Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued a policy of demolishing and destroying the homes of the Palestinian people, whether in historic Palestine on which the state was established, or the areas that were occupied successively, which are the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The aim of the house demolition was to intimidate the Palestinian citizen to emigrate and obliterate all Palestinian characteristics of the place and to replace it with a new state, like what the Europeans did in North America in the extermination of the Native Americans and the establishment of a new state on their lands after obliterating their identity and turning them into a minority, dispersed throughout the continent.
Demolition and Destruction
The demolition affected hundreds of Palestinian villages in the occupied territories in 1948 (currently Israel) and thousands of homes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in addition to razing thousands of acres of agricultural fields and vineyards under the pretext of “military needs”. Israel followed this policy during the second intifada in the Gaza Strip in particular, before the evacuation of settlements and the implementation of the “disengagement plan”. Its declared goal was to establish a security belt, surrounding settlements and military installations, especially at the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
House Demolition Mechanism
In most cases, the demolition of Palestinian homes took place at night, without any warning.
In some areas of repeated fire exchanges between Palestinian resistance fighters and Israeli soldiers (ie, the Philadelphia axis at the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt, the residents would leave their homes themselves for safety, and in most cases, some family members would stay behind to protect the house contents and the family’s property.
However, they would also flee as well once they wake up to the sound of Israeli tanks and bulldozers preparing to demolish the house.
Israel demolished homes on a large scale during its two military campaigns on the Gaza Strip, “Cast Lead” in January 2009 and “Protective Edge” in the summer of 2014, as it destroyed entire residential neighborhoods in addition to thousands of other homes throughout the Strip.
It did the same thing during its war on the Gaza Strip in 2021, as it targeted thousands of homes, especially residential towers, which destroyed more than forty towers in which tens of thousands of Palestinians lived.
It did the same in the West Bank as well, especially in the city of Jerusalem and neighboring areas such as Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, and most of East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
A Flagrant Violation of International Conventions
Israel, which has signed covenants of international humanitarian law and is obligated to implement its provisions, has no right to ignore these covenants on the pretext that they prevent it from achieving its goals.
International humanitarian law prohibits the demolition of private property, except in exceptional cases were urgent and necessary military needs where there is no other way to meet those needs.
A neutral international opinion
The International Red Cross expressed its concerns about the abuse of this exception, saying: “It is feared that the absence of good faith in the application of these exceptions will render them of any value. The lack of conscience in using the exception for military needs will allow the occupying power to bypass the exception stipulated in the Charter.” These fears were realized in the case of Israel, which based its policy of demolition on this narrow exception in complete disregard for the fact that it was found to be applied only in rare cases, and in the very spirit and intent of humanitarian law.
Hundreds of homes and fields destroyed by the Israeli army are owned by Palestinians who have not been suspected of involvement in any act that harms Israeli citizens or the security forces. Despite that, the army destroyed the homes that sheltered them or their sources of livelihood. The army did not allow them to present their claims to any institution and without any compensation being paid to them. This policy of collective punishment has affected thousands of people.
The Required Action
The international community, led by the USA and the European Union, must change its policy that harms the rights of others, and it must pressure Israel to abide by international law.
In our organisation, we call for legal cases to criminalize Israel’s acts and punish them for these criminal acts and we call on the international community to take serious action other than condemning and denouncing.