Israel just bulldozed two basic principles for peace

Israel just bulldozed two basic principles for peace
Comment: Israel is acting in total disregard for Palestinian rights and the international consensus, writes Daoud Kuttab.
4 min read
24 Jul, 2019
Israel demolishes a Palestinian building in the Palestinian village of Sur Baher, East Jerusalem [AFP]
In one of the ugliest and most humiliating crimes committed against Palestinians in recent times, Israel this week demolished 16 major houses that were home to nearly 100 apartments in East Jerusalem's Wadi Hummus area.

Israel used bulldozers and explosives to flatten the homes with flagrant disregard for international calls to cancel the demolitions.

The location of the razed homes straddles the former 1949 armistice lines that became the recognised borders of Israel. In terms of the areas delineated by the Palestinian-Israeli 1993 Memorandum of Understanding, also known as the Oslo Accords, the destroyed homes fall under areas A and B. 

The fact that Israel destroyed homes in these areas, which are supposed to fall under Palestinian administrative control is the latest sign of Israel's total disregard for a temporary agreement sponsored and witnessed by the US that was intended to serve as a stepping stone to a permanent agreement often referred to as the two-state solution.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh made it clear that Israeli disregard for the Palestinian government's administrative role will be met by Palestinians refusing to honour their own commitments to the Oslo Accords.

Israel used bulldozers and explosives to flatten the homes with flagrant disregard for international calls to cancel the demolitions

Israel and the US have been keen to presere the accords originally worked out in secret in the Norwegian capital because of the security coordination it provides in safeguarding Israelis citizens and settlers.

But the vicious demolitions a few kilometers east of the old city of Jerusalem are also an act of defiance of the Palestinian right to live in an independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

By carrying out such widespread home demolitions so close to Jerusalem, the Israeli government is sending a message loud and clear to Palestinians that they should forget about ever having a state with Jerusalem as their capital.

Israeli courts rejected appeals by Palestinians, and instead accepted Israeli claims that the Palestinian homes are built too close to the path of the intended security wall which Israel wants to build, and whose path was arbitrarily decided by Israel.

As Diana Buttu - the legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team - tweeted with tens of thousands of likes and retweets, "First Israel steals Palestinian land, then they build a wall on the stolen land to separate Palestinians and now Israel demolishes Palestinian homes in order to protect the wall. Sick."

Perhaps the most sickening image to emerge from the implementation of this ugly crime, was a video of two smiling Israeli soldiers standing next to a jeep with a third, an explosive expert, pushing the detonation button that brings down a four-storey building. The dust settles, there are cheers and whistles in the background, and the trio happily congratulate each other.

Amnesty International has agreed with the Palestinian description of the mass house demolitions, saying in a statement that they amount to "war crimes".

According to Amnesty, while "Israel has attempted to justify these demolitions under the guise of security by claiming the homes are too close to the wall/fence," that claim "does not stand up to scrutiny."

Israel's overreach reflects a country drunk on its own power

The statement continued: "The truth is that for decades Israel's authorities have taken arbitrary and disproportionate measures in the name of security to expand their control over Palestinian land and push Palestinians out of areas they consider strategic, forcibly displacing entire communities and unlawfully destroying tens of thousands of homes."

Israeli human rights advocates have also chimed in, calling the sanctioning of the house demolitions by denouncing Israel's top court  the sanctioning of a violation of Palestinian rights. "The court has consistently provided a legal stamp of approval for the violation of Palestinians' rights, including home demolitions, detention without trial, expulsion of communities, torture and violations of the rights of suspects and due process rights," B'Tselem said in a statement.

Israel's overreach reflects a country drunk on its own power and emboldened to act in defiance of gloabl consesus because of the green light it enjoys from Washington. 

WATCH: Israeli forces cheer and celebrate as they blow up Palestinian home in Jerusalem

Ironically, the Trump administration, which claims to be about to issue a 60-page political road map for peace, has not made a single comment about the destruction of Palestinian homes in Sur Baher.

The physical destruction that was caused by Israel will be discussed for some time but eventually political pundits will move on.

What Israel and its defendants fail to understand, is the emotional effects that such acts are having on the Palestinian people, especially children. A Palestinian child removed from their home and witnessing a brutal act of demolition will remember it all his or her life.

Beyond the obvious pain these demolitions inflict on past and present Palestinian identities, the long term effects are harder to know, and will likely be the most difficult to address.

Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University.

Follow him on Twitter: @daoudkuttab

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.