JERUSALEM -- On April 3, the Associated Press in Jerusalem
reported, "An Israeli wrecking crew knocked down Shadi Hamdan's home in an
Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem in just a couple of hours, reducing the
upholsterer's savings to a pile of gray rubble . . . Since 2004, Israel has
leveled more than 300 homes in Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods, citing a lack of
building permits. However, critics say the permits are virtually impossible to
obtain and consider the demolitions part of a decades-old policy to limit
Palestinian population growth in the disputed city." 
"Were Israelis and Palestinians to have an equal chance
to get a building permit . . . it wouldn't be a human rights issue. It's a
human rights issue because it's intentional and purposeful housing
discrimination." said Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights
The Hamden home was first demolished by Israel in 2005 but
volunteers rebuilt it last July. "Former Jerusalem city council member and
Meir Margalit, one of Hamdan's supporters, said his group won't be deterred and
plans to rebuild again." 
The AP failed to report that Meir's group is ICAHD/ Israeli
Committee Against House Demolitions, a non-violent civil do something group
opposed to the occupation of Palestine and which resists by standing up to the
bulldozers that demolish and then rebuilding what Israel had destroyed.
The AP also failed to
report the on site arrest of Prof. Jeff Halper, an American Israeli, Founder
and Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. Jeff was
arrested once again for trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home.
On April 3, it was a close friend of Jeff's and last summer's crew of ICAHD
volunteers who had rebuilt the Hamdan home.
"In a telephone interview with Adnkronos International
(AKI), Halper, said that the Israeli occupation Jerusalem municipality had
carried out the demolition . . . 'As Israelis, we are privileged,' he told AKI.
'They [police] are not going to shoot us if we resist the demolition, but if a
Palestinian had done it, they would have certainly shot him.'" 
While in Jerusalem on July 16, 2007, this American civilian
journalist witnessed 25 ICAHD volunteers -- internationals, Israelis and
Palestinians -- who became a community upon the rocky, barren land of the
Hamdan clan as they broke ground and laid the foundation. The ICAHD crew was
intent upon handing the keys of the once again rebuilt home over to Hassan
Yussef Hamdan and his family within two weeks. That mission was accomplished on
The land has legally been owned by the Hamdan clan -- with
the deeds filled out in Hassan Yussef's great-grandfather's name -- since the
The oldest son Mohammed's grandmother, Um Mohammad,
addressed the media on ICAHD's summer kick-off commitment to rebuild 300 of
the, so far, 18,000 Palestinian homes the Israeli government has destroyed,
creating 18,000 homeless families who legally own their land but are denied the
right to build upon it.
The diminutive woman's Arabic was translated into English by
Nadia, another ICAHD volunteer, while the foundation of the house was being
laid, "We own 25 pieces of land, 25 meters is one piece. After building
our home here, we received papers demanding we demolish our own home. We got a
lawyer in Tel Aviv, and, after paying $10,000, she did nothing. The soldiers
came under our window and we hired another lawyer and had to pay 70,000 shekels
within two hours to hold off the soldiers. The soldiers came back two more
times, after more negotiations the soldiers came back a third time and
destroyed our home."
ICAHD spokesman Meir Margalit admitted, "We are here
because we are embarrassed and ashamed of our government. A decent person
cannot handle what this government puts innocent people through. We are doing
this for both sides; for the innocent families and to keep the moral values of
According to international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention
forbids home demolitions in occupied territories and demands that the occupiers
maintain the status quo and not pilfer the resources of the indigenous
But last Wednesday, in the 'Holy' Land, a crane-mounted
jackhammer tore down the Hamdan's home that had broken ground on July 16, 2007.
On that day of a
beginning again, American Israeli, Aviva Joseph spoke, "We are here
building on the 9th day of Av, the day the Jewish Temple was destroyed . . . I
was born in Chile into an Orthodox Zionist home. Both my parents are Holocaust
survivors. When I was 10 I use to go to Bethlehem, but after the first
intifada, things began closing down; physical walls and psychological walls. I
lived in Gilo, some call it a settlement, some a neighborhood, and I lived in a
small box with my own myth. Now I live in California and things you see from
there you can't see here and other things you must come here to see what cannot
be seen anywhere else. I love Israel but until I began listening to the voices
of the marginalized did I see I was living my own myth. The work is not just in
the head, but in the heart; opening both sides to a new paradigm with
compassion. It must be like hydrogen and oxygen the sides coming together; who
could have thought that would make water?"
Ashraf Abu Moch, Israeli Palestinian and ICAHD Volunteer, is
famous for saying, "We all need a psychiatrist, but we cannot afford one,
so we do activism."
It was in December 2005, that I first met Jeff in his ICAHD
office on Ben Yehuda Street, in West Jerusalem, next door to the Burger King.
