The Israeli government has been on a veritable war path lately, using legally dubious means to demolish houses across Palestine. Last week the IDF destroyed the entire village of al-Farisyie in the Jordan Valley, demolishing 74 structures leaving 107 Palestinians – including 52 children – homeless. The village was destroyed after the IDF declared it to be a military zone and after cutting the farmer population off from its valuable water source.
[tweetmeme] In addition to the continuing campaign to isolate the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank in order to slowly annex the valuable area into Israel (see information at the Jordan Valley Solidarity – more information on this to come) via legally dubious house demolitions, the Israeli government has also destroyed a Bedouin village in Israel. The village – al-Arakib – was unrecognized by Israeli authorities and its demolition displaced nearly 300 Bedouins (all Israeli citizens).
The most recent move by the IDF was not a house demolition, but simply theft. In Arab East Jerusalem – the destination of the capital of the future Palestinian State – settlers who were protected by police moved into the house of the Kirrish family in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. The early 30 settlers moved into the house when the Kirresh family (over 50 people) went to a cousin’s wedding. From the AP:
Quirresh said his family has been renting the house for the past 60 years, and that the owner is living abroad.
The family’s lawyer, Samer Zoabi, said the settlers bought the building in 1987, and went to court repeatedly to get the Quirresh family evicted. Zoabi said the courts ruled each time in favor of the tenants.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said authorities were trying to determine whether the settlers held a proper eviction order.
U.N. envoy Robert Serry said in a statement that he deplored “today’s unacceptable action by armed Israeli settlers who forcibly took over a building, which is home to nine Palestinian families.”
He urged the Israeli authorities to remove the settlers from the property and allow the Palestinian tenants to return.
In the statement, Serry called on Israel to “refrain from provocative actions in east Jerusalem.”
Interestingly, one member of the Kirresh family – including his wife and children – did not attend the wedding and is currently living in the house with the settlers, refusing to leave. The settlers are part of the extremist group Ateret Cohamin who considers itself to be the “spiritual epicenter of a community of almost 1000 residents in the heart of the Old City in the so-called “Moslem” Quarter.” A video of the settlers is posted above.
Ateret Cohanim is a private group so its actions cannot be said to represent the official state policy; however, the protection that the Israeli police are providing the settlers and the refusal to follow a court order evicting the settlers is extremely telling. The continual harassment of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley as well as the gradual (though certainly not new) and legally questionable colonization of East Jerusalem calls the Israeli government’s desire for peace.
The recent demolitions and house evictions come as the Obama Administration is trying desperately to push the Palestinians and Israelis back to direct talks. The Israeli actions in the West Bank are clearly provocative and run counter to the hollow rhetoric about desiring peace. Certainly, the demolitions and illegal evictions by the IDF are not encouraging Abbas to return to the negotiation table.