State policy: dispossession, displacement, demolition

I discussed the meaning of citizenship in the Israeli context in an earlier posting so will not pursue it here in any detail. Suffice to say that what is normally implied by the concept ‘citizen’ is at variance with the Israeli State’s interpretation.  That is to say, citizenship in Israel is not, as elsewhere, a status that enshrines equality between all those who hold that status. Rather, it is a device to entrench Jewish ethnonationalist supremacy. Thus, in the words of the Institute for Middle East Understanding:

As part of an effort to maintain the Jewish majority created by the expulsions of 1948, Israel has passed a series of laws to limit the growth of the remaining Palestinian population and their towns and villages, and marginalize them politically. Today, there are more than 60 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel directly or indirectly, based solely on their ethnicity, impacting virtually every aspect of their lives, including housing, employment, education, healthcare, and who they can marry. 

As of 2017, only about 3% of all land in Israel is under the jurisdiction of Palestinian municipalities, even though Palestinian citizens of Israel make up 21% of the population.

The work continues

This work of ethnic cleansing proceeds apace. This from AlJazeera, dated 10 June 2021 focused on the Silwan area of Occupied East Jerusalem:

Earlier this week, the Jerusalem municipality issued a series of demolition orders to residents of the al-Bustan area in Silwan [in Occupied East Jerusalem]. The families affected, consisting of some 1,500 people, were given 21 days to evacuate and demolish their houses themselves. Failure to do so would mean the municipality will demolish the houses and families would have to cover the demolition costs.

And then on the 29 June AlJazeera reports:

Violence erupted after the demolition of a Palestinian business by Israeli forces began in the al-Bustan area of the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan on Tuesday.

Israeli forces accompanied by bulldozers entered the Palestinian neighbourhood and destroyed a butcher’s shop in Silwan. Soldiers used tear gas and batons to push back residents and Palestinian activists as they carried out the demolition.

Sheikh Jarrah, Occupied East Jerusalem

United Nations representatives have denounced the potential forced expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood as a “violation of international law”.

Speaking from Sheikh Jarrah on Wednesday, UNRWA commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini said: “This eviction violates international law and Israel’s obligation as an occupying power. For UNRWA, these Palestinian refugees are experiencing a second displacement in living memory.”

The strategic logic of displacements and demolitions

ICAHD UK (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) in a briefing paper explains Israel’s strategic purpose in pursuing demolitions and takeovers:

Sheikh Jarrah is strategically located in East Jerusalem on a potential corridor between Israeli West Jerusalem and the Hebrew University to the east, the Palestinian neighborhood [sic] of Sheikh Jarrah represents an opportunity for both a critical extension of the neighboring [sic] religious Jewish communities and the expansion of Israeli settlement and infrastructure over a key part of the Palestinian city. More than 65 families are threatened with eviction of them twelve extended families, 27 households of more than 130 people, face imminent eviction by Israeli settlers who claim the land. Although their claims have not been upheld in Israel courts, they did succeed in registering the land with the Israel Lands Authority, and it is on that basis that evictions are proceeding.

Silwan: Another strategic set of seven Palestinian neighborhoods with a population of some 45,000 people…Silwan has long been coveted by the Israeli government as a major tourist site, and 88 homes, housing some 5000 residents in the neighborhood’s center,[sic] have been slated for demolition to make way for an archaeological park.

Well-financed settler organizations like El’Ad and Ateret Cohanim also invest considerable sums of money and legal effort to replace Palestinian residents with Jewish ones. Hundreds of other homes…face imminent eviction or demolition, while vast Israeli construction of housing projects (for Jews) and tourist facilities are planned. Much of the defense [sic] of Silwan has focused recently on the Sumarin family, struggling in court to prevent the Jewish National Fund from taking its home and passing it on to the El’Ad settlers.

Help from abroad

The ethnonationalist-fuelled imperative to dispossess Palestinians of their homes and livelihoods, both within Israel, and within the Occupied Territories is sustained by a web of significant financial support from a number of organisations in various countries, including the UK, USA, Canada and France.  A number of these organisations have charitable status in their own jurisdictions. In effect this means that, as a result of the tax exemptions that charitable status affords, UK, USA, Canadian and French taxpayers, for example, are implicated in Israel’s policy of Palestinian dispossession. More on this can be found by clicking here.  This is a subject I shall return to in a future blog.

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