Jeff is from Hibbing, Minnesota, and knew Bob Dylan when he
was still Zimmerman. Jeff smiled when he told me, "It was during the
Vietnam years that I told my grandmother that I was moving to Israel and she
replied, 'That is no place for a nice Jewish boy!'"
Jeff continued, "Israel has no constitution but has a
Declaration of Independence which promised that Israel would abide by
conditions and UN resolutions. They have not fulfilled the agreement which was
the basis of their independence."
The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel
was signed May 14, 1948, the day the British Mandate over Palestine expired.
The USA recognized Israel that very night and the USSR three days later.
The Declaration affirms that the state of Israel: "Will
be based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisioned by the prophets of
Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all
its inhabitants irrespective of religion . . . and will guarantee freedom of
religion, conscience, education and culture: it will safeguard the Holy places
of all religions, and it will be faithful to the principals of the Charter of
the United Nations."
Jeff also spoke during December 2005's Holy Land Trust's
Celebrating Nonviolent Resistance Conference, in Bethlehem. Members of Hamas
attended but Israel denied entry to Gandhian activists from India and many
internationals for having histories of speaking up for human rights for
Jeff informed the conference crowd, "We really are only
but actors in a play. When we wake up to that, and become an active participant
in the human drama and pursue justice, things must change because injustice is
unsustainable . . . One out of three Israeli children lives below the poverty
line. It's probably about 80 percent for Palestinians. Jews are like everyone
else, those who have been abused grow up to be abusers. Things here have been
turned on their head: it's victim mentality and denial about the occupation.
Once Israelis accept the fact that they are occupiers they will have to admit
their state terrorism."
During other interviews and conferences Jeff said, "It
was at the time when the Oslo peace plan collapsed and the occupation
reasserted itself. Many Israeli peace activists began asking Palestinians what
the best way to engage with each other was and the answer was blowing in the
wind: 'STOP the home demolitions!'
"Since 1967 the Israeli government has destroyed over
18,000 Palestinian homes. 95 percent of the cases have nothing to do with
security. All these homes are on Palestinian private property. The Israeli
government will not grant permits for them to build on their own land, and, in
reality, are quietly transferring the Palestinians administratively from the
land. They make conditions so intolerable that the Palestinians give up and
leave and this is exactly what they are after. Not only do the Palestinians
receive no warning when their homes are to be destroyed they are fined $1,500!
"I'll get a call at 5 a.m. from a Palestinian telling
me the bulldozers have arrived and we activists go out and engage in civil
disobedience by standing up to the bulldozers. We also raise funds to rebuild
these homes right where they had been before.
"The reasons for the demolitions are: for The Wall, to
establish illegal settlements, build roads and because the Israeli government
wants to keep Palestinians confined to the islands [areas A and B] in the West
Bank and so Palestinian land remain under the control of the Israeli
"When you incorporate occupied territories, highways,
settlements and use resources, it is all illegal according to the Fourth Geneva
Convention which states the status quo must be retained so that negotiations
can happen. Unilateral actions are illegal. The occupying power is responsible
for those under its control.
"Tony Blair said 70 percent of all the conflicts in the
world can be traced back to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What gives us
hope is that as this conflict worsens maybe Europe will figure out that
American policies are against their interests and intervene . . . This conflict
impacts the global community and especially everyone in the USA.
"If we do fix this conflict it would be a tremendous
step forward in global reconciliation . . . This whole issue is based on Human
Rights and it is a global issue requiring global intervention.
"It has been said that the Israelis do not love this
land, they just want to possess it. There have been three stages to make this
occupation permanent. The first was to establish the facts on the ground; the
settlements. There are a half-million Israeli's and 4 million Palestinians
here. They have been forced into Bantustan, truncated mini states; prison
states. It is apartheid and Bush and Hillary are both willing collaborators.
"Israel is not a democracy, it is an ethnocracy: full
rights to Jews, but not Palestinians.
"In 1977, Sharon came in with a mandate, money and
resources to make the Israeli presence in the West Bank irreversible. The
second stage began in April 2004 when America approved the
Apartheid/Convergence/Realignment Plan and eight settlement blocs. This is just
like South Africa! The Bush-Sharon letter exchange guaranteed that the USA
considers the settlements non-negotiable. The Convergence Plan and The Wall
create the borders and that is what defines Bantustans. Congress ratified the
Bush plan and only Senator Byrd of West Virginia voted no and nine House
"Israel has set up a matrix of control; a thick web of
settlements guaranteed to make the occupation permanent by establishing facts
on the ground. Israel denies there is an occupation, so everything is reduced
to terrorism. It is our job to insist upon the human rights issue, for occupied
people have international law on their side."
