As an Israeli peace and human rights organization, ICAHD focuses its activities around resistance to Israel's policy of demolishing Palestinian homes, both in Israel and in the Occupied Palestine Territory (OPT). The demolition policy is part of Israel’s attempt to Judaize Palestine, to transform an Arab country into a Jewish one. During and after the Nakba of 1948, when the state of Israel was established, it systematically demolished about 52,000 Palestinian homes, more than 530 entire villages, towns and urban neighborhoods. Since the beginning of the Occupation in 1967, Israel has demolished another 55,000 homes in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Thousands more continue to be demolished inside Israel itself.
Israel’s policy of house demolitions represents the essence of the “conflict”: one people displacing another; ICAHD’s campaign of resistance has proven a powerful and effective vehicle for holding Israel accountable. ICAHD uses the demolition policy to “reframe” the conflict. The issue is not security, as Israel would have us think, because the demolition of Palestinian homes has nothing to do with security, but is rather one of ethnic cleansing, settler colonialism and Judaization.
We are now witnessing the climax of that Judaizing policy, one of the largest campaigns of demolitions since we started our work in 1997. Hundreds of homes are being demolished throughout the OPT as well as within the Green Line, where it is attacking its own (Arab) citizens. Entire Bedouin communities in the Negev are being to make way for Jewish settlements, while thousands of homes of Palestinian citizens in the Galilee are threatened.
The scale of demolition makes mere protest insufficient. While ICAHD has led the resistance – we have stood in front of bulldozers coming to demolish Palestinian homes, rebuilt almost 200 homes demolished by Israel together with the families, their community and activists from Israel and abroad – our activities are strategic, intended to change international policy towards the conflict. So we do strategic advocacy, speaking abroad (often with our Palestinian partners), publishing critical maps, reports, books and films, participating in UN forums, meeting parliamentarians and government officials, as well as working with our partners and activists to articulate a political end-game.
The issue of house demolitions remains central to our work. Although ending demolitions will not end the conflict, we can stop this cruel policy even as we work towards a comprehensive solution. It is towards that end that ICAHD is launching this focused campaign to pressure Israel to stop demolishing Palestinian homes. Join us now!
Statistics on House / Structure Demolitions
November 1947-March 2021
Read Jeff Halper's report detailing the number of demolitions, by category, for each year from 1947 here.
The Demolition of Palestinian Homes by Israel: A Fact Sheet
The extent of the destruction since 1948: at least 130,000 homes and other structures (farm buildings, reservoirs, mosques, community buildings, schools, etc.)
- In what became Israel during the Nakba of 1948 and in its wake: 52,000 homes, more than 530 entire villages, towns and urban areas. The systematic demolition of Palestinian homes, mosques and other buildings emptied out in 1948 have continued until today.
- In the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT: the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza) since 1967: around 60,000.
- Thousands of demolitions inside Israel separate from those of the Nakba still continue, with 2586 demolitions just in 2020.
This fact sheet details the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israel under the following subheadings:
- Why does Israel demolish Palestinian homes?
- Are house demolitions legal?
- How does Israel justify its demolition of Palestinian homes?
- Current flashpoints
- ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
- Selected sources of information
The Meaning of a Demolished Home
The human suffering entailed in the process of destroying a family's home is incalculable. One’s home is much more than simply a physical structure. It is one’s symbolic center, the site of one’s most intimate personal life and an expression of one’s status. It is a refuge, it is the physical representation of the family, it is…“home.” For Palestinians homes carry additional meanings. Upon marriage, sons construct their homes close to that of their parents, thus maintaining not only a physical closeness but continuity on one’s ancestral land. The latter aspect is especially important in the world of farmers, and even more so as Palestinians have faced massive displacement in the past half century. Land expropriation is another facet of home demolition, an attack on one’s very being and identity.
Demolition is a different experience for men, women and children. Men are probably the most humiliated, since loss of one’s home means loss of one’s connection to family and the land – and ultimately to the inability to secure a dwelling and well-being for your family. Men often cry at demolitions (and long after), but they are also angered and swear revenge, or plan to build again.
