Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Stolen Land I

A fellow blogger by the screen name of Solomon2 asked me to respond to Jews Stole Land?

Before I say anything I would like to request that anyone who chooses to comment on this particular issue should stick to the topic at hand. The subject under discussion here is whether Israel has illegally taken possession of any land or other property privately owned by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs or not. Period. Full stop. End of story. If you have something to say about that I would love to hear it. If all you have to share is your opinion of Hamas or your personal analysis of Islam kindly take it elsewhere. And for those who are wondering I utterly & unequivocally condemn Hamas & terrorism under any name & in any cause. However this happens to be off-point here. Thank you.

These quotes are from a report entitled Israel and the Occupied Territories
Under the rubble: House demolition and destruction of land and property
by Amnesty International posted in 18/5/2004.

First historical background:

"Between the two world wars the British authorities ruled Palestine under a League of Nations mandate, which ended when the State of Israel was proclaimed on 14 May 1948. Arab protests against a UN partition plan were followed by war between Arab and Israeli armies from which Israel emerged victorious. More than 800,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled from Israel and became refugees in the Gaza Strip, West Bank or neighbouring countries. Two parts of mandate Palestine remained outside Israel: the Gaza Strip, which came under Egyptian administration; and the eastern part of Palestine, which was taken over by Jordan in 1950 and became known as the West Bank. Hostilities between Israel and Egypt, Syria and Jordan in June 1967 ended in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel) and the Gaza Strip. Israel also occupied Syria’s Golan Heights (annexed by Israel in 1980) and the Sinai Peninsula (later returned to Egypt).

The Palestinians who remained in Israel after the establishment of the state became Israeli citizens but were placed under military rule until 1966. Many became internally displaced after they were expelled or fled from their villages. The land and properties of the Palestinians refugees and of those internally displaced by the war were confiscated. Today more than 1,000,000 Palestinian and Bedouin citizens of Israel, known as Israeli Arabs, account for some 18% of the population of Israel. Most of them live in northern Israel, in the Galilee and Triangle regions; about 100,000 live in towns known as mixed towns (such as Haifa, Ramle, Lod, Jaffa and Akko); and some 130-140,000 Bedouins live in the Negev in the south of the country. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip some 3,500,000 Palestinians, more than 1,500,000 of them refugees,(6) have lived under Israeli military occupation since 1967 and some 200,000 live in East Jerusalem with a special status as permanent residents."

Ok that was in the 40's & 50's. What about now?

"For decades Israel has pursued a policy of forced eviction(1) and demolition of homes of Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the homes of Israeli Arabs in Israel."

"More than 3,000 homes, hundreds of public buildings and private commercial properties, and vast areas of agricultural land have been destroyed by the Israeli army and security forces in Israel and the Occupied Territories in the past three and a half years. Tens of thousands of men, women and children have been forcibly evicted from their homes and made homeless or have lost their source of livelihood. Thousands of other houses and properties have been damaged, many beyond repair. In addition, tens of thousands of other homes are under threat of demolition, their occupants living in fear of forced eviction and homelessness.

Forced evictions and house demolitions are usually carried out without warning, often at night, and the occupants are given little or no time to leave their homes. Sometimes they are allowed a few minutes or half an hour, too little to salvage their belongings. Often the only warning is the rumbling of the Israeli army’s bulldozers and tanks and the inhabitants barely have time to flee as the bulldozers begin to tear down the walls of their homes. Thousands of families have had their homes and possessions destroyed under the blades of the Israeli army’s US-made Caterpillar bulldozers. In the wake of the demolitions men, women and children return to the ruins of their homes searching for whatever can be salvaged from under the rubble: passports or other documents, children’s schoolbooks, clothes, kitchenware or furniture which were not destroyed."

"The destruction of Palestinian homes, agricultural land and other property in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem, is inextricably linked with Israel’s long-standing policy of appropriating as much as possible of the land it occupies, notably by establishing Israeli settlements. The establishment of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories violates international humanitarian law,(2) and the presence of these settlements has led to mass violations of human rights of the local Palestinian population."

Now let's look at some examples of how these demolitions & evictions are carried out:

"Forty-year-old Nabila al-Shu’bi, who was seven months pregnant, her three children Anas, ‘Azzam and ‘Abdallah, aged 4, 7 and 9, her 48-year-old husband Samir, her sisters-in-law Fatima and ‘Abir (aged 57 and 38 respectively) and her 85-year-old father-in-law ‘Umar, were left to die under the rubble of their home, when it was demolished by Israeli army bulldozers on 6 April 2002 in the old city of Nablus. The Israeli army kept the area under strict curfew for days, denying access to rescue workers, and it was not until a week later, on 12 April, that their bodies were found under the rubble of the house by relatives and neighbours. It is not known if they were killed by the collapsing walls or if they died later from injuries or of asphyxiation. Two other relatives survived trapped under the rubble for a week.

