Try to imagine putting all of your blood, sweat, and tears, as well as your life savings, into building a home to shelter your family; that you are waiting to move in (or have already done so), and then you have your precious home bulldozed before your eyes. You and your family are left on the street with neither shelter nor, it seems, much of a future. Not only have your savings all gone, but you may also still owe the bank for a property that no longer exists.
This was the reality for Palestinians in Wadi Hummus neighbourhood in Sur Baher, occupied Jerusalem, earlier this week. Ten buildings and 72 apartments were destroyed by the Israeli authorities on Monday despite the fact that their construction was licensed by the Local Government Ministry of the Palestinian Authority. The Israelis demolished the buildings because they overlook the Apartheid Wall that separates Jerusalem from its surrounding neighbourhoods, and were thus deemed to be a “security threat” to a nearby illegal settlement. According to Israel’s extremist Interior Minister, Gilad Erdan, “Today there are hundreds of illegal buildings there and a few dozen of them are situated almost on the route of the separation fence and endanger the security forces. Terrorists could use these buildings.”
With no thought for the 400 Palestinians and their future, the homes were demolished without mercy. Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the head of the Higher Islamic Council in Jerusalem, said that death was better than the destruction of a home, because dying only happens once, while having to live without a home and without shelter, burdened with children, worries and bank loans, and losing one’s life savings all at once is difficult to bear.
If “only” one or two homes had been destroyed, affecting one or two families, donations could be collected, no matter how modest, to cover the cost of rebuilding the properties. However, when it is ten buildings and 72 apartments, millions of dollars are needed to replace what Israel has destroyed. The occupation authorities are aware of this and continue to commit such acts with a single goal in mind: the complete ethnic cleansing of the people of Palestine, if not through expulsion and displacement, as has been done since 1948 and 1967, then by impoverishment. There is a deliberate policy to deprive the indigenous Palestinian population of basic necessities, pushing them to the margins and desperation, in the hope that they will abandon their land voluntarily. In reality, the young people thus affected are likely to be more inclined towards desperate acts of resistance to this brutal military occupation. How does destroying homes and hope make Israel more secure?
Israel is committing crimes similar to those inflicted on the Jews of Europe by Tsarist Russia, Nazi Germany and other fascists. The heirs of those who escaped the pogroms and the Holocaust are now using such attritional tactics against Palestinian Muslims and Christians.
There are some among us who aspire to normalise relations with the institutions of the Israeli colonial project in full knowledge of its criminal practices against the Palestinian people, the occupation of land belonging to three Arab countries, violations of Muslim and Christian sanctities, and disrespect for all human values, laws and conventions. Do such Arabs, Muslims and Christians not see or hear what is happening to the Palestinians? Do they not stop, search their conscience and then reconsider? Will they not back down from their shameful acts against themselves and the Palestinian people, who have been subjected to all forms of humiliation and deliberate impoverishment, merely because they are Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Druze; merely because they have right on their side as the indigenous people of the land on which colonial Israel has been established?
The owners of the homes destroyed in occupied Jerusalem this week need support and backing to remain steadfast and survive in their homeland, their only homeland. Will helping hands be courageous enough to provide whatever they can to these homeless people? And will the Arab institutions outside of Palestine take the initiative and collect jointly what they can for the people of Jerusalem and Sur Baher in particular so as to preserve the dignity of the Palestinians, that they might remain steadfast? What other option do they have after such a dark day in Jerusalem?
This article first appeared in Arabic in Addustour on 24 July 2019
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.