Palestine: A Journal of Loss

May 1997
Christian Peacemaker Teams Report from Hebron, West Bank:

This month was a busy one for Israeli bulldozer operators in the Hebron district.... Targets last month included a Palestinian cemetary in Beit Meersam and two Bedouin wells in Aramadin....

February 1998

The Israeli army destroyed the home of a Palestinian near Ramallah while a tour of the Knesset deputies looked on. A bulldozer, accompanied by Israeli troops, demolished the unfinished three-room home belonging to Ali Samhan, located near a road leading to a Jewish settlement outside the village of Ras Karkar.

April 29, 1998
Christian Peacemaker Teams Report from Hebron, West Bank:

Abdel Jawad Jaber in the Beqa’a valley east of Hebron received an order to return all of the agricultural fields between his house and the new settlement access road to their original condition by June 12. If he does not destroy his vineyards and olive groves by that date, the army will do it for him and charge him for the use of the bulldozer.

May 1998
Edward W. Said, Le Monde Diplomatique:

The second overriding reality is that minute by minute, hour by hour, day after day, we are losing more Palestinian land to the Israelis. Scarcely a road, or a highway, or a village that we passed hasn’t witnessed the daily tragedy of land expropriated; fields bulldozed; trees, plants and crops uprooted; houses demolished, while the Palestinian owners stood by, helpless to stop it.

April 12, 1999

In Jenin District, a batch of Israeli soldiers uprooted more than 130 olive trees from a land owned by Tayseer Zeid in Nazlit Zaid village claiming that it is a “state-land.” The trees were lately transported in lorries to Shaked colony (settlement). Meanwhile, the Israeli bulldozers damaged 10 dunums [2.5 acres] of land cultivated with tobacco, and owned by Tayseer.

October/November 1999
Neve Gordon, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:

Since 1967, Israel has reduced to rubble some 6,000 Palestinian houses in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem. Over 500 of these houses have been destroyed following the signing of the Oslo peace accords in September 1993. Professor Jeff Halper of Ben-Gurion University maintains that although an elaborate system of housing regulations, laws, and procedures has been employed to give the policy a legal justification, the real purpose “is to confine the two million residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem to small, crowded, impoverished, and disconnected bantustans.”

December 4, 2000
Agence France Presse:

All that is left of Mahmud Hajaj’s olive grove is a meaningless title deed. A road built by the Israeli army for the Jewish settlers in Gaza now runs over his land, although it was put under Palestinian control by the Oslo accords. “Just like every morning, I went out to see my land. From a distance, I saw the bulldozer and the tank that blocked the entrance,” explains this 75 year-old farmer. “I had 280 olive-trees. A neighbour told me it took them all day to pull them out. I just couldn’t bear to watch.” ....The road also runs over 60 acres of Palestinian farmland, mainly wheat fields and olive groves....

December 7, 2000
Phil Reeves, The Independent:

The residents of El-Kararah, a scattering of Palestinian smallholdings in the Gaza Strip, were preparing for bed when the Israeli armoured bulldozers came to flatten their homes and to drive them off the land.... The bulldozers came at night—three armoured machines crowned with machine guns and backed by Israeli tanks—and began uprooting their orange and olive orchards, transforming them into a moonscape of twisted roots, broken tree trunks and rubble. The villagers say that, as the bulldozers crashed into their houses, they grabbed their children and whatever possessions they could carry, and fled on foot, weeping and screaming.

December 24, 2000
Herbert W. Chilstrom, Minneapolis Star Tribune:

I could feel the anger welling up. We were standing in the ravaged fields of Abu Houli, a Palestinian farmer near the city of Gaza. Just a few days earlier Israeli troops had uprooted his olive and orange orchards and had crushed one of his greenhouses. Near midnight the next day they came again with a loud pounding on the door. This time, they said, his house must be razed. With but minutes to evacuate their home, Abu Houli and his wife gathered up their children and fled in the night to a nearby relative. We could see the tracks of the bulldozer as we walked across the soft, fertile fields. Pressed into the ground were the shattered remains of children’s toys and books, chairs, kitchen utensils, clothing, windows, curtains, beds.

