Israel destroys Sheikh Jarrah home in cruel and criminal act

Armed forces stand in field near rubble and Hyundai bulldozer

Israeli Border Police stand near the rubble of the Salhiya home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah after demolishing it on 19 January.

Jamal Awad APA images

Israeli police demolished the home of the Salhiya family in the middle of the night on Wednesday, in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Around 3:30 am, Israeli police raided the home and forcibly removed the family and activists.

The police used stun grenades and arrested more than a dozen people before razing the house to the ground.

“The family have no place to go,” the Norwegian Refugee Council said of the seven residents, including five children.

“Children’s physical and psychological well-being is now at risk, having witnessed their home turn into rubble in the dark.”

“These cruel acts turn the Salhiyas into two-time refugees,” Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

“This is what apartheid and persecution looks like. Perpetrators of these crimes against humanity should be prosecuted and sanctioned.”

The Salhiya family originates from Ein Karem, a village west of Jerusalem. They were ethnically cleansed from their homes during the Nakba, the 1948 expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians in order to establish Israel. They had lived in the home Israel just destroyed for decades.

Israeli forces arrived at the Salhiya home on Monday in an earlier attempt to demolish it, but Mahmoud Salhiya and activists stayed on the roof while Salhiya threatened to set himself and the house ablaze if the demolition went forward.

On that day, the Israeli army destroyed the family’s business, a plant nursery.

European, British and Canadian diplomats staged photo-ops near the Salhiya home on Monday to “bear witness” to what they acknowledged was a violation of international law by Israel.

However, their theatrics and toothless protests did nothing to deter Israel from coming back days later to complete the destruction.

Ir Amim, an Israeli group that monitors settlement activity in Jerusalem, said Israeli authorities “were presented with multiple options” that would allow the Salhiya family “to remain safely in their homes.”

But “they chose instead to cynically dispossess a Palestinian family.”

The family was in the process of appealing the case to Israel’s high court, their attorney told Tel Aviv daily Haaretz.

Cynical excuse

Israel seized and destroyed the Salhiya home on the pretext that it is needed to build a school for Palestinians.

The Israeli-occupation municipality claims the school will serve “hundreds of children with special needs from all over East Jerusalem.”

The Israeli police even posted a video of the demolition, saying the planned school would “benefit” the community.

But Ir Amim said there was a nearby plot of land that could have been used to build a school.

However, Israel has allocated that land for a yeshiva – a Jewish religious school – that will help consolidate the presence of Israeli settlers in occupied East Jerusalem in violation of international law.

“Clearly the thought of building schools for Palestinians in place of a new yeshiva in Sheikh Jarrah is inconceivable in the eyes of the Israeli authorities,” Ir Amim added.

“They’d rather force a Palestinian family out of their homes to meet such needs.”

The cynicism of the Israeli move is made even more transparent by how Israel, the occupying power in East Jerusalem, has for decades neglected education for Palestinians in the city, leading to a severe shortage of classrooms.

Meanwhile, Israel has massively expanded its Jewish colonial settlements in and around occupied East Jerusalem.

All of a sudden, Israel is interested in building schools for Palestinians, but apparently the only place it could find to do so is over the ruins of a Palestinian home.

Israeli authorities carried out the demolition using Hyundai equipment, effectively contributing to a war crime, as it was called by Human Rights Watch.

Palestinians have long called on the South Korean conglomerate to halt the use of its equipment by Israel in the commission of such crimes.

Under the cover of night

Israel chose to carry out the demolition in the middle of the night, when there would be fewer cameras, reporters and activists present.

It was clearly an attempt to avoid a PR disaster.

After all, it was Israel’s efforts to force other families out of their homes in Sheikh Jarrah last spring that escalated into a full-scale confrontation with Palestinians, including Israel’s 11-day bombardment of Gaza in May.

Building a school is not a valid pretext for Israel violating international law and making a Palestinian family homeless. But it is also impossible to take the Israeli-controlled municipality at its word.

Once the land is in the hands of Israel, there is no telling what will be done with it.

For decades, Israel has made promises of building housing and other infrastructure for Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, only to break them.

At the same time it has accelerated colonization of the land exclusively for the benefit of Jews – a situation Palestinians and human rights groups accurately describe as apartheid.

Ali Abunimah contributed reporting.




Thanks for noting Hyundai's participation in this crime. The South Korean manufacturer sells Israel equipment specifically designed for the destruction of Palestinian homes. They're not forced to do it. And as a global corporation with numerous subsidiaries, their profits are not dependent on this disgusting venture. Hyundai's directors choose to engage in war crimes and crimes against humanity because in their view it's the right thing to do. What other explanation can there be? Wrecking the homes of refugees and crushing their hopes for freedom is all in a day's work for this gigantic enterprise. They've been named for years by the BDS campaign and others as major abettors of ethnic cleansing, with boycott resolutions aimed at convincing the company to desist. To date they have taken no action in that direction. Here's their three page company declaration on human rights-
Readers will note the bulk (if that's the word) of this slim set of pledges relate to the internal workings of the company. But there's also this-
"We will prevent any case of human rights infringement and at the same time will not be involved in or abet any incident of human rights invasion within the applicable range of our Human Rights Policy."
And this-
"Hyundai Motor Company recognizes the responsibility to respect the universally accepted human rights in all business activities and in providing products and services. "
Given Hyundai's prominent role in these crimes- openly contravening their own guidelines- isn't it time they were held accountable? I hope this site will do a feature on the company's complicity. And no one who values Palestinian lives should buy their products as long as Hyundai engages in these war crimes.


As the owner of a Hyundai vehicle, I am appalled at the parent company's complicity with Israeli apartheid policies against Palestinians. As a consequence I will not replace my vehicle with another Hyundai one and I urge other motorists to do likewise.

Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.