Posted by: Lister | February 24, 2008

Demolitions at Beit Ula

SMH has some useful stats on the situation in the West Bank:

When the soldiers and police withdrew from the site, in the low hills on the West Bank’s border with Israel, 6.4 hectares of trees and terraces had been uprooted and bulldozed. The concrete cisterns were broken open and choked with rubble. Two years of labour and a cash investment of more than €100,000 ($160,000) had all gone to waste.

The Israeli military department that controls the occupied West Bank – called the Civil Administration – subsequently said it demolished the terraces because they were built illegally on land belonging to the state of Israel.

This came as a surprise to the West Bank farmers, who brandished documents with Palestinian, Israeli and even Turkish stamps which, they say, prove their title to the land. And it came as an even bigger surprise to the European Union, which had paid for the lion’s share of the project, €64,000, as part of a campaign to improve “food security” for the Palestinian population.

[…] “It’s a routine action. It’s nothing special. We do these activities every day in Judea and Samaria,” said a spokesman for the Civil Administration, using the biblical terms for the West Bank. “We are very strict about these things. If you let one person do it unauthorised all the others will come after him.”

This strictness seems to apply to some people more than others, however. This week the Israeli group Peace Now reported on demolitions carried out in “Area C” – the 60 per cent of the West Bank that officially remains under full Israeli rule.

Figures supplied by the Civil Administration say that in the seven years to September 2007 nearly 5000 demolition orders were issued against unauthorised Palestinian houses, buildings or infrastructure in Area C. Of these, 1663 were executed, or roughly a third.

Yet in the same period 2900 demolition orders were issued against illegal building by Jewish settlers in the same area, but only 199, or 7 per cent, were actually carried out.

And while the Civil Administration issued permits for 18,472 housing units for Jews in those seven years, the indigenous Palestinians were granted 91 building permits.

Peace Now’s figures are that 94 per cent of the Palestinian applications were rejected. These included requests to build or extend houses, repair roads, water pipes, wells and other vital infrastructure.

[…] The Civil Administration accuses Peace Now of distorting the truth. The administration says the reason why so few permits are granted to the 70,000 Palestinians living in Area C, and why so many demolitions are carried out against them, is that most do not apply for permits until their homes or infrastructure have already been condemned by military inspectors and their applications must therefore be refused.

Coincidentally, this week also brought news of the establishment of two new Jewish settlements in the West Bank – one in the Jordan Valley and another purporting to be a new neighbourhood of Eli, an older Jewish settlement near Nablus.

While all Jewish settlements in the West Bank are regarded by the International Court of Justice as in breach of Geneva Conventions banning colonialism, these new ones – like dozens of other so-called settlement outposts – are illegal even under Israeli law.

They also conflict with Israel’s promise to freeze settlement activity under the terms of the 2003 “road map for peace” and last year’s Annapolis process.

Yet the new illegal Jewish settlements are guarded by the Israeli Defence Force and have already been hooked up to state water, power and road networks.

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