Monday, April 14, 2008

Area C strikes fear into the heart of Palestinians as homes are destroyed

Israelis defend rules that reject 94% of non-Jewish building applications

Rory McCarthy in Far'un
The Guardian, Tuesday April 15 2008

"In the end it came down to a single-page letter, written in Hebrew and Arabic and hand-delivered by an Israeli army officer who knocked at the front door. The letter spelt the imminent destruction of the whitewashed three-storey home and small, tree-lined garden that Bassam Suleiman spent so long saving for and then built with his family a decade ago.

It was a final demolition order, with instructions to evacuate the house within three days.

If Suleiman was in any doubt about the Israeli military's intentions he had only to look outside his back door where large piles of rubble and broken concrete mark the remains of the seven of his neighbours' houses that were demolished in the same way last year.

"How would you feel when you've spent 20 years finishing your life's project?" said Suleiman, 38, a teacher. He began moving his furniture out after the letter, from the civil administration of Judea and Samaria, the defence ministry department responsible for the Israeli-occupied West Bank, came on January 31.......

The Israeli authorities argue that Suleiman's house was built in a part of the West Bank known as area C, a designation from the era of the Oslo Accords which means Israel has full military and administrative control. In order to build, a Palestinian must apply for a permit from the Israeli authorities. If there is no permit - as in Suleiman's case - the building is liable for demolition.


Area C covers 60% of the West Bank, home to around 70,000 Palestinians. It is also the area in which most Jewish settlements, all illegal under international law, are built. Compelling statistical evidence shows that while it is extremely hard for Palestinians to obtain building permits, settlements continue to grow rapidly.

Research by the Israeli group Peace Now found that 94% of Palestinian permit applications for Area C building were refused between 2000 and September 2007. Only 91 permits were granted to Palestinians, but 18,472 housing units were built in Jewish settlements. As a result of demolition orders 1,663 Palestinian buildings were demolished.......

This year there has been a marked increase in demolitions. There were 138 demolitions between January and March, most in area C, compared with 29 in the last three months of 2007, according to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This year 400 Palestinians have been displaced as a result. At a time of a renewed peace process to create an independent Palestinian state, the reality in the West Bank is that Jewish settlements are growing and demolitions of Palestinian homes are on the increase......

One effect of the strict planning curbs is to limit the growth of Palestinian villages. "If you look at the way the Israelis are enforcing planning and construction regulations you see they are being enforced in a one-sided way," said Avi Berg, research director of the leading Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, which has worked on the Far'un case....."

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