Statement from The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) 29th May, 2003
Delivered at a Press Conference at the American Colony Hotel, East Jerusalem
The Alternative Information Center, Bat Shalom, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, Gush Shalom, The Jerusalem Center for Social & Economic Rights, International Solidarity Movement, Rabbis for Human Rights, Ta’ayush,
Families present at the press conference whose homes were demolished and rebuilt by ICAHD and its partners:
Shawamreh family-Anata, Mohammed Ali Family-Shuafat Refugee Camp, Dabash Family-Sur Bahair, Maswadeh family – Beit Hanina
Despite the acceptance of the Road Map by Israel, there is an escalating campaign of harassment and intimidation by the Israeli Government against Israeli and international human rights organizations in the Occupied Territories.
Last Friday 23rd May, Arik Ascherman, Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights, and its representative to ICAHD, was interrogated by the General Security Services (Shabak) regarding ICAHD’s practice of rebuilding demolished Palestinian homes. The government agents did not identify themselves but claimed to be with the Minority Division of the Police, which we all know to be the Shabak. Rabbi Ascherman was also arrested on 26th May for protesting the demolition of the Maswadeh family home in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem.
This is but one example of the Israeli Government’s campaign of harassment against Israeli and international Human Rights groups, which prevent them from doing their job. These tactics have long been standard procedure against Palestinians. However we have entered a new phase of restrictions in the government’s crackdown on Human Rights workers.
Other Israeli Human Rights workers have also been interrogated by the Shabak, arrested, and detained at the airport. They are also blocked from working in the Occupied Territories by the arbitrary imposition of ‘closed military zones’. Groups subjected to these tactics include the Alternative Information Center, Gush Shalom, ICAHD, Machsom Watch, Rabbis for Human Rights, and Ta’ayush. All these groups have been recipients of Israeli and International Human Rights awards.
The killing of Rachel Corrie, and the shooting Tom Hurndall and Brian Avery of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) marked the recent escalation of restrictions on internationals. The ISM has since had its offices ransacked, computers removed, and their members arrested and deported. A foreign journalist, James Miller, was also shot dead by Israeli soldiers this year. The Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) in Hebron has had their movements restricted and CPT member Gregory Rollins is now in prison. CPT is currently confined to area H2 in Hebron and has been informed by the military that they will not be allowed back if they leave H2. Internationals now have to sign a waiver of Israeli liability in order to enter Gaza, and many human rights workers are prevented from entering the country, are interrogated on leaving the country, and humiliated at the airport.
The Israeli government has accepted the Road Map and committed itself to implementing its principles. In particular it has committed to implementing in phase 1 of the Road map, quote: ” Government of Israel takes no actions undermining trust, including . . . demolition of Palestinian homes or property “. In order for this and other requirements to be transparent, there can be no impediments on human rights groups from observing the activities of the IDF and civil administration in the Occupied Territories. Complete transparency is required and we call on the Road Map’s sponsors, and the Israeli Government, not to impede the necessary participation by human rights organizations in the guarding of Human Rights in the path to a just peace.
The Global Campaign to Rebuild Palestinian Homes is a peaceful protest and humanitarian activity, funded by thousands of individuals in Europe and the United States. ICAHD has partnered with a Palestinian organization, the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, and together they receive support from, amongst others, the Foundation for Middle East Peace, The American Friends Service Committee, The US Mennonite Central Committee, and The French Platform, a coalition of dozens of French organisations. The campaign rebuilds homes with the support of the organizations represented here today, and the thousands of Israeli, Palestinian, and international volunteers who have worked at the building sites over the past five years. They have a commitment to ending the Occupation, and ending the hatred and violence that continue to divide the peoples of Israel and Palestine. The families whose homes we rebuild are ordinary people who were unable to obtain a building permit to build a home on their own land. Virtually no building permits are granted to Palestinians while Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories are not only granted permits but have their homes built with subsidies from the Israeli government.