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There are two reasons why Israel demolishes Arab homes: response to illegal construction and non-lethal counter-terrorism measures.
Many NGOs condemn Israeli demolition of Arab homes as illegal collective punishment or random acts of harassment. The credibility of these accusations, and of the accusers themselves, is destroyed when one notices that home demolitions take place throughout the world, yet the accusers ignore all but Israel’s.
The one-sided nature of NGO condemnations has been analyzed by Dr. Justus Reid Weiner. Weiner documents numerous countries where home demolitions are carried out:
USA: Eminent domain and illegal squatting are standard reasons for municipal demolition.
USA in Iraq: The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the US army destroyed at least a dozen homes belonging to family members of guerrilla suspects in and around Tikrit, as a counter-terrorism tactic. These actions were approved by the commander of the Fourth Infantry Division and considered “…within the rules of war” by the overall commander for U.S. forces in Iraq.
Lebanon: Army troops in Beirut demolished illegal houses built without permits, and used rifle fire to disperse residents.
China, Thailand and India offer many examples of squatters, including some who claim legal ownership with deeds and property tax receipts, driven by force from homes.
Kosovo: UN used armed forces to carry out demolition orders against squatters.
Nigeria: Thousands were rendered homeless as government police destroyed homes built illegally on government land.
Egypt: The al-Ahram newspaper reported (March 3, 2004) that 8000 residents were rendered homeless in one village as almost 1500 homes were demolished. These were acknowledged to be the homes of legal residents, but their village was on a site scheduled for development to attract tourism. MEMRI gives additional examples of demolitions rendering thousands homeless, even as residents claim to have proof of ownership.
Brazil: The federal government has been waging a long war of home demolition against the “favelas” (slums) section of Rio de Janeiro; but according to some these” favelas” are not slums but simply low-income neighborhoods whose residents are property owners with legal possession or renters with proof of rent payment.
Palestinian Authority: Even the Palestinian Authority (PA) has demolished houses of its Arab residents which the PA claims were constructed illegally. PA leader Sari Nusseibeh validated this accusation with a statement that the “gangs that build illegally on land that does not belong to them should be thrown into jail.”
It is important to note that many NGOs routinely accept as proof the anecdotal accounts of unspecified and unidentified complaints, with no name of village, no location specificity, and no identity of which authority controls the area. Such complaints can be easily fabricated and cannot be checked for accuracy. Thus is becomes likely that many complaints about home destruction in the West Bank are fiction, or at least unrelated to Israel because the homes in question were demolished not by Israel but by the PA.
And some of our mainstream media outlets participate in this disingenuous journalism, even when contradicted by known facts. A typical example is the New York Times article of July 9, 2005 covering the controversial demolition of Arab homes in the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem. As CAMERA demonstrates, unsubstantiated Arab claims of discrimination against Palestinians in issuing building permits, and Israeli attempts to cut the West Bank in half by extending the borders of Jerusalem, were reported as fact, even as both Israeli and PA spokespersons cite statistics to show that these claims are false. Chief Palestinian demographer, Khalil Tufakji, admitted in a CNN interview (September 19, 1998), “We can build inside Jerusalem, legal, illegal — rebuild a house, whatever, we can do. Maybe we lose ten houses, but in the end we build 40 more …” Tufakji’s statement is confirmed by an Israeli report readily available to the Times’ journalist, and by the research of Justus Reid Weiner noted above (and in his book noted below).
According to a 2006 study, since 1997 Jerusalem Arabs build in excess of 10,000 illegal homes a year in the Jerusalem area and only about 100 (one percent) have been demolished by Israeli authorities. The frenetic pace of illegal construction in Jerusalem is documented in Justus Weiner’s comprehensive study: Illegal Construction in Jerusalem: A Variation on an Alarming Global Phenomenon. Weiner demonstrates that some NGOs simply lie about the realities of Israeli actions against Arab construction. There is the wide-spread accusation that Arab Jerusalemites have no choice but to build their homes illegally since the municipality systematically rejects their applications for building permits. But the Jerusalem municipality has authorized more than 36,000 permits for new housing units in the Arab sector, more than enough to meet the needs of Arab residents through legal construction until 2020.
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