“Demolish the home now, or we will charge you for the cost of the army demolishing”

By EA Hugh

There are seven children in this family. They live in a small, isolated valley in the West Bank where they graze sheep and goats, and dig the land. Their parents are slim and muscular from hard, dirty work. Their mother can sit calmly and contentedly while her children climb the walls (literally) and push the two-year-old around the concrete-floored kitchen on a broken office chair. They share every moment with each other. They eat together, play together, work together, and collapse together, exhausted, under the pile of blankets in the corner of the bare room at night.

At home with the Jabareen family, EAPPI/EA Hugh


“They’re kids, they won’t know anything bad is happening until it’s happening.”

The Israeli settlement looms on the nearby hilltop, the sound of construction chatters in the night. The diggers work by floodlight. I asked the father how the children were since the bad news. “They’re kids, they won’t know anything bad is happening until it’s happening.” Last week, the army came to the father with a document written in Hebrew. The officer told him, “Demolish the home now, or we will charge you for the cost of the army demolishing.” They are a poor family. The father is looking up at his roof, thinking about how he will start the job. If he demolishes his own home, he can salvage the materials. And he can’t afford whatever fee the army will charge him for the demolition.


“Call Mahmoud Abbas, it does not matter. They want to do it, so they will do it.”

However on closer inspection it became clear that the document served was a ‘stop work’ order, usually a precursor to a demolition order but not a demolition order. But the lie by the army officer had been enough. The mother of seven was already preparing the tent they would live in when the house was demolished. The father would not even believe the news of this small reprieve from the United Nations field worker. “Call Mahmoud Abbas, it does not matter. They want to do it, so they will do it.”


“We have to aspire to the annexation of Area C. These are areas where there are no Arabs at all, except a few thousand who don’t constitute a significant numerical factor.”


Uri Ariel, the Minister for Agriculture

This is the Jabareen family of Shib Al-Butum. They live in Area C, an area comprising of about 61 per cent of the West Bank. This is territory designated by the 1995 Oslo II Accord as being under total Israeli control. According to the agreement, this control was to be temporary. The territory was to be passed over to the Palestinian Authority within five years. This never happened. Instead, Israel has retained control of the area and implemented a policy of settlement and displacement in contravention of International Law[i]. The number of Israeli settlers in Area C has more than tripled since the Oslo Accords, now outnumbering Palestinians. Palestinians who live in Area C must apply for permission to build new structures or even renovate old ones, and are subject to daily pressure to move to Areas A or B, where the greatest numbers of Palestinians live, and where the Palestinian Authority has a modicum of control. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, between 2010 and 2014 only 1.5 per cent of Palestinian building permit applications were approved in Area C[ii]. One was approved in 2014. None in 2015[iii]. Settlers living in Area C, unlike Palestinians living there, are: protected by Israeli law, receive heavy subsidies in their taxes, and have their own segregated roads, water systems and electricity supplies.

The Jabareen family cleaning their water cistern, EAPPI/EA Hugh

The Israeli Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, recently moved to extend the full jurisdiction of Israeli courts to Area C, further rendering the Green Line redundant.[iv] Uri Ariel, the Minister for Agriculture, echoes the views of other government ministers, current and previous, by stating; “We have to aspire to the annexation of Area C. These are areas where there are no Arabs at all, except a few thousand who don’t constitute a significant numerical factor[v].”


“Our raison d’etre is that we are a Jewish state, and this means that we must guarantee a Jewish majority.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel

This “numerical factor” is important. When Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, the Jewish state absorbed 69,000 Palestinians. By 2012, 45 years later, this population had grown by 335 per cent, to 300,000.[vi] In 2003, then-Finance Minister (and current Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu, said “Our raison d’etre is that we are a Jewish state, and this means that we must guarantee a Jewish majority.” If Arab citizens of Israel were to account for of 40 per cent of the population, Netanyahu said, the Jewish state will cease to exist and be replaced by a bi-national state.[vii] Minister Ayelet Shaked, who openly calls for the annexation of Area C, recently asserted that “there is place to maintain the Jewish majority even if it violates rights.”[viii] As the UN has said, Israel is “systematically” emptying Area C of families such as the Jabareens by maintaining a “highly coercive environment that forces Palestinians to leave.”[ix]

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References

[i] Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949;

Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive… The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

[ii] https://www.btselem.org/planning_and_building

[iii] https://www.timesofisrael.com/un-israel-systematically-emptying-area-c-of-palestinians/

[iv] https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Government-okays-bill-that-advances-West-Bank-annexation-543619

[v] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/08/israeli-minister-wants-to-annex-half-of-west-bank-and-kick-out-the-palestinians/?utm_term=.18a03ba7fc65

[vi] http://www.alhaq.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/InfographicHomeDemolitions.pdf

[vii] https://www.haaretz.com/1.4802179

[viii] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/justice-minister-israel-s-jewish-majority-trumps-than-human-rights-1.5811106

[ix] https://www.timesofisrael.com/un-israel-systematically-emptying-area-c-of-palestinians/