For women the loss of the home is the loss of one’s life. Women, for whom the house is sometimes their entire world, tend to sink into mourning, their behaviors – crying, wailing and then depression – very much like those of people who have lost loved ones. The demolished home can never be replaced, and any women undergo personality changes after demolitions, becoming more sullen or moody, often frightened by small sounds or unexpected events, prone to break into crying. Or the opposite: sometimes, especially if the husbands are “broken” by the experience, wives will step in and become the dominant force in the family. This seldom leads to rebuilding, since women do not have the freedom to go out and arrange such things, but it does ensure that in the difficult physical and social circumstances in which the family finds itself, the family unit is cohesive and functioning.
For children the act of demolition – and the months and years leading up to it – is a time of trauma. To witness the fear and powerlessness of your parents, to feel constantly afraid and insecure, to see loved ones (relatives and neighbors) being beaten and losing their homes, to experience the harassment of Civil Administration field supervisors speeding around your village in the white Toyota jeeps – and then to endure the noise and violence and displacement and destruction of your home, your world, your toys – these mark children for life. Although psychological services are missing in the Palestinian community, there are many signs of trauma and stress among children: bed-wetting, nightmares, fear to leave home lest one “abandon” parents and children to the army, dramatic drops in grades and school-leaving, exposure to domestic violence that occasionally follows impoverishment, displacement and humiliation.
Video (1 min 54 sec) from B'Tselem showing the demolition of the homes of six families in Musafer Yatta in the South Hebron Hills on 30 September 2020. These demolitions left 31 people, including 20 children, homeless. Similar demolitions occur many times each month - see our monthly Demolition and Displacement reports for lists of demolitions each month.
The Effects of Home Demolition on Children and Families
A presentation by Teresa Bailey, UK Palestine Mental Health Network, given at the ICAHD UK Webinar on 23 June 2021
Two of the greatest fears children have, conscious or unconscious, whatever their circumstances, class, or race are the terror of abandonment and the fear of obliteration. Over time, all children in good enough environments, will have had repeated experiences of physical stability, loving, consistent, responsiveness from the caregiver, not having to wait too long for that response, and the opportunity to test out their first steps towards independence. This allows them to develop a feeling of internal security and integrity, the sense of home as a safe place, a haven from the outside world, and a belief in the capacity of their parents/carers to protect them.
Children in situations of uncertainty, danger, the possibility of imminent injury or death, do not have the opportunity for normal development: ordinary separation and gradual individuation in the context of a secure home and family are denied them. Ordinary responses to fear or danger are not available to them. ‘The body responds to extreme experiences by secreting stress hormones….meant to give us strength and endurance to respond to extraordinary conditions. People who actively do something to deal with a disaster- rescuing loved ones or strangers, transporting people to a hospital, being part of a medical team, pitching tents, or cooking meals - utilise their stress hormones for their proper purpose…..Helplessness and immobilisation keep people from using their stress hormones to defend themselves. When that happens, their hormones are still being pumped out, but the actions they’re supposed to fuel are thwarted……they keep fuelling fight/flight/freeze responses……In order to return to proper functioning, this persistent emergency response must come to an end. The body needs to be restored to a baseline state of safety….from which it can mobilise to take action in response to….’ (other forms of danger). ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ Bessel van der Volk 2014.
Further details are available via these links:
- Demolition and Displacement Reports - monthly reports, prepared by ICAHD Israel, detailing demolitions and the associated displacement of Palestinian families in the Occupied Palestine Territory and within the State of Israel. View last month's report or view our archive of previous ICAHD monthly reports.
- Categories of Home Demolitions. Further details of how home demolitions are categorised.
- Sample lobby letters for contacting your MP and other parties.
- View ICAHD webinars focussing on home demolitions
- Photo gallery and videos of demolitions.
- Personal Stories. The experiences of some specific Palestinian families know to us.