Quakers urge action to halt demolitions in occupied West Bank
Quaker Peace & Social Witness and EAPPI UK and Ireland signed the following statement. Take action by writing to your MP asking them to raise these concerns with the government.
Surge in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes condemned by 31 international organisations
Thirty-one aid, faith, human rights, and development organisations are calling on world leaders to take urgent action to halt ongoing demolitions and hold the government of Israel accountable for the wanton destruction of Palestinian property and of projects funded by international aid in the occupied West Bank.
During a surge in demolitions this week, the Israeli army demolished at least 63 homes and basic structures across 10 Palestinian communities in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank where Israel has maintained full military and civil control. Among the demolished structures were 12 basic humanitarian necessities, including a solar panel, a portable latrine, animal pens, and tents financed by the European Union.
The organisations said that international donors should seek to recover the financial costs of their destroyed structures and commit to resupplying the aid. In May 2012, the European Union stated publicly that it expected the government of Israel to protect its aid in Area C. Since then, hundreds of aid items funded by European and other donors have been demolished or seized. At least 356 structures, including 81 internationally funded aid items, have already been demolished in Area C this year.
All told, demolitions this week rendered 132 people homeless, including 82 children, accounting for a quarter of the displacement from demolitions in 2015 and marking the highest number of people rendered homeless from demolitions in nearly three years.
Demolitions are pushing Palestinians to the brink and destroying prospects for peace. Instead of developing their communities and their livelihood, thousands of Palestinians in Area C are living in misery with the constant fear that tomorrow, their home could be gone and they could be forced to leave their land.
- Catherine Essoyan, Oxfam Regional Chair
These demolitions are being carried out against the backdrop of the government of Israel's plan to 'relocate' 7,000 Palestinians living in 46 communities throughout Area C. The international community has repeatedly called on the government of Israel to cancel the 'relocation' plan. The plan affects Bedouin and herding communities in the central parts of the West Bank, including the E1 area around Jerusalem, where the government of Israel plans to expand settlements, which are illegal under international law. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon among others has said if implemented, Israel's proposed 'relocation' plan would amount to forced transfer.
Forced transfer and wanton destruction of private property both constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Such a breach carries specific third state obligations, as well as individual criminal liability, and is codified as a war crime.
“The rapid increase in demolitions shows that we must move beyond words towards concerted action to stop these violations of international law. Grave breaches of international humanitarian law could soon become the norm. We will not achieve a just and durable solution to the conflict without first ensuring respect for international humanitarian law," said Tony Laurance, Chief Executive Officer of Medical Aid for Palestinians.
Some of the communities affected by the 'relocation' plan were amongst the hardest hit by the demolitions this week, raising concern that the government of Israel is using coercive tactics to squeeze Palestinian residents out. But, Palestinian communities outside the plan are also facing a similar fate. The Palestinian village of Susiya, which is not one of the communities within the plan, could additionally be facing mass demolition and forced transfer in the coming weeks.
The government of Israel justifies demolitions and transfer of communities in Area C, part of the internationally recognised occupied Palestinian territory, on the grounds that they lack Israeli planning and building permits, which are routinely denied to Palestinians. The inability to build and develop makes Palestinians vulnerable to home demolition, displacement, and forcible transfer and limits their ability to realise their rights to water, adequate housing, education, health, and dignified livelihoods.
Local and international aid organisations have faced increasingly severe restrictions from the government of Israel when responding to these needs, in violation of Israel's obligation to facilitate the effective delivery of aid.
The organisations to sign the statement are:
- Action Against Hunger
- Amnesty International
- Asamblea de Cooperacion por la Paz (ACPP)
- Broederlijk Delen
- Christian Aid
- Church of Sweden
- EAPPI UK and Ireland
- Embrace the Middle East
- Gruppo di Volontariato Civile
- Heinrich Boll Foundation
- Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights
- Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP – UK)
- Oxfam Overseas
- Open Shuhada Street South Africa
- Norwegian Church Aid
- Norwegian People's Aid
- Palestine Solidarity
- Association of Sweden
- Pax Christi Flanders
- Pax Christi International
- Premiere Urgence Aide Medicale Internationale (PU-AMI)
- Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW)
- Secours Islamique France
- The Lutheran World Federation
- Vento di Terra