Property Destruction and Land Confiscation
How many Palestinian homes have been destroyed by the Israeli
A. Since 1967, over 7,000 home demolitions have occurred across
the occupied territories, leaving some 50,000 Palestinians homeless.
According to United Nations Relief and Works Agency, since the
beginning of the intifada in September 2000, the Israeli Defence
Force has demolished 655 houses in the refugee camps in the Gaza
Strip, in which 5,124 people lived.
What does the demolition of Palestinian property have to do with
the Jewish settlers in the occupied territories?
A. Many Palestinian homes have been destroyed to make way for
Jewish settlements. Then, more homes are destroyed to allow expansion
and security buffers for Jewish settlements and to build bypass
roads for use by Jews only. The settlements are strategically
located to disrupt territorial contiguity between Palestinian
population centers, to control access to water aquifers, and to
create enormous obstacles to the creation of a viable Palestinian
state. During the first six months of 1999 alone, Israel confiscated
2,500 acres of land for the purpose of settlements and their infrastructure,
and a total of 3,500 acres were leveled to facilitate the further
expansion of settlements and bypass-road construction.
Aren’t the homes destroyed by the Israeli government built
illegally by Palestinians?
A. Since 1967, thousands of Palestinian homes have been demolished
on the basis that they were not supported by the required construction
permits. But the Israeli government virtually never grants building
permits to Palestinians. International law views occupation as
a temporary status during which the occupier is obligated first
to end the occupation as quickly as possible and second to safeguard
the rights of the occupied population during the temporary period
in which the occupation is maintained. It is the right of the
Palestinians to build homes on their own land - a right
violated by nearly four decades of occupation.
Don’t some of the destroyed homes belong to terrorists?
A. In the first four years of the 1988-93 intifada, Israel destroyed
786 homes as reprisal against those who took part in the uprising.
The Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip has been targeted for
home demolitions repeatedly, including June 23 and July 10, 2001
and January 15, 2002. The January raid resulted in the demolition
of over 60 refugee homes in retaliation for a fatal attack on
Israeli soldiers the previous day by two gunmen who lived in Rafah
camp. This strategy of collective punishment is in direct violation
of international law: the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly
forbids collective punishment, stating that no resident of an
occupied territory “may be punished for an offense he or
she has not personally committed.”
But why shouldn’t the Israeli government destroy houses
for security reasons?
A. The policy of demolishing houses and destroying the agricultural
land is part of Israel’s defense strategy in the occupied
territories, specifically the creation of “security strips”
intended to prevent attacks against Israeli civilians and security
forces. But the presence of illegal Jewish settlements on confiscated
Palestinian land is an outrage to the Palestinians, creating understandable
anger, bitterness and hatred. Destroying Palestinian homes cannot
bring security; the evacuation of the settlers and the IDF troops
that protect them would do much to alleviate Israel’s “security
What is the situation in East Jerusalem?
A. Over 60,000 Palestinians have lost their residency rights in
East Jerusalem since 1967. As of January 2002, 7,300 Palestinian-built
homes in East Jerusalem are defined as illegal and are in danger
of demolition. Since the 1967 Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem
in 1967, 70,000 government- sponsored housing units have been
built for Jewish Israelis on land which is illegally occupied
under international law . In 2001 alone, 70 Palestinian homes
were demolished in East Jerusalem.
How much agricultural land has been destroyed in Palestine?
A. Between September 29, 2000, and the end of February 2002, Israel
bulldozed more than 8,000 acres of Palestinian land, uprooted
nearly half a million trees, and demolished more than 200 homes
of Palestinian farmers. In both Gaza and the West Bank, thousands
of acres of agricultural land have been razed by the Israeli army
following allegations that olive groves provided shelter to Palestinian
gunmen. An olive tree takes between 5 to 7 years to mature and
start bearing fruit, and some of the uprooted trees were more
than a hundred years old.
But who owns the land on which these homes and farms lie?
A. Since 1967, Israel has confiscated almost 750,000 acres of
land from the 1.5 million acres comprising the West Bank and Gaza
Strip. The Israeli government has confiscated large areas of Palestinian
land in East Jerusalem and designated them areas for exclusive
Jewish use. The settlements of Neve Ya’cub, Pisgat Zeiv,
Ma’ale Adumim, Gilo, the French Hill, Giva’at Shabira
and Har Homa are all built on confiscated Palestinian land. The
Geneva Conventions are very clear: any move by the occupier to
infringe of the rights of the occupied or change the status of
the occupied land through, for example, annexation, confiscation
of resources, population transfer, or destruction of civilian
property is illegal and may constitute a war crime under the Geneva
are the consequences of the land confiscation, closure, and property
destruction for Palestinians?
A. The destruction of Palestinian land has left many farmers in
destitute economic condition. The clearing of land for settlements
is destroying crops on which Palestinian families depend; this
Israeli policy has led to a significant loss of income, impoverishing
already deprived Palestinian agrarian communities. Data on the
extent and value of Palestinian losses can be found at the website
of Al Mezan Center
for Human Rights.
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