In my opinion the Israeli Government has many tools for which to intimidate, oppress and harass Palestians. Demolition under the pretext of collective punishment, punitive reasons or administrative rational is one of these weapons. The majority of these demolitions, which have become so routine in the eyes of the world, go almost totally unreported by the press. It no less traumatic for the families involved. If you are interested in getting a better grasp on the International Laws being infringed upon and the futile efforts by many organizations and Governments to put a stop to this practice over the past decades please refer to:
http://www.ochaopt.org and http://www.btselem.org
Demolitions have been going on for many years in the occupied territory of Palestine but lately with the Gaza War coming to an end things have escalated through-out the West Bank. Of note the seizure of 400 hectares in the Bethlehem area as a stated act of revenge for the killing of the three Israeli youth earlier this summer. This so called revenge started almost immediately after the kidnapping even though the kidnapping has been widely reported that the Israeli Government knew full well within hours of the kidnapping that two renegades, not associated with Hamas were responsible. With this knowledge the Israeli Government and Army embarked on a wide range campaign of searches, arrests, detentions and harassments including well into Fire Zone 918 in the SHH area.
What appears to myself an others to be the case is that for many years now there has been an organized plan to force Palestine farmers and shepherds to move to urban areas like Yatta where of course they will end up living on welfare and losing a way of life that their families has proudly sustained on for generations if not centuries. One purpose could be to clear areas for military exercises. One of the main reasons however more plausible is to provide even more ability for the Israeli Settlements and Outposts to keep expanding. Currently it estimated in excess of 300,000 reside in these settlements and outposts which have been declared totally illegal under International Law. Under Israeli law most Settlements are legal but all Outposts are illegal. Even with that said the Outposts are all provided the full support of the Israeli Government including supply of electricity, paved roads and ample water to say the least. Normally what happens is that Settlement will be established and soon there after an Outpost will be created on a hill nearby. From there on efforts are continued to link the two and to expand on their territory taking in all of the fertile land and water resources in the area.
Needless to say the shepherds and farmers are faced with ever shrinking land to graze their livestock or grow their crops. With even less water resources due to most of the water being diverted to Settlements and Outposts their ability to grow profitable crops and raise livestock is substantially reduced. Much of the demolition occurs because the Palestinians have difficulty establishing ownership of the land in Israeli courts. If they do have title it often dates back as far as the Ottoman Empire and the paperwork does not stand up to today’s legal standards. Once property is demolished by the Army if new structures are re-built on the site of the now destroyed structure, the new structure can be destroyed without a new demolition order. Many Palestinians receive good legal advice through the Norwegian Refugee Council and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha).
A recent demolition that we attended saw the three residences, two animal shelters and three mobile latrines destroyed by the Army in a matter of minutes. A total of 40 adults and children are now displaced because of this action. Numerous organizations responded to assist the displaced families including Ocha, The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), B’Tselem, Operation Dove and food agencies. The Palestinians can apply for new building permits but they are very rarely ever granted.
The residents of the Settlements and Outposts however continue to expand through every means possible seldom ever being challenged by the authorities. I reported in one of my past blogs on how a Settlement has won the right in Israel courts to expand onto Palestian Land, where I guess one could say that even the original construction of the Settlement was on Palestian land. We also documented recently Settlers planting trees on land that is owned by Palestians. The Palestians have no legal authority to destroy these trees on their land, rather have to go through the legal process of trying to have the Courts rule that the trees be destroyed. If they are not successful then over a certain amount of time this Palestian land also reverts to the Settlement based on the record of them growing trees there.
These demolitions by the Army are only part of the story. The Palestian shepherds and farmers also have their buildings and crops regularly vandalized or destroyed by the settlers with very little if any action on behalf of the authorities to curtail these actions.