Contrary to what the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Secretary-General Saeb Erekat stated confidently a few months ago, Israel has not stopped demolishing the homes of Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank. In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, an agreement riddled with loopholes was reached in which Israel agreed to halt home demolitions temporarily, with the exception of buildings alleged to be a security threat to the occupation state.
Israeli media now report a “record number of home demolitions” in occupied East Jerusalem this year, compared with 2019, despite this alleged suspension. This month 24 homes have been demolished so far. “Demolition orders are carried out in an equitable matter and in accordance with court rulings,” claims the Jerusalem Municipality, but there is no equity in a system that prevents Palestinians from accessing permits to build or extend their homes. Israeli legislation is geared towards dispossession and the forced displacement of the indigenous Palestinian population.
What was hailed as a concern for human rights within the context of the pandemic has turned out to be a sham, and Erekat, as well as the international community, should have seen through Israel’s self-righteous claim? Housing is a right, regardless of whatever temporary circumstance highlights such a need. Israel saying that Palestinians should be allowed to have a dwelling in order to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 does not constitute a right per se but is a concession that can be revoked at any time, depending on the whims of the colonial-settler government. The “exception”, as Israel is fond of invoking, is always applicable, even to the point of defining housing as a temporary necessity rather than a basic human right.
Ir Amim, an Israeli civil society organisation which advocates for the two-state compromise, is calling for demolitions to be halted “as long as the coronavirus pandemic is not over.” Once again, the main issue is not Israeli displacement of Palestinians, but the pandemic. The question is, if Israel does halt home demolitions as long as Covid-19 is with us, what will human rights organisations use to back up their opposition to further Palestinian dispossession?
As a result of the UN and other entities advocating for a “solution” based upon international impositions, Palestinians have become a backdrop to their political circumstances. Is there a need for context when it comes to human rights, other than the fact that such rights are being violated? Furthermore, have rights organisations now tied the dispossession of Palestinians and the related humanitarian predicament solely to the coronavirus pandemic?
This fragmentation of Palestinians’ political rights needs to stop, first and foremost by disengaging from the deceitful narrative being put forth and adopted without any scrutiny. Erekat’s blunder in April this year has only legitimised Israel’s exploitation of “exception” and the focus on the pandemic is only narrowing the scope for advocating on behalf of the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights.
In the absence of a pandemic, the UN would have issued its usual meaningless statements. With Covid-19 cases on the increase in Jerusalem, the gist is to let Palestinians have a home until the pandemic is over. For all the rhetoric about human rights, the statements being issued have more to do with preserving Israeli colonialism than allowing Palestinians the right to a home.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.