Unless we all make contact with our MPs there is no way they will realise the strength of feeling in support of the Palestinians within their constituencies.
Here is the text of a speech made by Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Malton and Thirsk, in yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate, in which he gives a moving account of the horrors facing Palestinians.
‘Effect of Israeli demolitions on Palestinian communities’
Today it seems that a two-state solution is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve, buried under settlements and settlement blocs, the Separation Barrier and a vast sprawl of military bases. The displacement of entire communities create irreversible steps away from any peaceful resolution of this conflict.
According to Israeli authorities, Palestinian homes are demolished for a number of different reasons: either the land is declared by Israel as ‘agricultural land’ or ‘open green
space;’ they have no building permit (which Israeli authorities rarely grant to Palestinians); their houses are too near settlements or Israeli highways; the ‘clearing’ of land for military/security purposes; for expanding roads and the ‘Separation Barrier;’ where houses are ‘cleared’ to make passage safe for settlers or for other security purposes and homes representing ‘collateral damage’.
Unfortunately, house demolitions have stood at the centre of Israel’s approach to “the Arab problem” since the state’s conception. The house demolition policy goes far beyond mere administrative and military means to contain or force out an entire population. From 1948 till the present, it represents a policy of displacement, of one people dispossessing another, taking both their lands and their right to self-determination.
Since 1967 when the Occupation began in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza,
almost 50,000 Palestinian homes and structures have been demolished – displacing hundreds of thousands of Palestinian men, women and children. So much Palestinian land has been lost, so fragmented has the Palestinian territory become, that one could argue that no coherent and contiguous territory exists. This issue was bought to my attention by two of my constituents, Anthony Glaister and Dr David Worth who highlighted many injustices and the horrendous case of Nuha Maqqdmeh Sweidan in Amnesty’s report Under the Rubble.
Nuha, a Gazan mother of 10 and nine months pregnant, was killed when the house next to hers was destroyed by Israeli troops. Her husband recalled, “We were in bed, the children were asleep,” “There was an explosion and walls collapsed on top of us. I pulled myself from under the rubble….I started to dig in the rubble with my hands. First, I found my two little boys and my three-year-old girl…. One by one we found the other children, but my wife remained trapped under the rubble with our youngest daughter, who is two. She was holding her when the wall fell on her….”
In recent weeks, the village council of Susiya in the Israeli occupied West Bank is facing the prospect of demolition which could take place any day now. Around a fifth of the village is due to be demolished, leaving 100 people without homes, half of whom are children.
Other homes are demolished in military actions or as acts of deterrence and collective punishment, with little process. No formal demolition orders, no warnings, and often no time to remove furniture or personal belongings.
The Israeli authorities claim that these demolitions are not intended as punishment, but rather to “deter” Palestinians from getting involved in attacks. However, “The demolition of a home is the demolition of a family,” so said Salim Shawamreh after experiencing his home being demolished. A home is not only a physical structure; it is the centre of our lives, the site of our most intimate personal life, an expression of our identity, tastes and social status.
The human suffering entailed in the process of destroying a family’s home is incalculable. The idea that demolishing someone’s home would in turn ‘deter’ aggression seems to be an ill-conceived concept at best, and it is time that action is taken. Both states must adopt a moderate approach in order to come to a lasting resolution. For too long now extremists on both side of the conflict have coloured the language and moderates must now sow the seeds of solution.
There is no doubt that there have been faults on both sides of the conflict which has led to claims of justification for previous atrocities. Nevertheless, if a truly independent arbitrator were to bring other moderates around the table, I believe that this would go much further towards a lasting peace settlement.