Desperate and frightened Palestinian residents watch a home being destroyed in the West Bank as Israeli military stand guard. The total number of Palestinian homes destroyed in the 67 years since the creation of Israel almost certainly exceeds 100,000. Why does Israeli do that? To find out watch my video seminar organized by the National Council on Canada Arab Relations (NCCAR)
As Prime Minister Harper and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau congratulate Israel on its the 67th anniversary, I invite you to consider one aspect of the human cost of the creation of the State of Israel: the destruction of Palestinian homes and villages. The demolition program began in 1947 and continues to the present day. I have prepared a 41 minute documentary video with on-site video footage and interviews from 6 different sites in Israel and the West Bank.
Three footnotes to the video:
1. How many exactly have been destroyed?
I don’t know. The first homes were destroyed in Jaffa in the very early days of the Nakba in December 1947 – well before the declaration of the State of Israel. The total number of Palestinian homes destroyed between 1947 and 2015 would seem to be reliably estimated at somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000. Anyone who has a better number please share it.
This estimate is based on what we do know::
- Approximately 550 Palestinian villages were evacuated during the Nakba of 1947-48, and subsequently destroyed. Those villages varied in size, from small hamlets of a dozen houses to major urban areas like Jaffa, where the population was over 70,000 mostly Palestinians.
- Dozens of small Bedouin villages were destroyed in the Negev from 1948 – the present
- As many as 27,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed in East Jerusalem since 1967
- Dozens more small hamlets are being destroyed regularly in Area C
- Over 25,000 Palestinian homes in Gaza have been destroyed in 3 successive attacks (Cast Lead 2008/9, Pillar of Cloud 2011, and Protective Edge 2014). Over 18,000 were destroyed in 2014 alone.
- Thousands of homes in refugee camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, particularly during the 1982 Lebanon War.
2. Reasons given?
Israel gives many reasons for the destruction of Palestinian homes. Here are some of the most common ones:
- For military construction (e.g. the home is in the way of a new police station, or army depot or training area)
- For urban planning (e.g. the home is in the way of a new rapid transit line or new highway)
- For parkland (e.g. Silwan, in East Jerusalem)
- Forfeited property – (e.g. the owner of the home has left Jerusalem and the property is forfeit to the state)
- For illegal construction – e.g. the Palestinian owner has become frustrated because he cannot get a building permit and has built or renovated “illegally”.
- For retribution – eg. the building is home to someone accused of “terrorism’
- “unowned land” – Israel refuses to recognize the rights of Bedouins whose villages predate the creation of the state of Israel. They live in “unrecognized” villages, like Al Araqib, which has been destroyed more than 60 times.
3. Where are the destroyed homes?
From 1947 – 1967, the bulk of the destruction of homes was concentrated inside the borders of today’s Israel.
However, after ’67, when Israel took over East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, its destructive efforts have been concentrated in the “occupied territories”. Nonetheless, significant land confiscation and home destruction continue inside Israel, particularly in the Galilee and in the Negev.