The recent verdict in the Rachel Corrie case has once again thrown the spotlight on the Israeli policy of house demolitions.
Nearly 10 years ago, the 23-year-old American activist was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer while trying to obstruct the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip.
Corrie and a group of activists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were acting as human shields to try to stop the Israeli army demolishing Palestinian homes and clearing land around the Palestinian town of Rafah.
Since 1967, Israel has practised a range of policies leading to the internal displacement of about 160,000 Palestinians within the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Of these actions, house demolitions are the most visible.
These are carried out by the Israeli army for a number of reasons, including “administrative” demolitions, where Palestinian homes have been built without Israeli-issued permits, as well as punitive demolitions – where a family member is accused of being involved in militant activity.
The most devastating demolitions, however, are caused by large-scale military operations, such as those during the war on Gaza in 2008-09.
Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) argues that, seen in their totality since 1967, these home demolitions amount to an intentional “policy of displacement”.
Last year, ICAHD presented the United Nations with a report, charging that Israel had a deliberate policy of forcing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem, and that this might constitute a war crime.
The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, dismissed the report.
ICAHD said 2011 was the record year of displacement , with the destruction of some 622 Palestinian structures by Israeli authorities, of which 222 were family homes. This resulted in 1,094 people being displaced – almost double the number for 2010.
In collaboration with: VisualizingPalestine.org – data visualisation for social justice.
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