11/06/2020, 00.00
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BTselem slams 'inhumane' demolition of Palestinian homes at a time when the international community is distracted

Israel tore down 76 structures belonging to a Bedouin community in the northern Jordan Valley. At least 73 people, including 41 children, were displaced, the largest expulsion in the last four years. For Amit Gilutz, world public opinion is distracted by the US election. This is “part of the routine of the occupation.” Opposition to Israel’s policies must be united.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Israel recently torn down the homes of a Bedouin community in the north Jordan Valley. This was done close to the US presidential elections because "Israel knew that the attention of the world and everyone will be set on the elections,” said Amit Gilutz, spokesman for B’Tselem, an Israeli NGO that fights against the occupation in the Palestinian Territories.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he explained that, in doing so, the Israeli government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped to avoid criticism for this "inhumane act of demolishing an entire community.”

Gilutz notes that “Israel demolishes Palestinian homes and properties throughout Area C of the West Bank all the time. In fact, this year saw the highest number in four years.”

The latest, on Tuesday, saw Israeli security forces destroy 76 structures belonging to the Humsa al Bqai’a Bedouin community in the northern Jordan Valley. At least 73 people, 41 of them children, were displaced. The reason reportedly was a lack of building permits. 

This was done despite indications that such orders would be put on hold because of the delicate political situation and the health implications associated with the coronavirus pandemic. About three-quarters of the community is now homeless.

For B’Tselem’s spokesman, “This is part of the routine of the occupation but normally it is not done on such a scale; it is done on a smaller scale in a continuous kind of effort to make life impossible for these Palestinian communities, so that they leave as if by their own choice. It is no coincidence that it took place on the eve of the election in the United States.”

Rights groups have visited the community, and can attest that practically everything was demolished: tents, animal sheds, mobile toilets and solar panels, all essential for the residents.

So far this year, Israeli authorities have demolished some 689 structures across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, leaving almost 900 Palestinians homeless.

According to the Palestinians, the Israeli government uses the pretext of security to demolish homes, expropriate land and build settlements along the roads that connect them, to  prevent the creation of a future, territorially viable Palestinian state.

According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), getting a building permit for Palestinians is virtually impossible; in recent years, only 1 per cent of applications by Palestinians (16 out of 1,253) were successful in Area C, which is under Israeli control.

For Gulitz, it is evident that “there has been a bright green light from the Trump administration to Israel to enact its policies towards Palestinians, even in a more blunt, forceful and violent ways during these four years. We see this in the number of demolitions, right now, the number of settler attacks rising, in the number of settlement building”.

“At the same time, impunity for Israel is not something new, but it is important to note that when the international community, the United States, the European Union, [. . .] community decide to set their foot down, draw a line for Israel, then Israel stops.”

This is why it is necessary for “the international community to take a stance against Israeli policies,” without which Israel will no stop killing Palestinians, taking over more and more of their resources”.

It will not end the occupation, nor “find a path toward a just future for all the peoples under its control, unless it pays a price for its policies.’ To this end, the international community “must make clear to Israel that its actions have consequences.”

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