Palestinian ABC’s

It must be difficult for those of you reading this blog to understand what I mean when I mention demolition orders and people’s inability to build. How can this be? Why is it so? How can it be that the Israeli army simply arrives and demolishes Palestinian homes and other property?

Life here in the West Bank is complex and difficult. But it is made slightly more understandable if at least you can comprehend the rules. You don’t necessarily have to agree with the rules, but at least you can begin to understand why things are as they are.

The Oslo Accords of the early 1990’s divided the West Bank of Palestine into areas A, B, and C. Each designated area reflects clearly defined but differing levels of civil and security control and responsibility assumed by both the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority. In Area A the Palestinian Authority has sole civil jurisdiction and security control, while Israel retains authority over movement in and out of the area. In Area B, the Palestinian Authority has civil authority and responsibility for public order, while Israel maintains security presence and overriding security responsibility. In Area C, the Palestinian Authority has restricted civil authority (eg education and welfare) while Israel has control over all security, planning and zoning in the area. Areas A and B mainly consist of Palestinian cities, while Area C is largely rural.

Building construction is allowed in Areas A and B, but the military authorities impose severe restrictions on Palestinian construction in Area C. Area C comprises 62% of the West Bank and includes all of the villages that our South Hebron Hills EAPPI Team 41 visits. Even though this is Palestinian land, less than 1% of Area C is available for Palestinian development. This makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians living on their own land in Area C to obtain building permits. Therefore, many are forced to build in defiance of military orders and face having their buildings leveled.

During the first half of 2011, Israeli authorities demolished 342 Palestinian owned structures in Area C. The demolitions included homes, animal shelters, and 20 rainwater collection facilities. Many of these structures were built with funding from foreign donors, including the European Union and USAID. In September of this year, two of the villages in our area experienced demolitions at the hands of the Israeli army (IDF). At Um al Kher, 2 homes and a communal toilet were demolished. At Khirbet Ghuwein al Fauqa, the electrical power lines and supporting towers coming in to the village were destroyed.

destroyed electical wire and transmission poles at Khirbet Ghuwein al Fauqa

A United Nations official told us that the supports for the power lines (the poles) had been held in place with cement and that this was interpreted by the Israelis to be an “infrastructure” project for which no permit was obtained, giving the army the authority to demolish it.

In December of 2010, part of the school in the village of Dkaika was demolished.

demolished school building at Dkaika

a child's painting found at the demolished Dkaika school building

A number of the villages that we regularly visit have outstanding orders for demolition of the entire village, or at least a large portion of the village. Demolitions that involve communal toilets, electrical access, water facilities, communal cooking facilities and schools have devastating implications for villages. Demolitions that involve houses have obvious devastating implications for families.  The human suffering resulting from these demolitions is immeasurable.

Currently, there are over 3000 outstanding demolition orders for Palestinian buildings, including demolition orders for 18 schools. Considerable time, energy and expense is spent on legal actions to oppose these demolition orders. For more information, please refer to the linkhttp://www.eappi.org/index.php?id=8070 and the Rabbis for Human Rights website at http://www.rhr.org.il.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

Jan

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