Beit Arabiya, located in the West Bank town of Anata (Area C) just to the northeast of Jerusalem, is a living symbol of resistance to Occupation and the desire for justice and peace. As its name suggests, Beit Arabiya is a home belonging to Arabiya Shawamreh, her husband Salim and their seven children, a Palestinian family whose home has been demolished five times by the Israeli authorities and rebuilt each time by ICAHD’s Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists, before being demolished again this morning.
Arabiya and Salim have dedicated their home as a center for peace in the memories of Rachel Corrie and Nuha Sweidan, two women (an American and a Palestinian) who died resisting home demolitions in Gaza. In the past decade ICAHD has hosted numerous visitors at Beit Arabiya, and based its annual rebuilding camp at the house, rebuilding 186 demolished Palestinian homes.
Beit Arabiya was recently rebuilt during ICAHD’s tenth annual rebuilding camp that attracted more than thirty internationals, that stood side by side with Israelis and Palestinians who refuse to be enemies, demonstrating that there are partners for peace. Within two weeks, the pile of rubble left after the demolition of the house in the middle of night on 23 January earlier this year, was transformed into a fully functioning house with extensive terrace, made possible by nearly one hundred additional volunteers, including international youth, part of summer delegations to Palestine.
Every year hundreds of Palestinians are forced from their homes, homes built on land they own. Since 1967 Israel has demolished more than 26,000 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. ICAHD has rebuilt a total of 186 Palestinian homes illegally demolished by Israel and is determined to see this illegal policy stop.
In June 2012 the United Nations Human Rights Council received the annual report of Prof. Richard Falk, Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT. Falk highlighted the disturbing case of Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh, and stated it was “illustrative of a common Palestinian complaint that their property rights are indirectly usurped through the denial of formal permits and the subsequent issuance and execution of demolition orders.” The UN expert further highlighted that “while it will be rebuilt once again next month, the family will live under the threat of having its home demolished at any moment. The ever-present threat of Israeli bulldozers perverts the sense of normalcy so essential for raising children.”
Former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory Maxwell Gaylard visited demolished Beit Arabiya in January 2012, following its fifth demolition, and was briefed by ICAHD’s Jeff Halper and Itay Epshtain. Following his visit he called for an immediate end to the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israel in the occupied West Bank: “Israel as the Occupying Power has a fundamental responsibility to protect the Palestinian civilian population under its control and to ensure their dignity and wellbeing. The wholesale destruction of their homes and livelihoods is not consistent with that responsibility and humanitarian ideals. The current policy and practice of demolitions cause extensive human suffering and should end. Palestinians urgently require ready access to a fair and nondiscriminatory planning and zoning system that meets their needs for growth and development.”
The demolition of Palestinian homes and other structures, forced or resulting displacement, land expropriation, and settlement expansion, are politically and ethnically motivated. The goal is to limit development and confine the four million Palestinian residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza to small enclaves, thus effectively foreclosing any viable, contiguous Palestinian state and ensuring Israeli control, and the “Judaization” of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinian population in the OPT, including occupied and illegally annexed East Jerusalem, continues to endure violence, displacement, dispossession and deprivation as a result of prolonged Israeli occupation, in most cases in violation of their rights under international human rights law (IHRL), and international humanitarian law (IHL). As of October 23 2012, 472 structures have been demolished since the beginning of the year, including 140 family homes. As a result, 682 people were displaced and offered neither alternative housing nor compensation.
As the Occupying Power, Israel is bound by the provisions of IHL, namely the Hague Regulations of 1907, and the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949, both of which constitute binding customary international law. However, ICAHD firmly holds that Israel’s occupation can no longer be considered temporary, and that other obligations should be invoked, such as the right to self-determination. It is widely agreed that IHRL must be referenced in order to flesh out the notion of population welfare, and to delineate and set restraints on the occupying power’s actions. In particular experts refer to the rights to health, education, food and housing, codified, inter alia, in the conventions and covenants that comprise the human rights treaty system.