House demoltion in east Jerusalem (R) 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
As the peace process grinds to a halt, the government yet again displays
contempt for human rights and international law, breaking repeated promises to
stop seizing land, homes and businesses from their rightful
Israeli hubris has been increasingly on display this past year in
east Jerusalem, where the government has been targeting non-Jewish residents,
evicting families from homes they’ve lived in for generations, demolishing homes
and businesses, displacing hundreds of people. These policies reflect a
Last year, more than 430 non-Jewish homes and
livelihood structures were demolished in east Jerusalem and the West Bank – a 60
percent increase over 2009. This affected thousands of Palestinians, and made
600 homeless, according to UN statistics. While Israel cites building
violations, government policies reveal a discriminatory process that denies
building permits to non-Jewish residents.
Israel is everywhere seizing
Palestinian land, creating Jewish-only cities and roads, and the newly passed
state budget is geared to strengthen those policies. In fact, Jerusalem
municipal policy is trying to force a demographic of 70% Jewish and 30%
non-Jewish. Currently, some 60,000 east Jerusalem residents are at risk of home
demolitions and displacement.
Human Rights Watch, in its new report
“Separate and Unequal,” confirms this discrimination. It states that in east
Jerusalem’s al-Bustan neighborhood, Israel hasn’t issued a single building
permit since 1967. Nearby, in Har Homa, more than 20,000 settlers have moved in
over the past 13 years. So while Israel destroys non-Jewish homes, it builds
HOME DEMOLITIONS and settlement growth have been cited as
major obstacles to peace by US President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph
Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Gen. David Petraeus, the 9/11
Commission, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and many foreign policy
Yet we hear too little about the illegal home demolitions and
settlement expansion. Instead, we hear the tired refrain of how the Palestinians
missed another opportunity for peace.
While armed settlers terrorize
Palestinians in the West Bank, and Gazans live under illegal collective
punishment, Palestinians have been quietly and steadfastly building a state.
Palestinian leaders are, against all odds, performing the miraculous task of
keeping the peace in the face of regular violence against them by radical Jewish
The missed opportunity is not on the part of the Palestinians,
but on the part of Israel, the US and the international community. For the US,
it’s another missed opportunity to show true leadership.
Israel is the
largest recipient of US foreign aid, and withholding this aid is the only
message the government understands. By continuing to support Israel as it
violates human, civil and religious rights, the US gets weaker while Hamas,
Hezbollah and Iran get stronger. For the international community, talk has been
cheap. Leaders condemn Israel, but offer little sustained action, as recently
demonstrated in Munich by the Quartet’s conservative message endorsing the
status quo and by the infamous US veto at the Security Council last
Where do we go from here? One obvious route is to sit back and
see how much longer Palestinians accept being the targets of settler violence,
demolitions, evictions and land confiscations. That is akin to waiting for a
tinder box to catch fire.
An alternative is for world governments to hold
Israel accountable and demonstrate increasing support for a Palestinian state
based on the internationally recognized 1967 lines; more than 100 countries
recognized those lines in 1988. Recently Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador,
Guyana, Russia and Chile confirmed that recognition. Civil society increasingly
sees this as a solution. By advocating an independent, sovereign Palestinian
state, free of occupation, we can end the stalemate. Only by ending this
stalemate can Israel have a normal, secure and healthy future, free of
We deserve far more from our leaders than this endless vicious
cycle in which Israel promises to stop its immoral behavior, then continues
while the world watches and the Palestinians suffer.
We deserve vision.
We deserve progress. We need change, before this situation erupts yet again in
ever-more-traumatic violence.The writer is action advocacy officer for
the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.