Christmas, 2000
Bonnie Gehweiler, coordinator of the Southern Methodist Volunteers in Mission:

By the time we will be singing this carol again, there may be very little of Christian Bethlehem left. Israel has already confiscated 61 percent of the Bethlehem Municipality (88,000 acres). The latest invasion in Bethlehem began in earnest in the middle of the night after the election of the new prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. A heavily guarded Israeli bulldozer began uprooting the centuries-old olive groves. The huge bulldozer bit into the grounds—near the Shepherds’ Fields where the angels heralded Jesus’ birth—throwing dusty earth over a hill. Many Palestinians threw themselves in front of the bulldozers only to be beaten and dragged away to jail by Israeli soldiers.

January 17, 2001  
INews Daily: 

Jewish settlers in the Nablus area Monday night attacked several Palestinian villages, uprooting and stealing grown olive trees from Palestinian orchards. A dispatch from Nablus said armed settlers attacked the villages of Hiwwara, Jalut, and al-Zawiay and, using a bulldozer and electric saws uprooted hundreds of fully grown olive trees. The settlers have caused an environmental disaster throughout the West Bank in the last few months as they destroyed and burned verdant Palestinian fields and orchards, often in full view of the Israeli occupation army.

June 2001

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli armed forces in Netsarim knocked down three Palestinian houses on Friday, June 22 in al Mighraka.... The Israeli bulldozers bulldozed 6 dunums [1.5 acres] of Ata and Fadil Barhum’s land planted with olive trees. The bulldozers also destroyed Sameer Barhum’s barn where he kept agricultural tools, such as a water-pump. On Monday, Israeli bulldozers, protected by Israeli army troops, opened a road between Rihan and Hrash settlements in the district of Jenin. On Tuesday June 26, Israeli forces and a military bulldozer knocked down five barracks in the Palestinian villages of Bardala and Kardala in the Jordan Valley. Palestinian farmers used the barracks for storing their products. There was no previous warning to the demolition. At 5pm, Israeli forces set fire to [2.5 acres] of olive trees belonging to Hasan, Qasem and Abdil Hameed Sadaqa.

April 4, 2001
Gush Shalom (

The miltary government’s long-standing policy is to restrict Palestinian construction to small enclaves, and to deny building permits to Palestinians whose land happens to be located outside these overcrowded designated areas.... Yesterday, four houses were destroyed at Issawiya, just outside Jerusalem... this morning we heard of four houses destroyed at Anata, another Palestinian suburb of Jerusalem followed by another two at Issawiya. Just now we heard of four houses destroyed in the Hebron area, between the settlement of Kiryat Arba and its offshoot enclave of Givat Haharsina. (The settlers have wanted to “get rid” of these Arab houses, which prevent the creation of a settler “territorial continuity.”)

July 13, 2001
Chris Smith, freelance journalist based in Ramallah:

Home demolition and land confiscation are well-established practices in the Occupied Territories: every Israeli government since 1967 has used them. According to a 1999 Amnesty International report, at least 2,400 Palestinian homes were torn down in the West Bank alone between 1987 and 1999—approximately 200 per year. “The demolition of Palestinian houses is inextricably linked with Israeli policy to control and colonize the West Bank,” the report stated, adding that “construction of [settlements] has depended not just on finding land...but on alienating it from the Palestinians.”

Undated Essay
Douglas L. Perle,

The demolition of houses in Palestinian territory, either for security purposes (as in Rafah) or for administrative reasons (as in the refugee camp of Shu’afat) continues. Since September 2000, over 300 homes have been completely demolished (compared with 93 in 1999). The Special Rapporteur saw evidence of the demolition of houses in Rafah and Shu’afat by bulldozer.... While Israel sees this action as justified on grounds of military necessity, Palestinians see it as part of a larger design to restrict Palestinian growth, encourage Palestinian emigration and humiliate the people. The creation of buffer zones for bypass roads and settlements has resulted in the “sweeping” of large areas of agricultural land by bulldozers. A total of 385,808 fruit and olive trees have been uprooted, and wells and agricultural constructions destroyed.

December 20, 2001
Jeff Halper, coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions

(ICAHD); American-Israeli professor of anthropology at Ben Gurion University:

There can be no peace, no personal safety or normal life for us and our children, as long as we continue to occupy the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. For 34 years the three million inhabitants of the Occupied Territories have lived under Israeli military rule. They have watched as tens of thousands of acres of their farmland have been expropriated for Israeli settlements, roads and military bases. While 400,000 Israelis have moved onto their lands across the 1967 “Green Line,” the Palestinians themselves have endured the systematic demolition of 7,000 of their homes, leaving 50,000 people homeless. They have been brutalized, humiliated, impoverished, imprisoned.

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