First published in the Middle East Monitor on 1/9/2020
While I was watching the red carpet being rolled out at Abu Dhabi airport to welcome the passengers on board flight LY971 from Tel Aviv, a tweet appeared on my timeline showing Khaled Bashir, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, demolishing his own home in Jabal Al-Mukaber.
Khalid Bashir, a Palestinian from Jabal Al-Mukabber in Palestine, is destroying his house by himself as Israel ordered him to demolish it. pic.twitter.com/unjSoFWg9d
— TIMES OF GAZA (@Timesofgaza) August 31, 2020
He would not be the last to demolish his own home while Arab states normalise or consider normalising relations with Apartheid Israel. A few kilometres away at Beit Hanina two brothers also demolished their homes to avoid heavy fines by the occupier state.
Two Palestinian brothers in East Jerusalem embarked on demolishing their own houses after being ordered by the Israeli municipality in order to avoid paying exorbitant costs if the municipality carries out the demolition. #FreePalestine #EndApartheidhttps://t.co/q6kxQicfYy pic.twitter.com/oA61tDIA4h
— Palestinian Return Centre (@prclondon) September 1, 2020
Orders to demolish homes are usually made by Israel where Palestinians, having applied on many occasions for building permits to build or expand their homes, are refused. Having lost hope of ever building ‘legally’ and remember this is in illegally occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinians build and hope that they will not face demolition of their homes at some point in the future. However, not only does Israel issue demolition orders, it gives Palestinians a stark choice, demolish your home yourself or its bulldozers will do it and it will charge you for the privilege.
Early in August, four families were forced to demolish their homes in Jabal Al-Mukaber.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory (OCHA oPt) between 11 and 24 August, 25 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished/seized and 32 Palestinians were displaced.
Israel does not only demolish structures built by Palestinians. In 2019 it demolished 97 structures funded by the EU or member states worth some €480,000 ($573,908) in the West Bank, a 90 per cent increase on the year before, according to internal EU figures. The same report noted that Israel also demolished “35 percent more Palestinian structures and displaced 95 percent more Palestinian people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than in 2018.”
The EU’s response was: “Demolitions and seizures of humanitarian assets are contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law.”
“On a number of occasions, often in coordination with EU member states, the EU has called for the restitution and/or compensation of EU-funded humanitarian assets which have been demolished, dismantled, or confiscated by Israel,” it added. To date, not a single euro has been paid back by Israel for its actions.
Israel has a track record of using demolitions as collective punishment for Palestinians, either families or the whole population. This has been particularly used in its attacks on Gaza. Whether from the bombing of Gaza’s airport (Yasser Arafat International Airport) in 2000 to the bombing of Gaza’s only electricity station in 2014. Israel’s destruction of and damage to facilities also extends to medical facilities, including hospitals in Gaza. Bring matters forward to 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic, Israel destroyed a Palestinian COVID-19 testing facility at the entrance to Jenin and another at the entrance to Hebron.
Sport has not been spared from Israel’s destructive force. In 2012, Israel destroyed Gaza’s central football stadium, claiming it was used for rocket launching.
Israel’s contempt for Palestinians extends to the dead. It has on a number of occasions demolished parts of graveyards in many cases to allow for the construction of either illegal settlements or other Judaisation projects, especially in illegally occupied East Jerusalem. This has included the destruction of at least 400 grave markers and tombs at one of the most prominent Muslim cemeteries, Mamilla, to clear way for the construction of cafés, hotels, restaurants, and the so-called “Museum of Tolerance”. The cemetery contains the remains of figures from the early Islamic period, including scholars and warriors.
While the above summarised many of Israel’s destructive policies against the Palestinian people, they pail into insignificance when one considers how many homes Israel destroyed in Gaza in 2014. B’Tselem reports that Israel destroyed 18,000 residential units making 17,000 families homeless amounting to 100,000 people. Let that sink in.
While the extent of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people is realised by millions of people around the world, it seems that the UAE and other Arab states that plan to normalise relations with Israel believe that this level of oppression should not stand in the way of normalising relations with the 21st century’s most blatant Apartheid state.
The argument used most often is that boycotting Israel has not brought peace to Palestinians or the wider region. The argument being used by those on social media that have towed the Emirati Government’s line is effectively blaming Palestinians for the lack of progress of peace. They fail to recall that the Palestinian leadership made a massive and truly historic decision to reduce their claims from the liberation of the whole of their homeland to a state on 22 per cent of the land. They fail to recall that even during the past seven years of negotiations, Israel continued to build illegally on Palestinian land and to move its citizens to occupy the illegal settlements and that their number will soon reach one million. Netanyahu himself declared following the UAE Israel agreement that settlers are there to stay. How then can those that support the agreement claim that the Palestinians have not engaged in the peace process?
They should ask themselves this. The UAE is made up of seven emirates. Could they ever contemplate a foreign invasion of their country that left them with just two emirates but also had its eye on the other two emirates? If that country was Israel, would they expect the Arab world to stand with them or normalise with the occupying entity? I think the answer is clear.
As the Israeli and American delegations stand at the top of Burj Khalifa and see the swathe of tower cranes building more skyscrapers, will their Emirati hosts give one thought to Palestinians who are forced to destroy their own homes in occupied Palestine?
I would argue that any rational person who has followed the imposition of Israel on the Middle East, its oppressive and expansionist policies over its 72-year existence would realise that Israel has no desire or plans to make peace with the Palestinians.
It is therefore disingenuous for normalisers to suggest that normalisation will somehow create the mental shift in Zionists to see the Palestinians as equal human beings whose rights, including the right to a family home, should be respected. If they truly believe an alliance with Israel will help protect them from their perceived Iranian threat, then they should ask why Israel objects to the UAE seeking to buy F-35 fighter jets to protect itself, presumably from that threat?
The UAE-Israel deal should finally convince Palestinians that they can only truly rely on themselves to attain their rights. That does not mean abandoning Arab support, which still lives amongst the people, but to redevelop their national liberation strategy in light of the major changes that have taken place since President Donald Trump reached the White House. The current leadership should reflect and evaluate its capability to deal with the future and quickly come to the conclusion that is exhausted and devoid of ideas. It is time for a new leadership to be allowed to emerge.