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Despite this, illegal construction has reached epidemic proportions. As early as January, 2000, at an East Jerusalem conference , Palestinian Legislative Council member Hatem Abd El-Khader Eid boasted that Arabs had erected 6,000 illegal structures in East Jerusalem in the previous four years, of which less than 200 were demolished by the city. The Palestinian Authority and Arab governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in an intentional campaign to subsidize and encourage massive illegal construction in the Arab sector, seeing this as part of their “demographic war” against Israel; and new Arab construction has outpaced Jewish construction by a significant margin.
These facts, and other nations’ demolition actions, merit no consideration by the NGOs. Not only is their omission an incontrovertible indication of bias against Israel, but the demand inherent in their accusations is irrational. Could anyone ask Manhattanites to tolerate illegal construction in Central Park?
The Counter-terrorism strategy
Another indication of anti-Israel bias is the decontextualization of Israel’s home demolitions.
The epidemic proliferation of illegal Arab construction noted above is part of a strategy initiated by Arafat and funded by Arab countries. This strategy, the “building intifada,” is essentially a land-grab assault on Israeli territory orchestrated by the PA. Thousands of Arab homes built illegally create faits accomplis regarding where Israeli sovereignty ends. This is a part of the Arab terror war against Israel. Israel’s removal of illegal buildings constructed without permit or authorization on Israeli territory is a defensive measure against this sophisticated terrorist attack on its sovereignty.
The “building intifada” is not limited to Jerusalem. Across the West Bank somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 homes have been built illegally; and not all Arabs are happy about it. Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, the PLO’s representative in Jerusalem, took out an ad on the front page of the Al-Quds newspaper on November 14, 2002 condemning the phenomenon as an environmental disaster. Azan Abu Saud, the Director General of the Office of Arab Commerce, recommended demolishing the illegal structures.
But intifada trumps ecology for the PA, and the proliferation of illegal houses in the corridors between Jerusalem and nearby Israeli communities threatens to isolate some of those communities. Local Arabs, with funding and other assistance from the PA and international donors, seized control of thousands of acres of government-owned land, in order to prevent territorial continuity between Jerusalem and these communities. The land in question was purchased from its legal owners in the pre-state era by the Jewish National Fund and lost to Jordan after the 1948 war. Some NGOs have decried Israel’s interference with West Bank contiguity, but the reverse is the case. Even the UN is involved as The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has lent its authority and resources to aid the Palestinian farmers engaged in this illegal land grab.
Home demolition is used by the IDF as a punishment and deterrent to suicide bombers. This type of retribution was used sporadically in the pre-Oslo years (1967-1993) but was suspended during the first decade after the Oslo Accords as Israel ceded counter-terrorism actions to the newly formed Palestinian Authority. It was re- instituted by the IDF after the outbreak of the 2nd intifada. Its effectiveness is proven by some home-owners’ handing over their wanabee suicide-bomber sons, both to save their children’s lives and to save their homes from demolition.
For Israel, demolishing the homes of Palestinian terrorists is a non-lethal defensive response to the suicide bombers and an effective deterrent to future attacks. Almost weekly, Palestinian families turn in their would-be bomber sons for fear of losing their homes, say Israeli field commanders. “I know of people who, having had houses destroyed, rebuild and refuse to allow stone throwers or gunmen to operate nearby,” says Palestinian human rights activist Bassam Eid (quoted from an article by Dan Williams in Reuters, April 10, 2003). For anecdotal documentation see here, here and here.
Thanks to the threat of home destructions hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Israeli and Arab lives have been saved. Under attack for more than a decade, Israel must decide where it wants the casualties when it employs defensive measures to protect its civilians. By demolishing terrorists’ homes, the casualties are buildings, not people.
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