I am the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), and after more than 20 years fighting Israel's policy of demolishing Palestinian homes, I am witnessing one of the largest campaigns of demolitions since we started our work. In East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, throughout the West Bank (where not only homes are demolished: my friend Ata Jabar's entire farm was destroyed by the Israeli authorities recently) -- and not only in the Occupied Territory: WITHIN the Green Line Israel is systematically demolishing entire Bedouin communities to clear the land for Jewish settlements, and in the Galilee and the Triangle in the north homes of Palestinian citizens of Israel are being attacked.
The scale of demolition makes protest and resistance impossible. ICAHD has led the resistance. We have stood in front of bulldozers coming to demolish Palestinian homes, and, with the families, their neighbours and hundreds of Israeli and international activists, we have rebuilt almost 200 homes demolished by Israel. We have published reports on demolitions, participated in UN meetings on the issue, made films and toured throughout the world with families, enabling them to tell their stories. But all our work is dwarfed by the resurgence of demolitions taking place today, and I have to admit to a feeling of helplessness. By our count and that of the UN, Israel has demolished some 55,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territory since 1967. Add to that the 60,000 homes destroyed in the Nakba in 1948 and in its wake, plus thousands more inside Israel until today, and the picture that emerges is ethnic cleansing.
I don't know how to react anymore. Because demolitions have gone on for so long and are so many, it is no longer an issue. We cannot get activists out to resist (who can keep up with the pace and scale?), and after all these years we cannot get the media to cover demolitions either - it is already not "news." Demolitions is not an issue highlighted by Palestinian support groups abroad (the US Campaign, PSC and the others), nor is it covered much by the radical media, Democracy Now, the Real News and other outlets.
ICAHD has not been able to keep up either. Our activists have drifted away to other, more immediate things that pop up: Khan al-Ahmar, Gaza, other important but reactive events. We no longer have funding since donors do not invest in political organizations when there is nothing happening politically (another success Israel has had in shutting down all meaningful political support for the Palestinian cause). And our message is growing thin: indeed, how many times can you come back to an audience or write an article about the same thing?
Our response, as I've written many times, is to pull back from activism on the ground. ICAHD still rebuilds, we still visit families, we still resist whenever we can and we still speak out, but we have come to the conclusion that protest is pointless unless it is attached to a political program. We don't want to abandon these families and the thousands more who homes will be demolished by Israel, but we have come to understand one fundamental fact: unless we join with others to formulate and effectively campaign for a political program to end Israeli rule and oppression (and I don't mean some vague "rights-based approach" but a real political program -- the establishment of a single democratic state between the River and the Sea), then our activism, outrage and protest is meaningless. Not pursuing a political program -- THAT is truly abandoning these families to their fate.
In the meantime, we at ICAHD continue as best we can to call attention to, and resist, this tragic, cruel Israeli POLICY (backed by the courts) of home demolitions. Any help you can offer, getting us access to media, for example, is welcomed. In the meantime, ICAHD has joined with the One Democratic Campaign (ODSC) in its campaign for a one state solution to this colonial travesty.