Sunday, September 19, 2004

Israel and the Occupied Territories: Under the rubble: House demolition and destruction of land and property - Amnesty International

Israel and the Occupied Territories: Under the rubble: House demolition and destruction of land and property - Amnesty International:
"For decades Israel has pursued a policy of forced eviction(1) and demolition of homes of Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the homes of Israeli Arabs in Israel. In the past three and a half years the scale of the destruction carried out by the Israeli army in the Occupied Territories has reached an unprecedented level. The victims are often amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged in both Israeli and Palestinian society. Most of the houses demolished by the Israeli army in the Occupied Territories were the homes of refugee families, who were expelled by Israeli forces or who fled in the war that followed the creation of Israel in 1948.

More than 3,000 homes, hundreds of public buildings and private commercial properties, and vast areas of agricultural land have been destroyed by the Israeli army and security forces in Israel and the Occupied Territories in the past three and a half years. Tens of thousands of men, women and children have been forcibly evicted from their homes and made homeless or have lost their source of livelihood. Thousands of other houses and properties have been damaged, many beyond repair. In addition, tens of thousands of other homes are under threat of demolition, their occupants living in fear of forced eviction and homelessness.

Forced evictions and house demolitions are usually carried out without warning, often at night, and the occupants are given little or no time to leave their homes. Sometimes they are allowed a few minutes or half an hour, too little to salvage their belongings. Often the only warning is the rumbling of the Israeli army’s bulldozers and tanks and the inhabitants barely have time to flee as the bulldozers begin to tear down the walls of their homes. Thousands of families have had their homes and possessions destroyed under the blades of the Israeli army’s US-made Caterpillar bulldozers. In the wake of the demolitions men, women and children return to the ruins of their homes searching for whatever can be salvaged from under the rubble: passports or other documents, children’s schoolbooks, clothes, kitchenware or furniture which were not destroyed.

In most cases the justification given by the Israeli authorities for the destruction of homes, agricultural land and other properties is "military/security needs", while in other cases the justification is lack of building permits. The result is the same: families are left homeless and destitute. They must rely on relatives, friends and charity organizations for shelter and subsistence.

The destruction of Palestinian homes, agricultural land and other property in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem, is inextricably linked with Israel’s long-standing policy of appropriating as much as possible of the land it occupies, notably by establishing Israeli settlements. The establishment of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories violates international humanitarian law,(2) and the presence of these settlements has led to mass violations of human rights of the local Palestinian population.

As well as violating international humanitarian law per se, the implementation of Israel’s settlement policy in the Occupied Territories violates fundamental human rights provisions. The seizure and appropriation of land for Israeli settlements, bypass roads and related infrastructure and the discriminatory allocation of other vital resources, including water, have had a devastating impact on the fundamental rights of the local Palestinian population, including their rights to an adequate standard of living and to housing."


Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have spread considerably in the past decade and in the same period the number of Israeli settlers has increased by more than 50%.(3) With the spread of Israeli settlements and related infrastructure throughout the Occupied Territories, in order to ensure the safety and freedom of movement of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Israeli army has committed increasingly frequent and grave violations of the human rights of the Palestinian population. These violations include widespread destruction of Palestinian homes, land and other properties, as a result of which thousands of Palestinians have been forcibly evicted and made homeless.

In Israel it is essentially the homes of Palestinian citizens of Israel (Israeli Arabs) which are targeted for demolition. House demolition in the Arab sector is linked to the state’s policy of large-scale confiscation of land and to restrictive planning regulations. Much of the land surrounding Arab towns and villages has been confiscated and the remaining Arab owned land has been mostly zoned as green land on which it is forbidden to build. In addition, discriminatory policies in the allocation of state land have further reduced the possibilities for Israeli Arabs to obtain permits to build homes to accommodate their growing housing needs. The resulting long-standing problem of lack of building permits in the Arab sector has led many to eventually build their homes without permits and these homes are frequently demolished. Whereas government policies and planning regulations have curtailed the growth and development of Arab towns and villages, in the Jewish sector the policy has been to expand existing towns and villages and establish hundreds of new villages. Moreover, even though violations of planning and building regulations are also widespread in the Jewish sector, it is in the Arab sector that homes are frequently demolished.

This report analyses the main patterns and trends of forced eviction, house demolition and destruction of property by the Israeli army and security forces in Israel and the Occupied Territories in the light of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Amnesty International has campaigned against the practice of house demolition for years.(4) The organization’s researchers have visited hundreds of sites of homes and other properties destroyed by the Israeli army and security forces, and interviewed the inhabitants, neighbours, eyewitnesses, relief workers and others. In compiling this report the organization has drawn on information gathered in the course of its research and field work, as well as on information provided by or available from other sources. These include the Israeli authorities, bodies, agencies and mechanisms of the United Nations, international organizations working on the ground, and Israeli and Palestinian lawyers and non-governmental organizations.


http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE150332004?open&of=ENG-ISR


con·cept: Israel and the Occupied Territories: Under the rubble: House demolition and destruction of land and property - Amnesty International