I asked Jeff if the
settlements were in actuality colonies; meaning foreigners had invaded and set
up residence in another's territory. He agreed and added that, "When
Jerusalem was controlled by Jordan, the East side was 6 sq. km. Since 1967,
Israel has added 64 km. The West side was 38 sq. km until '67 and is now 108
sq. km's. Israel plans to develop 17 settlements. Israeli policy is to maintain
a 72 percent Jewish and 28 percent Arab population. Palestinians cannot get
building permits to build upon their legally owned land. The Arab land has been
re-zoned as green space, and the green space will be re-zoned for the
settlements. Every single Palestinian home in Jerusalem has a demolition order.
The entire West Bank has been zoned as agricultural land by Israel, and that
will also be re-zoned again for more settlements."
Orwellian doublespeak has also been employed in the USA
government and media to turn the illegal colonies -- for all the settlements are
considered illegal according to International Law -- into
Linking the settlements in a ring around the Old City of
Jerusalem, the Eastern Ring Road has bridges for Israelis but Palestinians are
denied access and must drive through sewage and tunnels. During an ICAHD bus
tour, I rode past acres of olive trees that had been chopped off by the Israeli
army, on our way to another repeatedly built house; The Beit Arabiya Peace
On the way, Jeff said, "I don't just have a political
problem with this Judiaization of the Old City, it is ecologically and
I add it also is spiritually impoverished. The raping and
pillaging of what is claimed holy ground refutes and denies the biblical
meaning of dominion. The ancients understood dominion meant to nurture, love
and protect and the destruction of Palestinian homes, the stealing and
destroying of their legal property, is an abomination unto God and crime
The Beit Arabiya Peace House, is at the crossroads of Areas
A, B and C and has been demolished and rebuilt at least four times by now. The
owner received his fifth demolition order in 2006.
Beit Arabiya is the name of the home of the Arabiya family
with seven children. Their home has been rebuilt by the efforts of ICAHD and
the JCHR/Jurist Center for Human Rights, a Palestinian NGO focused on legal
advocacy for Palestinians in the Jerusalem area.
The home has become a meeting place for Israelis,
Palestinian and International peace activists and is the cornerstone and
intersecting point of Areas A, B, and C. The smallest of the three is Area A,
which is under Palestinian authority. Areas B and C are under Israeli control.
Since 1967 over 18,000 Palestinian families in the occupied territories have been
left homeless due to house demolitions.
According to Jeff Halper, the reasons for these house
demolitions are purely political: to confine the 3.5 million residents of the
West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza into small, crowded, impoverished and
Upon the wall of the Beit Arabyia home was a mural donated
by the North American Workers Against the USA occupation of Iraq and the
Israeli occupation of Palestine. The mural depicts Rachel Corrie, the American
who was run over by a Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza when she stood up to defend
the home of a pharmacist with five children. Also depicted is the pregnant
Palestinian mother of 10 who, too, was run over by a Caterpillar in Gaza. The
angelic images of the two women float above a depiction of a USA made
Caterpillar bulldozer tipped to one side and flanked by tanks and weapons of
destruction. On both sides of the weapons of destruction are many people. A
railroad track reminds the viewer that prior to 1948, Jews and Palestinians
once worked together in peaceful solidarity to build a railroad.
The Arabyia home/Peace Center is the cornerstone of the
village of Anata and the Shufat refugee camp, in the very area where the
prophet Jeremiah in the 6th century B.C. critiqued the violent conflicts in the
Mideast, which were already old news: "I hear violence and destruction in
the city, sickness and wounds are all I see." [Jeremiah 6:7]
Mohammad Alatar, film producer of "The Ironwall,"
addressed our group after we broke bread and ate a typical Palestinian feast
prepared by the Arabiya family: "I am a Muslim Palestinian American and
when my son asked me who my hero was I took three days to think about it. I
told him my hero is Jesus, because he took a stand and he died for it. What
really needs to be done is for the churches to be like Jesus; to challenge the
Israeli occupation and address the apartheid practices as moral issues. Even if
every church divested and boycotted Israel it would not harm Israel. After the
USA and Russia, Israel is the third largest arms exporter in the world. It is a
moral issue that the churches must address."
In 2005, Jeff told me that every time he is arrested and
sentenced to community service for his ICAHD actions, he tells the judge,
"I am serving the community but they just don't get it! . . . The Israeli
government simply does not want to take responsibility and the USA government
ignores the situation.
"Look, Christ was all about justice and love. Jesus was
no magician and his message has been lost by Christian Zionists who want
Armageddon. They have taken Jesus' teachings and turned them into a travesty by
justifying the occupation.
"Do you know why Israel does not want to become
America's 51st state? Because then they would only have two senators!"
home razed in Jerusalem, April 3, 2008, AP
Activist Tries to Prevent Demolishing Palestinian Home, Arrested
Jeff Halper Placed under House Arrest by Israeli Police, April 4, 2008, PMC
Memoirs of a Nice Irish-American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied
Territory, Eileen Fleming
Fleming, reporter and editor WAWA,
author "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American
'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory," producer "30 Minutes With
Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu"