In order to avoid demolition fees by Israeli forces, a Palestinian man was forced to demolish his own home
Official records by Israel’s Interior Ministry have found that the number of Palestinians forced to demolish their own homes tripled in the last five years.
Israel designates these homes – most of which belong to Bedouin Palestinians living in the Negev desert – as illegal, before subjecting them to lengthy court proceedings. These often end in the decision either to demolish their own homes, or let the Israeli army complete the task and pay the associated costs.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “in 2013, when the [Israeli] government first began keeping records, 697 buildings were demolished”. However, “by last year the figure had reached an all-time high of 2,326. Of these, 2,064 were demolished by the owners themselves to avoid the fines the state imposes if it has to tear a building down”.
Haaretz added: “An analysis of the data shows that, over the past three years, the number of demolitions has grown steadily, but the number of demolitions carried out by the state has actually been shrinking.”
It continued: “Last year, for instance, the state tore down just 262 buildings, while owners razed 2,064. In 2016, the government demolished 641 buildings while owners razed 1,579.”
For the Israeli government, Palestinian self-demolition is better because it spares the state the cost of carrying out the destruction of the property.
Most of the homes demolished by their owners are located in Bedouin villages in the Negev, which Israel does not recognise. According to numerous sources – including Israeli rights groups – Israel has been planning to erase these villages and move their residents elsewhere in order to develop these areas for the benefit of the country’s Jewish population.
Palestinian teacher in Gaza Rana Ziadeh was chosen as among the top 50 teachers in the world
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has cut the salaries of 263 employees from Gaza’s Ministry of Health, most of whom are doctors, as well as a further 400 employees from the Education Ministry, mainly teachers.
Spokespersons for both ministries announced the numbers in separate statements yesterday, stressing that cutting the salaries of public employees is a “flagrant violation” of their rights.
The ministries condemned the move and warned that cutting employees’ salaries would negatively affect their capacity to provide services, further compounding the fact that the ministries have not received administrative and operational expenses from the PA for years.
It is worth noting that the cuts only affected PA employees in Gaza, as well as the families of the people who are killed, wounded or arrested by the Israeli army.
Gaza has been under a strict Israeli siege for 12 years and the PA has imposed punitive measures on the besieged enclave since April 2017, starting with slashing salaries by 25 per cent, then 50 per cent, as well as forcing 7,000 employees into retirement.
In 2007, the PA asked its employees in Gaza to stay home as a countermeasure against Hamas, which governs the Strip and with which Fatah – which dominates the PA – is engaged in a bitter feud. The PA cut the salaries of thousands of employees who did not implement this decision and stay home.
The speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, has called to “remove” the idea of a Palestinian state from the table and backed Israel’s annexation of the occupied West Bank.
The proposal is likely to worry allies of Israel who have long viewed the existence of a Palestinian state as the only safeguard to ensuring that Israel does not drift into an apartheid state.
The Russian-born Knesset Member (MK) – who was recently elected to the second place on the ruling Likud party’s ticket ahead of the upcoming general election on 9 April – said today at a conference in Jerusalem that “we have turned the wheel substantially to the right, the Palestinian state is no longer an agenda item, but Israeli sovereignty in [the occupied West Bank] is”.
Edelstein, who is a possible Likud leader, said that Israel should consider applying sovereignty over the occupied territories, which are internationally recognised as the location of any future Palestinian state.
Inviting right wing parties to form a coalition with Likud, Edelstein continued: “It took us 20 years to eschew the idea of a Palestinian state – if the left gets in [during the election] it will take them 20 seconds to put it back on the agenda”.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that the right remains in control. A large right-wing bloc led by the Likud, together with a contingent of religious-Zionist MKs, is the solution,” added Edelstein.
The Israeli right-wing – who currently hold sway in the Knesset – staunchly reject the creation of a Palestinian state while insisting that anyone who questions Israel’s existence is anti-Semitic. Progressives in Israel and the country’s western allies view the two-state solution as the best assurance in maintaining Israel’s Jewish and democratic characteristic.
Critics of Israel go further and argue that the failure to create a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and end Israel’s control over the lives of five million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip will turn Israel into an apartheid state.
The current government of Israel includes many of the staunchest opponents to a Palestinian state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – despite saying that he supports two states – has repeatedly insisted that no Palestinian state will be created while he is in office. Many of his ministers have also strongly reject the international consensus on granting Palestinians the right to statehood.
A poll conducted last year by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research and the Tami Steinmetz Centre for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University found that support for the two-state solution among Israeli Jews was the lowest in almost two decades.