When the army briefly lifted the curfew on 12 April 2002 Nabila’s brother-in-law, Mahmud ‘Umar, started to dig in the rubble of the house with the help of his neighbours, hoping to find his relatives alive. They continued to dig after the Israeli army re-imposed the curfew after two hours, in spite of warning shots fired by Israeli soldiers in their direction. They first came across a small opening on the ground floor of where the house once stood; miraculously, in the small space that remained, 67-year-old Shamsa and her 68-year-old husband ‘Abdallah were still alive. The rescuers went on digging through the night and eventually found the bodies of the other eight members of the family, all huddled in a circle in a small room.

Neighbours whose homes were demolished at the same time as the al-Shu’bi’s house and who fled when the demolition began, told Amnesty International that the soldiers did not warn the residents to evacuate the houses before beginning the demolition. No comment was issued by the Israeli army about individual demolitions during these large-scale military operations.(16)"

Nice, huh?

"On the morning of 5 September 2003 Israeli soldiers blew up a seven storey building in Nablus in which eight families lived, including 31 children, most of them less than 12 years old. Ibtisam, a teacher and mother of four children (three girls aged 13, 9 and 9 months and one boy aged 11) told Amnesty International: At about 9-9.30 pm Israeli soldiers called on all of us living in the building to get out; they used a megaphone and spoke in Arabic; they said we had to leave the building immediately. We were in pajamas, the children were in bed already; me and my husband took the children from their bed and we all went downstairs as we were, we didn’t even have time to get dressed. It was the same for the other neighbours; we all have children, we all scrambled to get the children from their bed and get out. It was a panic; I didn’t have time to take milk or anything else for my baby; I just had time to wrap her up. We were scared, didn’t know what was happening. I was still in pain from the recent back operation I have had and I tried to explain this to the soldiers but they were rude and did not allow me to sit down. They took us all to the school across the road (the Said Ibn ‘Amr School), blew up the door to get it open and put us all inside, we women and children in the basement and all the men on the third floor. We were kept there all night, with no food, water, nothing; we had no idea what was happening with our husbands, we were worried; we kept trying to get the children to sleep but most cried and did not sleep. There was a lot of shooting, heavy shooting from tanks. At about 6am the soldiers allowed me and four other women who had small babies to go back into the building to get milk for the babies; we needed things to change the babies and for the other children too but the soldiers only gave us 5 minutes. The building was in a bad state, it had been fired at a lot. Before we were allowed to go in, at about 3.30am, the soldiers had sent one of the men in with a group of soldiers to inspect the place, then they sent him back to the school and later they sent him back in with another of the men; just the two of them without the soldiers, and told them to go bring the body of the armed man they had killed. They found the armed man who had been killed by the army; his head and right arm were missing, his left arm was broken and he had other injuries. He was armed. The two men took his body downstairs but left his gun upstairs and the soldiers sent them back up to get it and made them inspect the body before they approached. Then the soldiers took the two men back to the school and we all stayed there a few hours more. Then suddenly the soldiers blew up the building, without telling us and without allowing us to go in to get anything. We were left with nothing, in our pajamas. Why did they have to blow up the place? There was no one left in the building after they killed that armed man; he didn’t live in our building, we didn’t know him and didn’t know he had got into the building; how could we know? I stayed in my apartment, we all did, and all the more so after dark; how can we know who comes in and out of the building? It was a big building. We had saved for 14 years to buy this apartment; it was fully equipped and we had lived in it less than a year. Now we have nothing, all our furniture, clothes, documents, money, the children’s school bags, our photographs, everything got buried in the rubble. The children have been traumatized by what happened, they saw their home destroyed, and every day they see the rubble of their home and don’t have a home any more. Now me and the children are staying with my father and my husband moves between relatives; it is very difficult. What am I supposed to tell my children when they ask what happened and why this happened to us? We just want to live in peace and dignity, we ask for nothing else". There was no comment from the Israeli army about the destruction of this building."

