Wadi Hummus, the neighbourhood in Sur Baher, between Jerusalem and Behlehem, today is full of rubble. Israeli military invaded the area on Monday and destroyed with bulldozers and explosives in only few hours the homes of almost a thousand of Palestinians. Israel hopes that the Palestinians living there will move on, disappear among the over six million Palestinian refugees that Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing policies have already caused. It assumes we and the people around the world will forget.
Beyond the human suffering of the people in Wadi Hummus, the political callousness of Israel’s apartheid regime and the outrage that should take hold of each of us, in order to build an effective reaction to what happened we have to analyse the context and significance of the large scale demolitions in Sur Baher.
What happened in Wadi Hummus yesterday was probably unprecedented in its scale since the mass destruction of Palestinian homes and villages during the occupation of the West Bank in 1967 and resembled in its images the bombings of Palestinian homes in Gaza.
Yet, Israel’s systematic and criminal home demolitions and destruction of entire communities are a standing policy. In Khan al Ahmar, Israel failed last year to demolish the community. What stopped the destruction then was the massive mobilization on the ground and heavy lobbying at international level. Finally came the warning by Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, that the demolition and forced transfer of population of Khan al Ahmar constitutes a war crime and she will not hesitate to ‘take appropriate action’.
This time Israel acted to avoid such efforts, applying the Shock and Awe Doctrine on unarmed residents being torn from their homes.
Wadi Hummus for Israel is to serve as a model for many more homes, communities and lives at risk. In the area are another 100 buildings at risk with 224 more homes. In East Jerusalem alone, Israel keeps at least a third of all Palestinian homes under threat of demolition, potentially placing over 100,000 residents at risk of displacement.
This is a massive plan of forced displacement that continues our Nakba, the catastrophe of ethnic cleansing that started with the establishment in 1948 of Israel’s apartheid regime on our lands. Palestinian residents in Jerusalem are particularly targeted, including through exorbitant taxes, fines, removal of residency rights and daily repression and arrests. With the full support of the US administration, Israel attempts to create by force a ‘Jewish Jerusalem’, annexed and cleansed from the Palestinian indigenous population.
More displacement is needed in the West Bank in order to finalize the ghettos carves out for Palestinians by the apartheid Wall. 46 Bedouin communities with some 7,000 inhabitants, some 60% of them children, in Area C in the central West Bank are under risk of forcible transfer. Many communities in the Jordan Valley are in similar conditions.
The demolitions in Wadi Hummus have not only displaced people but bulldozed international law and international resolutions.
Though Wadi Hummus is since a decade isolated from the rest of the West Bank and encircled on the Jerusalem side of the Wall, the area where the homes have stood until yesterday has been classified under the Oslo Agreements as Area A and B – areas where the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, is responsible over building permits and planning. Yet, within the logic of the ‘Deal of the Century’ and the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, under which might is supposed to be right, Israel has once again defined its own rules according to its ever expansionist desires. Territorial sovereignty is where Israel wants it.
Exactly 15 years after the International Court of Justice has declared the Wall and its associated regime illegal, the demolitions in Wadi Hummus show a brazen contempt for its verdict and the international consensus around it. They have underlined the perverse logic of the Israeli ‘justice’ system.
The demolitions have been carried out officially under the military order of 2011, which has instituted a 100-300 meter buffer zone along the Wall. The homes have been declared a ‘security threat’ to the Wall. With its verdict of June 11 that gave the go ahead for the destructions, the Israeli High Court validated a policy whereby Israeli forces can carry out a war crime – the forced displacement of people in occupied territory and wanton destruction of property – in order to ‘secure’ an illegal construction – Israel’s apartheid Wall – that aims to protect a third level of illegality: Israel’s policy of territorial annexation by force and its apartheid regime.
Bringing inhumane and illegal acts to a new level is not only a necessity within Israel’s strategy to shape a political landscape of an ethnically cleansed Jerusalem and a defined ghetto system for Palestinians. It is a message within the ongoing electoral campaign in Israel. Acting prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu with this act intents to market himself. Nothing works as a better electoral campaign spot than to be able to prove the capacity to commit unprecedented crimes against the Palestinian people and get away with it.
We are in times of resistance and the demolitions are becoming a crucial part of the Israeli policy and our resistance strategy.
Our demands are clear: The people of Wadi Hummus have to be able to go back, be compensated for the damages and rebuild their homes. This is the only way to stop further Shock and Awe demolitions.
As Palestinians we need to be present on the ground with protests. We need to unite all our grassroots struggle to stand with the people at risk and affected by demolitions. We need to unite beyond the dividing lines of the Green Line. More than that, we need to step up pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to take appropriate action. The call on the International Criminal Court is good; stopping all ties with Israel, starting from the infamous ‘security coordination’ that still links the PA to Israel would be much better. We have nothing to lose. The PA has never been and will never be more than a symbolic entity with no power, which perpetuates a chimera of a two-state solution, while Israel’s apartheid regime and occupation continue to prosper.
In their statement, the UN officials in Palestine declared: “Had there been concrete action to ensure respect for these principles, and for international humanitarian and human rights law, generally, the people of Sur Bahir would not be experiencing the trauma they are today, and violations of their rights.”
Undoubtedly. The point is that the UN as such and its member states have continued to fail international law and the rights of the Palestinian people since the UN’s very existence. How are we then to guarantee such respect?
It will have to be the people to come to the forefront and pressure their governments and defund the corporations that enable and profit from these crimes.
Not only Israel but the international community and international corporations violate their obligations in allowing Israeli crimes against our people and violations of human rights. They, too, have to be held accountable and shoulder their responsibility in the damage they have brought upon us.
Strengthening the global movement for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions, targeting Israel and all those complicit in its crimes, is today more urgent than ever.