The Immorality and Counter-effectiveness of Home Demolitions and Evictions
At his press conference a few days ago, on January 31, 2023, after meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke about the importance of several values and actions that the American government feels should be uppermost to the government of Israel, which professes “shared values” with the American government. Among other things, he said.
The United States is committed to working toward our enduring goal of ensuring that the Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice, and dignity. And it’s President Biden’s firm conviction that the only way to achieve that goal is through preserving and then realizing the vision of two states for two peoples. The United States will continue to oppose anything that puts that goal further from reach, including but not limited to settlement expansion, legalization of illegal outposts, a move towards annexation of the West Bank, disruption to the historic status quo on Jerusalem’s holy sites, demolitions and evictions, and incitement and acquiescence to violence.
It is quite obvious to any rational conscious human being that the current government of Israel shares none of these values with the current Democratic-led American government, and that this was a very strong diplomatic rebuke of Israel’s Prime Minister and government, which is on the way to authoritarian dictatorial rule, as is evident from their statements and policies every day. Any attempt of the Israeli Prime Minister to put a spin on this on CNN or anywhere else is nothing but baloney (to put it nicely) and I am glad that Secretary of State Blinken set the record straight. I only hope that he and President Biden will remain consistent in this stance against this government’s anti-democratic moves.
In this post I want to focus on the immorality and counter-effectiveness of home demolitions and evictions of Palestinians from their homes. This is an unusually cruel and abhorrent policy which has been going on for a long time and is getting worse with this current government. Not only is it glaringly unethical but it does the opposite of deterring violence. On the contrary, it creates hundreds of homeless angry humiliated Palestinians, some of whom who are likely to commit violent crimes out of despair.
Last Sunday, January 29th, Israel’s security forces sealed the home of a family of a Palestinian who had killed 7 Israeli Jews in a synagogue the previous Friday night in a viscous terrorist attack. This was an act of vengeance and collective punishment instigated by the current Minister of National Security, who did this as part of his pernicious populism, by which he wants to show to his voters how tough he is. It had nothing do with real security concerns, since all it did was create more displaced and disappointed Palestinians who are now out on the street. Later, this home will probably be demonstratively demolished.
The policy of home demolitions is not limited to sealing or destroying the homes of families of terrorists. Rather, this policy has also been used against Palestinians who build homes without permits in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. This Kafkaesque policy has long been a catch-22. Since Palestinians cannot get permits to build homes, and they need to live with a roof over their heads, they build homes without permits in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. And then they are told that they are “illegal” and their homes are slated for demolition.
Have you ever seen a home demolished by a bulldozer—guarded often by tens of soldiers—in the middle of the night or in the wee hours of the morning? I know people who have seen it and it is a horrifying sight to see. It is cruel and inhuman, and there is no justification for it. This is a terrible tool for a clear policy of displacement, aimed to encourage Palestinians to flee (to where exactly?) or to become so-called terrorists. This is a case of severe dehumanization which should be repudiated and discontinued.
Moreover, the Israel Defense Forces have researched the issue and long ago concluded that this policy is ineffective! In fact, in 2005, a commission chaired by Maj. General Udi Shani, who headed the IDF Teleprocessing Division, concluded that home demolitions were only “borderline legal”, after which the process was halted. However, the policy of demolitions returned briefly in 2008 after some major terrorist attacks. According to a major article in Haaretz by Hagar Shezaf and Chen Maanit, on January 31, 2023:
The Shani commission, which examined the deterrent effect of home demolitions, concluded that it has not been proven that demolitions create effective deterrence, other than in relatively few cases. The negative impact of the practice, Shani found, exceeds its benefits, and the limited deterrence is outweighed by the hatred and hostility that it generates among Palestinians.
A few days ago, Palestinian homes were demolished in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al Mukabber, not far from where I live. The next day, expecting more demolitions, the residents of this neighborhood managed to block the entrance of the demolition crews accompanied by armed soldiers and another demolition was thereby thwarted. This was a brave act of non-violent resistance.
On the following day, however, a demolition was carried out in the village of Walajeh in southern Jerusalem. In the past few months four homes have been demolished unfairly and abruptly, and the future of several others is pending in the courts. The attempts by Israeli Jewish friends of Walajeh and others to convince the authorities to freeze the demolitions of all homes in Walajeh have fallen on deaf ears.
Tomorrow or next week or next month, Palestinian homes could be demolished elsewhere, in places where people live with constant fear of losing the roof over their heads! There is a pervasive policy here that has far-reaching deleterious effects for Israel, and it certainly does not deter terror! Instead, it encourages it!
Imagine if this were happening to Jewish homes in any state in the world. The outcry of Jewish leaders and organizations against anti-Semitism would be loud and clear. But where are their voices now on this issue?
This policy of home demolitions does not happen in Jewish communities in Israel or the West Bank where people also build or add on to their homes illegally. The law is not applied equally here in the Wild West. And now, Mr. Ben Gvir is the sheriff, while the Prime Minister just smiles, gives interviews to CNN, and has his troops working on “judicial reform” so he won’t have to stand trial for his crimes of corruption.
Currently there are hundreds of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and in parts of the West Bank who are facing these unusually cruel and inhuman demolition orders. This makes their very existence shaky and fragile. At almost any time—usually in the middle of the night—a bulldozer might appear at their front door and tell them to pack up and leave (where are they supposed to go and what will happen to all their belongings?) but they can watch and see their home destroyed if they like. While there are some important human rights groups who try to prevent these horrific actions, much more action is needed.
Accordingly, what is needed is for Secretary Blinken and President Biden to follow up on their words with deeds. Polite denunciations are not enough. They must inform Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues that this policy of home demolitions and evictions must not be allowed to continue! The current American administration should not put up with this!