Mourners carry the body of Hassan Shalabi, 14, who was killed after Israeli soldiers’ intervention in a “Great March of Return” demonstration on February 8, 2019
By Professor Kamel Hawwash
The lack of action to bring Israel to account for more than seven decades’ worth of crimes against the Palestinian people is obvious. “Enough is enough” is an overused phrase, but in the case of the people of occupied Palestine, it does not even scratch the surface in terms of expressing their outrage at the hypocrisy of the international community.
Nevertheless, there has indeed been more than enough dispossession, land theft and refugees languishing in camps since the 1948 Nakba; at least 5 million of them. And we have had enough of being demonised by Israel, which portrays itself as the victim, labels the real victims as terrorists and imposes laws which define it as an apartheid state.
Enough is enough when it comes to Israel’s abduction of children in the middle of the night and their murder and maiming at the nominal border of the besieged Gaza Strip. Are Palestinian lives really that worthless?
Two Palestinian children were gunned down by Israeli snipers in Gaza last Friday, shot in the chest as if they were target practice for the terrorists masquerading as soldiers. There has been not one condemnation by the so-called civilised world; an EU spokesperson, however, sent condolences to Israel. Furthermore, that ignoble terrorist state is lauded by the West, whose politicians find excuses for its criminal behaviour, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.
We’ve had enough of hearing that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East” and “we share the same values.” Really? Since when have Western democratic values included ethnic cleansing, land theft, abductions, the wanton killing of unarmed women, children and medics, and colonialist occupation?
Israel exists in a difficult neighbourhood, we are told, and is therefore entitled unconditionally to act in “self-defence”. Enough of such craven nonsense. Try telling that to the families of 14-year-old Hassan Shalabi, 18-year-old Hamza Ishtiwi or 21-year-old medic Razan Al-Najjar, none of whom posed any threat to the Israeli snipers who murdered them.
Not only are Israel’s crimes explained away and even condoned by the West, perhaps with some concern for Palestinian suffering thrown in for PR purposes, but its allies also think that we can all learn something from its success as a “start-up nation”; they don’t — daren’t — mention its contempt for international laws and conventions. In the Trump era, trade deals and the demands of the pro-Israel lobby push respect for the law and human rights aside every time. It has been this way in the US for decades.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went further than most supporters of Israel, though, when speaking at the annual Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) dinner in Washington, describing Israel as “everything we want the entire Middle East to look like going forward.” According to Pompeo, it is “democratic and prosperous, it desires peace, it is a home to a free press and a thriving economy.” Such sycophancy by a senior US official is sickening.
Across the Atlantic, admiration for Israel is not lagging far behind America’s. Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, told a recent Conservative Friends of Israel event that their favoured state is a shining beacon of democratic values. He did not criticise any of its policies or utter the word occupation, and hardly mentioned the Palestinians at all.
Hunt’s colleague, International Business Secretary Liam Fox, was quick off the mark to announce a trade deal with the Apartheid state at Davos. “As Britain prepares to leave the European Union and to ensure continuity for our businesses in both directions,” he explained, “we’ve reached agreement in principle with our colleagues in Israel.”
While the western world, especially the US, rushes to strengthen ties with Israel to benefit from billions of dollars in trade, it throws the Palestinian Authority some crumbs especially to maintain security cooperation with the occupation state, while cutting desperately needed humanitarian aid. Gaza is being kept just away from the brink of total collapse, while the PA is starved of funds unless it agrees to the “surrender of the century”.
Where the West has been consistent is in documenting Israeli policies and crimes against the Palestinians. Our daily suffering is well documented by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA. Every Israeli atrocity is noted, although too many in Israel and beyond believe that such “achievements” are essential.
The usually incompetent Middle East Quartet is actually adept at writing reports. Again, Israel’s breaches of international law are documented and concern is expressed in international forums. However, that really does not justify the existence of this dysfunctional organisation, which has not brought peace any closer to reality.
The EU is a significant contributor to the Palestinian Authority as well as a key trading partner with Israel. While the twitter feed of its office in Israel reads like the Zionist state’s biggest fan, the EU too produces reports; its most recent documents Israel’s illegal settlement expansion: “The total advancement of settlement units in 2018 (January-December) amounted to more than 15,800 units (9,400 units in the West Bank and 6,400 units in East Jerusalem). The figures show a sharp spike in planning for future construction. This development will, over several years, enable potentially more than 60,000 Israeli settlers to move to the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”
Sadly, though, the EU will not impose sanctions on Israel for planning to move 60,000 Israelis into illegally occupied Palestine in contravention of international law. This is an organisation, remember, which did not bat an eyelid when Israel destroyed class rooms used by Palestinian children last year which had been funded by European taxpayers.
