Paris – The Israeli government’s habit of disregarding Palestinians human rights and the steady erosion of any semblance of respect for international law are evident once more. Almost an entire Bedouin village in the northern Jordan Valley of the occupied West Bank was demolished by the Israeli army on Tuesday 3 November.
The United Nations (UN) documented it as one of the largest illegal demolitions carried out by the state of Israel in the occupied Palestinian Territories in the last 10 years. The spokesman for the United Nations Secretary General, Stephane Dujarric criticized Israel’s practices saying, “We condemn them…and we stand against these practices, and we condemned them in the past.”
Late on Tuesday evening, Israeli military vehicles, including bulldozers and excavators arrived in the Khirbet Humsa village – an unexpected assault which destroyed 76 structures, leaving 74 Palestinians, including 41 children homeless. Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinian community defended the army’s actions, claiming that the structures had been set up illegally on land reserved for military training; 37 other Bedouin communities are still living “illegally” on Israeli military land.
As all eyes were on the US election, Israel was able to execute the demolition without any prior warning to the residents and gave them only 10 minutes to gather their things before completely eliminating the community’s structures. L’Association Francophone pour les Droits de l’Homme (AFDH) said in a statement, “We are deeply concerned at the rate at which Israel is proceeding with these demolitions. Israel is committing one human rights violation after another, all the while, dehumanizing and ethnic cleansing the people of Palestine.”
With only two of the original structures still standing in the demolished village, Palestinian aid groups helped residents move back onto the site a few days later by donating tents and other resources, however the damage could not replace the more than 30 tons of livestock fodder that was destroyed. Israeli forces also confiscated two tractors and another vehicle that belonged to residents and destroyed structures and animal pens that were used to breed cattle and sheep for sustenance.
Since 1972, Israel has declared the area to be a live-fire zone, which Bedouin residents in the Humsa village have appealed to the Israeli High Court demanding their homes not to be demolished. Their appeal however was rejected in court last year, ruling they had no right to stay.
According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, from 2006 until 31 October, 2020, Israel demolished at least 2,716 Palestinian residential units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, causing at least 10,639 people – including 5,445 minors – to lose their homes. With the State of Israel failing to recognize Palestinian communities, many have also faced the threat of expulsion, with Israel repeatedly demolishing resident homes. B’Tselem reported that from 2006 till 31 October, 2020, the homes of at least 1,105 Palestinians living in these communities – including 528 children – were demolished more than once by Israel.
B’Tselem said that 2020 has been a record breaking year of demolitions in the occupied territories, especially with the US election result and the uncertainty of what President elect Joe Biden means for Israel and Palestine. Under President Trump’s leadership, his “Peace to Prosperity” plan has given Israel clearance to annex roughly 30% of the occupied West Bank; thus giving licence to Israeli settlers to build homes on stolen Palestinian land. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has clearly stated his plans for annexation and as long as Trump is in office, this pattern of seizing and destroying Palestinian homes will no doubt continue at record pace up until his last day on 20 January, 2021.
Under international law, the use of “house demolition,” is governed by the Fourth Geneva Convention, legislated in 1949. Article 53 states, “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.” Evidently, the Israel army has been using the excuse “military live-fire zones” to justify their reason for breaking international law when clearly they are preparing for annexation.
Palestinians are helpless against the Israeli occupation, they have no agency over their lives or protection under international law because it apparently doesn’t exist for Israel. Netanyahu’s disregard for international law has been perpetuated by Donald Trump’s support, causing more insecurity in the region and extinguishing any hope for a peace plan that benefits and shields both parties.
AFDH believes that the international community must send a clear message to Israel that condemns these demolitions as it shows complete apathy for the human rights of Palestinian people. Additionally, the international community must step up and alleviate the damage that Donald Trump has created and restore efforts of a genuine peace plan that caters to both Israel and Palestine. Finally, Israel must be reminded that it is party to the Fourth Geneva Convention and that the terms of the Convention are indeed applicable to the occupied Palestinian territories, just like all international human rights treaties are applicable to all areas in which states parties exert control, regardles of whether or not they practice sovereignty in that area.