"In the village of ‘Izbat Salman, near Qalqilya, the Quzmar family, like their neighbours, lost most of their land when the fence/wall was built around their village. ‘Abd al-Nasser Quzmar used to work in Israel but with the outbreak of the intifada access to Israel became impossible and his land became his only source of income, the only means for him to support his family of six. He invested all his savings in the family farm to make it more efficient and productive, built greenhouses and a sophisticated irrigation system for intensive cultivation. When Amnesty International first visited the village in October 2002, ‘Abd al-Nasser Quzmar and the other villagers had just learned that the fence/wall was going to encircle their village, destroying much of their land and cutting them off from the rest of it. Marks made by the Israeli army on stones and trees indicated where the fence/wall was going to be built, tightly around the village. However the villagers were not notified in advance of its exact locations. Some only found out when the Israeli army bulldozers arrived and started to uproot trees and whatever else was on the land and others found the military orders for the seizure of their land left by the Israeli army posted on trees. The villagers’ protests and court appeals were to no avail. Thousands of olive and citrus trees and vast vegetable orchards were destroyed to make way for fences, ditches and patrol lanes. Most of the remaining land belonging to ‘Abd al-Nasser Quzmar and his neighbours is now on the other side of the fence/wall, and it is difficult at best and often impossible for the farmers to reach their land."

Some people were made refugees not once but several times:

"In a three-day operation which started on 10 October 2003 the Israeli army destroyed some 130 houses and damaged scores of others in Rafah refugee camp and nearby areas, making more than 1,200 Palestinians homeless. According to UNRWA 76 refugee homes were completely destroyed, 44 were partially destroyed and 117 were damaged. Several non-refugee homes were also destroyed in the same operation near the refugee camp. Most of those left homeless were children.

Hamda Radwan, a 67-year-old refugee and several of her relatives were among those whose homes were destroyed. Hamda, a refugee, had previously lost her home in 1948, when she and her family had to flee from their homes in Jaffa during the war which followed the establishment of the state of Israel.

Suha ‘Abdallah, whose house was partially destroyed in the same operation, told Amnesty International: "There was no tunnel or anything in our home, anyone can come and see for themselves; part of the house is still standing but it is not safe anymore; the remaining walls could collapse at any moment. The soldiers know that we didn’t do anything, they came to the house and my husband and my son were there and they told us to leave immediately. We had no choice. They smashed some things and took other things and destroyed part of the house; why? And now what are we to do? Destroy the rest of the house ourselves so that it does not fall on anyone".

"You have a very striking picture of people fleeing. But fleeing to where? If you're in Rafah, you can't go south because there is a border, you can't go west because there is an ocean, and you can't go north and you can't go east because there is nowhere to go. You can't get out of Gaza. So, if you've been a refugee many times over there is no longer anywhere to where you can flee".

Peter Hansen, UNRWA Commissioner-General, speaking after the large-scale destruction of refugee homes in Rafah (Gaza Strip) in October 2003.

"On 23 June 2001, at about 3am, the Israeli army threw stun bombs and used loudspeakers to call on the inhabitants of the Barahmeh district of the refugee camp, along the Egyptian border, to leave immediately. Within two hours 20 houses were destroyed. The Barhoum family lost 11 houses, in which 75 people lived.

Suhaila Ahmad Salim Barhoum, a widow, lived in one of the demolished houses with her son and daughter and her brother. She told Amnesty International: "I woke up at the sound of the army shooting and I ran off inside the camp with the children; other times when the army shot we ran away and waited until the shooting stopped to come back. But this time the tanks came up against the houses with the bulldozers. When they left there was only rubble and dust left in the place of our houses. I had a nice house; four rooms, one for each of us, the kitchen, the bathroom and a hall. I built it four years ago. My previous house was demolished in 1982, when they established the border. Then my house was right where the border is now. After some time I got some compensation but it was not enough, and I had to wait to have enough money to build a new house. And now I won’t be able to build another house again; I have nothing left, nothing for my children".

Suhaila’s aunt, 70-year-old Fadhiya Suleiman Ibrahim Barhoum, lived in a house nearby with her two sons, their wives and their 12 children. She told Amnesty International: "They destroyed the house with all our things; I worked all my life and now I have nothing left, and my sons have nothing left and they have children; one has eight and the other has four. The house was three homes, one for me and two for my sons; there were six rooms and two bathrooms, one for each of them. We worked so much to build our house. God help us, I don’t sleep at night any more. And they keep destroying more houses, every day more houses; maybe tomorrow they’ll destroy this one too (her relatives’ house where she is staying). God help us; why this on top of everything else? The army also destroyed my land, over there, near the house (pointing to the rubble of her house nearby); all my olive trees, you can still see them, there; they uprooted all of them, didn’t leave even one; they uprooted them from here, from my heart; even if I plant other olive trees, I won’t live to see the olives; I’m too old, and I have no more land and no home, nothing."

