As I write this the Israeli military is demolishing 70 homes — perhaps as many as 100 in the end — in an absolutely illegal action approved by Israel’s Supreme Court. Briefly, the Apartheid Wall coursing through the West Bank and East Jerusalem does not conform to any agreed boundary; it is built wherever Israel wants, and does not conform to the “Green Line” intentionally so as not to be seen as a border, Israel claiming the land on both sides of the Wall. Thus it threads into the municipal area of Jerusalem — in Shuafat, for example, or Kufur Aqab, where thousands of (Palestinian) Jerusalem residents receive no municipal services and need to pass checkpoints to enter their own city — and, in places like Sur Baher and Wadi Humus, out the municipal borders to illegally incorporate areas of the West Bank that by international agreement are under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.
In 1967, when Israel conquered East Jerusalem from the Jordanians and then expanded it 10-fold, it zoned the entire area of unbuilt-upon land as “open green space,” making it impossible for Palestinians to build new homes. Today 40% of the Jerusalem population, Palestinians have access to only 8% of the urban land — and even there they are denied building permits. (Lacking land, Palestinians are now building up, many “villages” today have 5-10 story apartment blocks — all “illegal” and subject to demolition.) And much of the land of Sur Baher and Umm Tuba has been expropriated for the nearby Israeli settlements of East Talpiot and Har Homa.
The only area between the large Palestinian neighborhoods of Sur Baher and Umm Tuba where Palestinians could find land to build was the Wadi Hummus area between their neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the Wall — an area mainly under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, designated Areas A and B under the Oslo Agreements. So the residents — mainly young families with nowhere else to live — applied to the PA for building permits in this area outside of the Jerusalem municipality and received permission to build.
Having no legal basis to oppose this construction, the Israeli army issued a military order banning construction within 250 meters of the Wall — without informing the residents. Even that was an illegal act, since the Wall itself is built on Palestinian land and has been deemed as “contrary to international law” by the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Nonetheless, whenever it comes to “security,” the Supreme Court gives in to the army, claiming that security is “beyond its competence.” No legal barriers exist to Israel violating international law with impunity, and no legal protections at all exist for the Palestinians, either inside Israel or in the Occupied Territory. The implications of this ruling are severe. It means that Israel can demolish hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinian homes within 250 meters of the 750 km/470 mile-long barrier. Since 1967 Israel has demolished almost 60,000 Palestinian homes.
This act of ethnic cleansing, illegal, immoral and gratuitously cruel in a hundred ways, gives lie to the notion of Israel as a normal democracy seeking peace. It reveals Israel for what is is: a settler colonial enterprise that aims to expand and take-over all of Palestine. Only decolonization, the rise of a democratic state of equal rights between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, will end the injustice of home demolitions, land grabbing and ethnic cleansing.
Israel get away with these atrocities because of the complicity of the international community. Here, for example, is the mighty EU’s pathetic reaction: “”The continuation of this policy undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace.” As for the US, Jason Greenblatt, the co-author of Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” recently called Israel the “victim.”