‘It is a collective punishment. Maybe [name of respondent 12’s brother] shot the settler, he is an adult, and he is more than 18 years old so you can punish him for what he did. But you didn’t punish him, you killed him, without giving him the right to defend himself or to tell what happened, or what didn’t happen. Now you want us to carry the responsibility of what happened by demolishing my house. Again, he is an adult, you killed him’.
– Respondent 12, about his home demolition as a punishment
Witnessing the daily struggle of the people in Palestine and Israel left a deep impression on me. Once you see what is going on there, you simply cannot let go. One of the many things that immediately caught my attention was the policy of home demolitions. My home is one of the important places in my life, a place where I feel safe and intimate. I cannot imagine what a home demolition does to me as a person, and to my family. A home and a family are universally seen as of great importance. Investigating domestic spheres and the demolition of this intimate cornerstone of families is conceivable by all of us.
I have been interested in the issue of Israel / Palestine for years. The reason for this is that this conflict is sensitive and everyone involved is biased. There never is one truth, but in this case there seem to be many truths. Because the issue is so complex people tend to just walk away and pretend they cannot help. But we can, and we should.
My name is Anke, I am 24 years old, and I was born in one of the smallest towns in the Netherlands, called Puiflijk. I had the best youth I could wish for. My family is amazing, the town I grew up in was super safe and I was surrounded by family and friends every day. In 2014 I finished my Bachelors in Criminology and after that studied International Crimes and Criminology, which focuses on war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. My entire life I have been interested in crimes that the average person would rather not know. I frustrate people with my stories about cruel and inhumane crimes, but I simply cannot stop.
My Master thesis is built around a research question, which is: What are the consequences for the victims of punitive home demolitions in the Palestinian Occupied Territories? What I mean by ‘punitive home demolition’ is that a home is demolished as a punishment for a crime, carried out by military commanders. When a person commits a crime the house he/she lives in can be demolished, the other people living in these homes are not compensated and lose their house.
In order to answer the research question, I had to find as much information as possible on the topic of home demolition as a punishment. Gradually it became apparent that I had to travel to Palestine to interview victims of home demolition, while research into the consequences of the punitive form of home demolitions was not yet conducted. I started with contacting my friends, acquaintances, international organizations and NGO’s in Palestine and Israel. Thanks to all the help of these organizations and the Palestinian and Israeli friends that I made, I was able to conduct this research. I was lucky to have people who helped me with everything, from transportation to a phone and a student flat.
Ramallah (the city where lived) is literally a hot, cramped and full city. Markets full of clothes and fruit and even the smallest and unnecessary things are sold. The people walk in the middle of the street and cars hoot all the time (they cannot move because the centre is so full). The thing I heard a million times was ‘Welcome to Palestine’ (which is sometimes the only thing people can say in English). It is hard to put into words, and this is not only the case for me. It is almost impossible to not love the people over there. The smiles, the laughing, the Arabic sounds, the screaming, fruits, falafel, along with people chilling in the middle of the street.
Thirteen families agreed to talk with me. The families’ houses were demolished because family members were fugitives, or committed or were suspected of certain crimes. Each of these families have their own story and history. I found it emotionally intense, and most of the stories were complex. But, most of the families were so welcoming, friendly and open. This thesis is a personal memory of each of these families.
A last statement I would like to make is that I have sadly experienced that visiting Palestine surprises a lot of people. With this story I would like to show that that despite cultural, linguistic and religious differences, conversations and research can enhance our knowledge. Listening to other people’s reasoning will reduce radicalism and promote understanding. I would like to show that people with other cultures or beliefs are not our enemies, and that an ordinary student like myself can accomplish little steps forward to intercultural understanding.
Thank you ICAHD, especially Ruth Edmonds for the emotional support. Thank you a lot for sharing my thesis and always trying to raise awareness about this important topic. It is an honour for me to be published on your website and I hope you will always try to push for a better world, no matter who tries to stop you. As Albert Einstein once said:
‘’The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything’’.
The full thesis can be downloaded here: Punitive home demolitions thesis.
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