"The police poisoned the fields with airplanes; they must have used something very strong, poison, because we got sick. At first we thought it was a chemical attack from Iraq; the television had talked a lot about Iraq launching a chemical attack on Israel in the American war in Iraq; I hadn’t thought much about it but when the planes came to throw this gas, this poison, I don’t know what it was, I was terrified; my husband was not here, he was in Be’er Sheva and I was alone with the children and I was very scared. The children got really sick; I got very dizzy… Some people vomited and even fainted. I didn’t know what to do. I though that’s it, it is the chemical attack; then later I learned that it was the police, to kill our crops. Why do they do such things? To bring airplanes to kill our crops? We have nothing here, you see; we don’t get water to irrigate our fields; you can’t cultivate the land without water; and even that little bit we manage to do they destroy; why?"

A resident of an unrecognized Bedouin village on the destruction of crops in March 2003.



Blogger Jane said...

It would seem that no one has anything to add on this subject. I read this post last night and expected to come back today to many comments. Perhaps you did as well.

4/12/2006 04:36:00 AM  
Blogger Cliche~ said...

I hate to ramble too much about the question but I really don't like the word "legal". Perhaps its more applicable on a small scale when a state has both authority over its citizens and is actually representative of them (at least ideally), thus providing a static indisputable concept of what's legal and what's not.

However in the wider world the concept of legality is an ever evolving concept, seemingly always tailored to context and current need, therefore contradicting what it is by definition.

The reason for that is not only the fact that bodies that are meant to be representative of the world are not properly representative of it (e.g. UN). (And I'm not attacking the UN's ethics, I just beleive that in principle its impossible for it to work on a political level).

The other reason, is that economy is what primarily defines who has more power. THerefore power and representativeness become divided impeding the possibility of having a universal concept of what's "legal".

If you take it from an arab perspective you could always argue that it was illegal to assume territory. Alternatively, you could also argue that palestine was under british rule, and (at least at the time) the occupier has the right to do whatever really. And on that note many countries lost territory during wars and occupations in the last century that they never got back. But you could also argue that this time ITS A WHOLE COUNTRY. I would just say that the "legal" argument would get us nowhere. However i do think the current situation is immoral, and legality and morality r worlds apart

4/12/2006 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger programmer craig said...

Well, the only thing I'd like to add is that I think LouLou could have picked a better source. Not that I'm disputing it (I don't know eneough to dispute it) bul Amnesty International has become very well known for one-sided presentations.

Thousands of families have had their homes and possessions destroyed under the blades of the Israeli army’s US-made Caterpillar bulldozers.

I like this part especially. As if the manufacturer of a bulldozer is a sponsor of the demolition!? Does where teh Bulldozers were made have ANYTHING to do with this article?

No. And if the Manufacturer had been Japan, or China, or Germany, or Korea, or *any* otehr country but this US, this tidbit wouldn't have been included.

Their agenda shows in little slips like that. I don't know that there is an impartial source for information on this issue, but Amnesty International isn't one.

4/13/2006 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger programmer craig said...

But you could also argue that this time ITS A WHOLE COUNTRY.

So was Tibet. And many other nations that no longer sovereign. And I'll argue, what was the "country" of Palestine, anyway? The British colony of Palestine included modern day Jordan as well as modern day Israel. Where were teh borders when the Ottoman's had Palestine, before the Brits? I don't know how far back we should go looking for borders... Roman times? Roman maps say most of that land belongs to the Jews.

I don't think this can be argued on a state level, because the Palestinians have never been a state. I think it has to be argued on a basis of personal property rights.

4/13/2006 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...


Amnesty's report mentions the laws that are being violated here including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights & the Geneva Convention. Added to which Israeli Arabs, including the Bedouins living in the unrecognized villages the report refers to are supposed to be citizens of Israel.

Yes I realize that in reality the only law anyone in power respects in that part of the world is simply 'might is right'. But I'm sick & tired of having Israel held up to us in the ME as the shining beacon of democracy, tolerance & human rights & the rule of law that we should all aspire to imitate. While I will concede that all Arab countries have serious human rights issues I wouldn't say that my idea of progress is for them to start to demolish homes on top of people's heads killing pregnant women & children, or to follow millions of defenceless civilians from refugee camp to refugee camp to make them homeless & destroy their livelihoods again & again because they're the wrong race. Somehow that's not my dream for my country's future.


I agree with you about some of the language in the report. But I think the facts are more important than the language.