The EU can act to ban settlement goods to signal that it records Israeli violations and settlement building but will not contribute to their development. If 27 countries can frustrate Britain’s Brexit strategy, they can act against Israel. It should feel under pressure. Its football clubs should be expelled from UEFA and its hosting of the next Eurovision song contest in May should be cancelled.
Let us insist that enough really is enough when it comes to the world’s double standards and hypocrisy over Israel’s violations against the Palestinians. That’s enough of documenting Palestinian suffering and Israeli atrocities while providing the aggressor with complete impunity. It is time for action to ensure that no more Palestinian children like Hassan and Hamza are gunned down and killed by Israeli snipers who are able to do so safe in the knowledge that their disgraceful deeds will have no significant consequences for themselves or their country. The EU document Israel’s crimes; now it must do something about them.
Israeli forces destroyed a recently-rehabilitated road that connected Khirbet Shaab al-Butum to Masafer Yatta, in the south of the West Bank, said a local activist.
Coordinator of the Anti-Wall and Anti-Settlement Committees in southern Hebron Rateb al-Jabour told WAFA that Israeli forces provided protection to a military bulldozer as it proceeded to destroy the road, which was used to facilitate Palestinian farmers’ access to their farmlands and residential areas.
He said the Israeli military act aims to displace Palestinians from the area to in order to build a settlement.
Khirbet Shaab al-Butum is among dozens of small communities located in the Masafer Yatta area, which rely heavily on animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood.
Masafer Yatta is classified as Area C, which is under full Israeli military control. Area C makes up around 60 percent of the area of the occupied West Bank, which Israel plans to annex after expelling its Palestinian population.
It has been designated as a closed Israeli military zone for training since the 1980s, and accordingly referred to as Firing Zone 918.
Israeli violations against the area include demolition of animal barns, homes and residential structures. Issuance of construction permits by Israel to local Palestinians in the area is non-existent.
Israeli soldiers abducted, on Tuesday at dawn, twelve Palestinians, from their homes in several parts of the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported.
The Jenin office of the PPS, in northern West Bank, said the soldiers stormed and ransacked many homes, and abducted Ashraf Mohammad al-Qaisi, Khaled Mansour, and his son Abdullah, in addition to Najeeb Awni Hweil, Yousef Shalabi, Nasser Hisham Abu Tabeekh and Mohammad Waddah al-Asmar.
Palestinian factions hold dialogue talks in Moscow
The three-day intra-Palestinian meeting kicked off on Monday in Moscow and will last through Wednesday.
Twelve delegations attended the meeting, nine of which represent Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) factions, in addition to delegations from the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements. The pro-Syrian regime’s al-Saiqa was also surprisingly present, especially after reports said it will not take part in the talks.
Monday’s dialogue session was opened with a welcome speech on behalf of Russia by Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies Vitaly Naumkin, who was tasked by the Russian Foreign Ministry to manage the talks.
He explained that Moscow seeks to play a positive role in bridging the divide between the Palestinian factions, stressing that his country does not intend to interfere in Palestinian affairs. It instead aims at providing a platform where all parties are free to discuss pending issues.
His statements seemed aimed at easing fears that Moscow is seeking to play a role parallel to Egyptian efforts to push forward Palestinian reconciliation.
This was confirmed by all the participating delegations, who pointed out that “the Palestinian dialogue in Moscow is an integral part of the Egyptian role, not a substitute for it.”
Head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)’s delegation Fahd Suleiman told Asharq Al-Awsat that the main purpose of the meeting is to dispel the hostile atmosphere and break the deadlock among various factions, especially Fatah and Hamas, especially since the last meeting in this regard was held in November 2017.
Suleiman stressed that holding the dialogue is in itself “a positive step,” noting that that all factions agreed to issue a joint document, the “Moscow Declaration”.
The statement outlines common issues of agreement and will help Russia bolster its involvement in political activity related to developments in the Palestinian file.
He also said that it requests Russia to “inform the international community, including the United Nations, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, of the outcomes of the Palestinian meeting in Moscow.”
In addition, Suleiman stressed that the Russian role does not conflict with Egypt’s.
He said Russia will be able to play a more active role on the political level, while Cairo will go beyond that and focus on active mechanisms to implement agreements.