Day Eight – Demolished homes/shattered lives on the West Bank

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Aside from our very first conversation with the researchers at B’Tselem, every individual, or group, with whom we have met has either been pro-Israeli or standing as a broker between the Israeli and Palestinian populations.  Today, we met with a representative from the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), an organization that is most decidedly pro-Palestinian.

This post will be a rather stark and straightforward description of their perspective and will not include the Israeli perspective, that will come in a later post.  The ICAHD position is highly, one might say brutally, critical of the Israeli government and assigns to them the most cynical and malevolent of motives.  Below is a brief, and unvarnished summary of their position on the Israeli occupation,the barrier wall, and housing demolitions.

The Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)

ICAHD believes that the housing demolitions in the West Bank are a part of a larger Israeli effort to subjugate the Palestinians:

The motivation for demolishing these homes is purely political, and racially informed: to either drive the Palestinians out of the country altogether (the “quiet transfer”) or to confine the four million residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza to small, crowded, impoverished and disconnected enclaves. By such practices Israel effectively forecloses any viable Palestinian entity or the realization of Palestinian self-determination; it also solidifies permanent Israeli domination and illegal settlement expansion, de facto annexing the OPT (from the ICAHD website)

Our guide was Ruth Edmonds, who holds both a Jewish and British passports.  She owns a compelling personal story (growing up in three countries:  Great Britton, Germany, and Israel), a keen wit, an expressive personality, and a passionate advocate for the Palestinian people.  Her presentation was fact-filled, animated, and, from time-to-time, a bit salty.  In it, she was highly sympathetic of the  plight of the Palestinian people as she was critical of the Israeli government.

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More on ICHD – The Israel Committee Against House Demolitions

ICAHD is a non-violent, direct-action group originally established to oppose and resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territory. As our activists gained direct knowledge of the brutalities of the Occupation, we expanded our resistance activities to other areas – land expropriation, settlement expansion, by-pass road construction, policies of “closure” and “separation,” the wholesale uprooting of fruit and olive trees and more. The fierce repression of Palestinian efforts to “shake off” the Occupation following the second Intifada has only added urgency to our efforts.

Since its founding, ICAHD’s activities have extended to three interrelated spheres: resistance and protest actions in the Occupied Palestine Territory; efforts to bring the reality of the Occupation to Israeli society; and mobilizing the international community for a just peace. Our activities include:

  • Resisting the demolition of Palestinian homes.
  • Disseminating information and networking.
  • Providing oral and written reports to the UN (from their website)

ICAHD’s position is that Israel seeks to exert domination over the Palestine through, what their founder calls The Matrix of Control, which is designed to render the Occupation invisible.  This approach is designed to:

  1. Allow Israel to control every aspect of Palestinian life in the Occupied Territories, while
  2. lowering Israel’s military profile in order to give the impression to the outside that what Palestinians refer to as “occupation” is merely proper administration, and that Israel has a “duty” to defend itself and the status quo, yet
  3. creating enough space for a dependent Palestinian mini-state that will relieve Israel of the Palestinian population while
  4. deflecting, through the use of “administrative” image and bureaucratic mechanisms, international opposition and thus to maintain control indefinitely and, in the final analysis,
  5. to force the Palestinians’ to despair of ever achieving a viable and truly sovereign state and to accept any settlement offered by Israeli. (“Time is on our side” is, as Sharon has often said, a cornerstone of Israeli policy.)

According to Jeff Halper, co-founder of the ICAHD, the infrastructure supporting the Matrix of Control is quite elaborate (see full explanation here).

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The above description is intended to be stark and disquieting.

For our tour, our guide highlight two elements of that Matrix:  the barrier walls and house demolition.  It is ICAHD’s position that the barrier wall, ostensibly designed to insulate Israel from suicide bombers, serves a greater purposes:  to isolate and subjugate the Palestine people, to keep them from actualize their life potentials, and, ultimately, to encourage self-deportation.

IMG_3296The barrier wall from the Mount of Olives

The housing demolitions are just one more way “of making life in the Occupied Territories unbearable.”  Our guide gave three reasons for Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes:

  • Military – In association with assassination.
  • Punitive – in retaliation for attacks on Israelis.
  • Administrative – tearing down buildings built without permit.

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Demolished house in the West Bank

Summary

This, perhaps, was the most sobering day of our trip.  We had heard about the demolishing project, as well as the barrier wall, and knew something of what to expect. What was new for several of us was the extent to which these two strategies were a part of a larger “Matrix of Control” – the result of which was the most depressing squalor that is life in the West Bank.

For a more thorough description of the demolition project, go to the ICAHD website.

As we debriefed, we wondered, puzzled, and became angry.  We acknowledged that there is more to the story, and we will hear from Israelis with a different perspective later in the trip, but today was a time to see things from the perspective of the Palestinian and a most articulate advocate and be moved.

If this is truly indeed the Israeli strategy, then Israel is as far from being a “light to the nations” as one could imagine.  More could be written about life in the West Bank, the refugee camps,  the Oslo accords, areas A, B, and C, and so on.  The effect of all this, the very real lived experience of the Palestinian on the West Bank is truly indescribable. Though we didn’t take this picture, will leave with this  . . .

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