Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This Just In

In reference to my previous post, I got this email from my friend who was helping organize things in Dahmash.

hiiiii :)))
the court deiced not to destroy the houses :))))))))))))

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

By the time most of you read this a decision will have been made regarding the future of the house pictured at the right.

A court hearing is being held today, July 14th in the city of Ramla.  The court will officially decide whether or not to demolish this home along with 12 others in the village of Dahmash.  Dahmash is one of many "unrecognized villages" in Israel-Palestine.  It's a village of roughly 70 families and 600 residents.

I've been here for less than two months, which means I can't speak with authority on the status of "unrecognized villages" but I can share with you  the perspectives I've heard and questions I have.

My understanding is this:  As a result of the conflicts in 1948 and 1967 the Israeli government either was given, or won by force, lands in this region.  Some of this land was actively occupied by Palestinians who had been living on it for generations.  The Israeli government is responsible for, among other things, national planning and security.  The government gets to decide what which lands will be used for agricultural, residential, military, etc. purposes.  In many instances, the government has designated the land inhabited by Palestinian families to be used for purposes other than residential which renders all of the homes on that land illegal.  In the cases where Palestinian families choose not move, they become part of an "unrecognized village".  Homes in an unrecognized village receive no support from nearby municipalities: no access to the electrical grid, no water and sewage services, no bus service, no official addresses, no trash collection.  I wish I'd taken a picture of the mountains of trash located with a few hundred yards of the very nice house pictured above. 

Families living in an unrecognized village exist under the constant threat of having their home demolished.  The government can decide that specific houses need to be removed and arrive with bulldozers to accomplish that purpose.  The rationale behind choosing which homes are destroyed is unclear to me.  It's my impression that the families who lose their homes are not compensated in any way and may even be required to pay the city for the cost of the bulldozers and manpower used to destroy their homes.

So my questions are:  How do home demolitions reduce tensions or promote stability in this country and region?  What's the logic behind it?  From a humanitarian perspective, how are home demolitions just and morally justifiable?

Yesterday I witnessed a group of people asking those questions.  There was a march from the City Hall of Ramla to Dahmash.  I'm glad to report that the portion of the march I saw was entirely peaceful and gives me hope that there are a good number of people who want justice and fair treatment for everyone.  The march was significant because it marked the first time that a primarily Arab (though there were plenty of Jews in the crowd too) march was allowed to pass down the main street of the city.  I was told both by members of the march and a member of the police force that peaceful, legal marches, such as this one, were usually heavily stipulated - the pro-Palestinian marches were not allowed to pass through Jewish neighborhoods and vice versa.  This march was entirely legal.  The organizers received permission from the city officials and received the protection of city police.

I hope the march achieved its goal of stopping the demolitions and paved the way for peaceful talks between the residents of Dahmash and the government.