore be destroyed. “National security.” Homes can’t be too close to the wall.”

    Emphasis added for this home was even built with the requisite Israeli rules for permitting which they mostly deny to contain Palestinian growth. And they still destroyed his home.

  4. roc on September 11, 2019, 5:02 pm

    The problem is not the Palestinians. It is Islamism which had always refused to share the land, in any way. It is Islamism and pan-Arab despotism which steadfastly refused to recognise Jewish rights and attachments to the land. The Jews in Israel thus have no other choice but to assert their rights in the only way left open to them. The other option of course, the one which all this propaganda, the type promoted by online rags like this one, is about forcing, is to go back to the previous situation – Of course with the most fervid assurances of security and the same rights as anyone else. Pull the other one. Point is though, there has been a road travelled the last hundred years or so with a lot more belligerents on it than just the Jews. And the effort to paint the line of cause and effects as solely between evil “Zionists”, these despicable Israelis, between malevolent oppressor, and innocent oppressed, is a vile, dishonest one. Motivated by something dark and sinister I have to say. I say that as a non Jew, even, just observing it. You people on here ought to be ashamed of yourselves, self righteously slavering over these human tragedies the way you do, making your stupid propaganda from them, simplifying so most abominably, always aiming to stoke a certain sentiment in your readers.

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