The photographers of the group Activestills have documented Volvo equipment being used for the illegal construction of the wall and the settlements, and the demolition of Palestinian houses in Israel and occupied Palestine. Activestills gave special permission to publish some of the images on The Electronic Intifada to inform a wider audience about the systematic use of Volvo equipment in house demolitions in East Jerusalem.
The Israeli government zoned almost all the undeveloped Palestinian land in East Jerusalem as “open green space” after 1967. The Israeli leaders decided to increase the Jewish population in East Jerusalem rapidly, to hinder growth of the Palestinian population and to force Palestinian residents to make their homes elsewhere. Withholding permission from Palestinians to build houses in East Jerusalem and the demolition of Palestinian houses fit in this policy. Houses built before 1967 and houses built without a permit more than seven years ago are considered “legal” by Israel. For all the other Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem Israel thinks it can justify demolition. West Jerusalem city engineer Shitreet gave a bizarre example of reasoning, “We can bar residents from entering their homes, even if we can’t destroy them.” And by sealing the homes and preventing the Palestinian residents from entering their homes, they can be demolished after some time as “abandoned” or “absentee” property.
House demolition in Silwan, East Jerusalem
Without any prior warning the house of Mahmoud Ahmad al-Abbasi in al-Sweih neighborhood in Silwan was demolished by Jerusalem municipality bulldozers on 16 January 2007 under the pretext of being unlicensed. The house gave shelter to six people. According to the Land Research Center, al-Abbasi said after the demolition, “The soldiers behaved terribly with the residents of the neighborhood. I wasn’t in the place at the time of the demolition. I knew about the soldiers heading there, so I rushed back and asked the police officer and the representative of the municipality to show me the demolition order. They said ‘we’ll show you,’ after which they handcuffed and transported me to the nearby police station until the demolition was completed. They even demolished the lower section of the house which was not included in the demolition order. The soldiers even beat a number of my relatives and people from the neighborhood and detained a number of them at the police station until the demolition was done.”
31 Palestinians homeless in Sur-Baher, East Jerusalem
Six days later the four-story building with eight housing units owned by the sons of Mohammed Hammad A’mas in Sur Baher was demolished by bulldozers of the Jerusalem municipality accompanied by Israeli security personnel. One son rushed to the house when he heard about the demolition. He was beaten by the police and detained in a police jeep along with his brother-in-law to prevent him from reaching his house. Later they were transferred to al-Mukabber police station where they were kept until the demolition was over. The building was demolished under the premise that it was built without a proper permit.
Israel strikes again in Sur-Baher, East Jerusalem
Forty-one Palestinians were made homeless on 14 March 2007 when the house owned by Ali Isma’il Abu Sarhan and four housing units owned by Musa Shehada ‘Attun was demolished in Sur-Baher. Ali Abu Sarhan lived with his ten-member family in the house since 2002. Palestine News Network reported, “Abu Sarhan was surprised to find a large presence of police and border guards, along with the municipal crews who began removing furniture from the house while the bulldozers got started on the other side. A building not yet inhabited was also destroyed. The house was constructed, but the owner was awaiting a building permit from the Jerusalem municipality to move in since 2003. He said, ‘When I saw the police and bulldozers I went to the Jerusalem municipality to again postpone, but they would not. I spent half a million shekels building this home.’”
Demolition of Palestinian houses by Israel must stop
On 20 March 2007 an Activestills photographer registered the demolition of Abu Snena’s family house in Vadi Qadum, East Jerusalem. The Land Research Center registered that 97 housing units in East Jerusalem were demolished in 2007, leaving 218 adults and 311 children under the age of 18 homeless. In 2006 the center documented the demolition of 78 housing units in East Jerusalem.
The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits any destruction by the occupying power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the state, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. The house demolitions in East Jerusalem serve no military purpose. They serve the aim of the Israeli occupier of East Jerusalem to force Palestinians out of town. In former Yugoslavia such policies were called ethnic cleansing. Volvo should take its code of conduct seriously and stay away from these vile practices.
Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate.
All images by Keren Manor/Activestills.