Amnesty has published a lot of reports that the Palestinians & other Arabs have been pretty upset about. Everyone quotes Amnesty when it condemns their opponent & calls it prejudiced when it condemns them.

Much as I hate to flood my personal online sanctuary with copy-paste, political stuff I'll post similar reports from HRW & also from Israeli human rights organizations & a few other sources if you want to see them. :)

4/13/2006 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger roora said...

I don't think I have anything to add here ! what you wrote speaks about itself and make it clear !

Too bad and sorry that it is true

4/13/2006 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger Drima said...

wow gurl long but very enlightening post indeed...

4/14/2006 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger Um Haleema said...

We have a law here in my state that says that if my car is used to pick up prostitutes or to buy drugs from a drug den it can be confiscated by the police. It doesn't matter that I was not the one that used my car for that purpose. That's the law. I guess that if Israel has a a law on their books that says that they will demolish any home that they feel is being used for illegal purposes (safehouse for terrorists, weapon storage or launch pad for mortars)then it would not be illegal for them to confiscate this property. Immoral? Sure, Illegal? No That sucks but there is no way I would put someone else's property in danger by using it for illegal purposes. Maybe we should put some of the blame on the selfish person who knew what would happen if they used that property in that illegal manner.

4/17/2006 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Um Haleema,

"That sucks but there is no way I would put someone else's property in danger by using it for illegal purposes."

So if a mugger gets into your house & shoots at the neighbors they demolish your home?

Is there a law in your state that states that being Palestinian & being born on a piece of land that a Jewish settler wants is illegal?

I really don't think you read the report. If you did you would see that most of the property lost had nothing to do with illegal purposes. It was just used for building settlements & changing demographics. It might surprise you to hear that not all Palestinians are terrorists.

4/17/2006 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger Um Haleema said...

Lou Lou,
I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I did not feel for the plight of the innocent Palestinians. I do and I always have. I in no way believe that all Palestinians are terrorists nor do I feel that all Isrealis are Zionists.

"So if a mugger gets into your house & shoots at the neighbors they demolish your home?"

I would do whatever I could to not allow the mugger in my house in the first place. If a mugger did manage to get into my house I would be immediately on the phone calling the police and giving them all the info that they needed to get him. I would also make my voice loud and clear in my neighborhood that violence begets violence and we cannot support those who use violence in our name.

No, I did not read the article that you linked to. I read the quotes that you had posted. I will go back and read it but my comment was mainly referring to the account in the apartment building where there WAS an armed person. That person did not consider the safety of the people in that building before he decided to arm himself and shoot from within that building. The other examples were missing a lot of information. There could be any number of details that are missing from those accounts. Maybe the full article will have more information?I try to take everything that I read with a grain of salt these days. I like to hear both sides. The Palestinians have lost a lot of my support over the years with the way that they have handled things. And voting in Hamas did not help their cause in my eyes. Nor did they gain favor with me when they danced and cheered in the streets after 9/11.

When an Israeli settler gets his home attacked and they speak of the innocent child dead in that home I say shame on those parents for putting their child in that kind of danger. So do not think that I am in any way partial to the Israelis.

4/18/2006 04:26:00 AM  
Blogger shlemazl said...

Homes and synagogues were destroyed by Israelis in Gaza. Does that also fall into the "illegal" and "immoral" category?

4/18/2006 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger shlemazl said...

Oh, and not to forget lots of "illegal" Jewish outposts that Israel destroyes.

I just want to say that until an agreement can be negotiated by both sides, Israel has to do what has to be done, however unpalatable it may seem. And yes, terrorism and even the threat of terrorism have to stop for a solution to be negotiated.

4/18/2006 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Schlemazl/Um Haleema,

The point of this post was that someone suggested that Israel never stole land by force & I think there is a lot of evidence to the contrary.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lost everything in 1948 & never received any compensation. That was two thirds of the Palestinians at the time. I personally know several Palestinian families who used to be wealthy landowners or successful businessmen who've lost everything they owned & became penniless refugees & had to start from scratch.

And the policy of demolishing homes & expropriating land from Palestianians & Israeli Arabs never stopped since 1948. It was there for decades before Hamas even came into existence in the 80's.

This is an active policy of eviction & expropriation with the aim of changing demographics. It's very organized, planned for & consistent over the last half a century. Illegal activities are just an occasional excuse.

And yes the removal of settlements in Gaza was a positive step.

"The Palestinians have lost a lot of my support over the years with the way that they have handled things."

Yes, the Palestinians have very bad leadership. But I also find it difficult to sympathize with the Israeli practices described in this report.

4/18/2006 08:43:00 AM  

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