Not even a pandemic can stop Israel

By Georgina Reeves

The destruction of Palestine continues unabated. Detentions and arrests, demolitions and land expropriation, settler violence and property destruction. Not even a global pandemic can halt the brutal, illegal and immoral treatment of Palestinians in their own land.

Erasing an entire Palestinian community

Humsa Al Bqai’a was a village in the West Bank’s fertile Jordan Valley, home to a Bedouin community until Tuesday 3rd November – the day of the United States’ presidential election. That was also the day the Israeli army arrived in bulldozers and destroyed the entire village. In an instant 74 people, from babies to the elderly, were now homeless, and not one of the village’s 76 structures remained.

The United Nations Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it was the largest single demolition in the occupied Palestinian territories for 10 years. Figures show that since 2009, only 2016 had a greater number of demolitions (1,094 structures) and displacements (1,593 people) than 2020. So far this year, 740 structures have been destroyed and 896 have people lost their homes and property. This month alone, 23 Palestinian villages or towns in the West Bank have had demolitions of homes and other essential infrastructure.

Building new homes for settlers on Palestinian lands

As Palestinians see their homes bulldozed, the Israeli government is forging ahead with its policy of transferring Israeli citizens into the occupied territories through settlement expansion. Although illegal under international law, the steady increase in settlements and settlers guarantees Israel’s complete domination and control. And for settlements to expand, Palestinians have to lose their land.

For this year, figures published by Peace Now show more than 12,000 housing units have been approved, including 4,948 in October. Emboldened by Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite international law, and worried at the looming prospect of his departure, Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to create as many ‘facts’ on the ground as possible.

On 15th November, the Israel Land Authority announced a tender for more than 1,200 housing units in Givat HaMatos. This West Bank settlement is one of more than twenty settlements that encircle and completely isolate the city of Bethlehem.

Among the voices of condemnation from the diplomatic community was the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office which issued a statement saying: “Israel’s decision to advance the construction of 1,257 settlement buildings in the Givat HaMatos area of the occupied West Bank, would violate international law, and risks causing serious damage to the prospects for a viable Palestinian State.”

Groundhog day

Last week, the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee — the committee that deals with human rights and humanitarian affairs — voted overwhelmingly (163-5) to approve a draft resolution in favour of Palestinian self-determination and statehood, and an end to the occupation.

Since 1948 the UN has repeatedly voted and approved resolutions on Palestine, including the right of return for refugees, an end to the occupation, and the establishment of a Palestinian state, but nothing actually changes as a result.

For more than 70 years, Palestinians have experienced constant attacks on, and the erosion of, their rights, their land, their status and their voice. And for more than 70 years, the international community has wrung its hands and stood back. What is the point of that community when it is so unwilling to act to support justice and self-determination? Words are simply not enough.

A change of face is imminent in the White House; we have to wait longer for change in Downing Street. However, Palestinians know from bitter experience that no matter who is at either address, they can only expect much of the same.

Georgina Reeves lived in Israel and Palestine from 2000-2003, where she worked with national and international NGOs and Palestinian-led grassroots organisations. She continues to visit regularly.

Image: Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes in 2009. Source: Exodus 1. Author: RafahKid Kid, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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