We deserve better

Home demolitions, settlement expansion and evictions derail the peace process.

House demoltion in east Jerusalem (R) 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
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 owners.
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 repressive discrimination.
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 settlements.
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 experts.
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 settlers.
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 Friday.
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 terrorism.
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.