21 November 2005
Yesterday, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) received information that the Israeli government was planning on demolishing houses in Anata, Beit Hanina and Silwan. Although the demolition of Palestinian homes was supposed to end with the first phase of the Road Map, Israel insists disingenuously that we are only in a "pre-Road Map" phase – even though the Road Map was initiated in mid-2003. This means, in Israel's interpretation, that the Palestinians must carry out all their responsibilities under Phase 1 and even Phase 2 (reform the Palestinian Authority, end violence, etc.), while Israel is free to pursue its goals of strengthening its hold on the Occupied Territories without any interference whatsoever – a clear violation of the principle of "mutuality" that underlies the Road Map Process.
Indeed, for Israel, house demolitions are merely "business as usual." The Jerusalem Municipality has a million and a half unused shekels ($300,000) in the demolition line of its annual budget. Whatever is left at the beginning of the year is lost. Since such an amount pays for about 70 demolitions, the Municipality is under pressure to demolish as many homes as possible in the next month and a half. Add to this the policy of demolishing Palestinian homes situated too close to the route of the Wall. This was one of the reasons given for demolishing the homes in Anata – even though the Wall has not yet been built.
At 6:30 on this cold, rainy morning (imagine Palestinian families removing all their belongings in the rain in the middle of the night), ICAHD staff, volunteers and activists traveled to Anata to resist, witness and document the demolitions. By the time we arrived the area had already been blocked off by the Border Police, so we were unable to approach the houses. Parking a half-mile away from the site, we were stopped by the Border Police near the demolition site. One of the activists in our group tried to convince the officers to allow us to get closer, but to no avail. As we watched from afar, a Daewoo bulldozer systematically demolished the first house, leaving only a pile of rubble where a family once lived. The bulldozer then moved up a small hill to the second house and began drilling into it as well. After a few minutes, the roof began to collapse and yet another family was left homeless.
Throughout the demolitions, a steady rain fell and we could only wonder what the families whose houses had just been demolished would do once the army, spectators and activists left. Those of us who had come to witness the demolition were wet, cold, and uncomfortable. But at least we had a place to go to dry off and change our clothes. The people who had just lost their homes no longer had that option. They were left to stand in the pouring rain, wondering how they would rebuild their lives, which like their homes, were now in shambles.
Later today 5 other homes were also demolished: three in Beit Hanina, one in Isawia and another one in A-Tur. The home of yet another family suffered an even more grotesque fate. In a "compromise" with the court, the family is to demolish half its house with its own hands, while the other half will be sealed while the family attempts to obtain a building permit.