According to a report Thursday by the joint Palestinian-International grassroots organization, ‘Stop the Wall’, at least twenty homes have been bulldozed in the past month, most of them in the Bethlehem area along the route of Israeli construction of the annexation Wall.
The homes have been bulldozed with the pretext that they are lacking the required permits. No permits have been issued to Palestinian homeowners since 1967.
One human rights activist, Mike Odetalla, in Bethlehem stated, "Today, ringed by Jewish settlements and the 30-foot high concrete wall that strangles Palestinian cities and villages, Bethlehem is virtually cut off from the rest of Palestine, its lands, water and other resources expropriated by Israel in a relentless effort to make life ever more unbearable for the Palestinians who call it home."
The ‘Stop the Wall’ campaign stated in its press release Thursday, "Houses are demolished under the pretext of missing permits – a common tool used to expel Palestinians – ensuring the theft of lands for construction of settlements or military zones. Around 20 houses have been destroyed over the last month, erasing more Palestinian lives and history."
Another human rights observer writing from al-Walaje village, near Bethlehem, describes the ordeal the villagers have been going through to try to save their homes, as the Wall’s construction approaches the village:
"The people of al-Walaje are still struggling desperately to cope with their horrendous situation. The residents have hired lawyers in groups to try and defend their homes. A group of 25 homes were asked by the Israeli Authorities to submit a Zoning Plan. They were told to hire an Architect, something which is extremely expensive, and then submit their plan. In good faith, the residents, desperate to save their homes, hired an architect and submitted their Zoning Plan to the Israeli Courts.
Last Friday, the 10th of February, the Israeli Courts replied to the Zoning Plan for the village which had been submitted. They said that they could not consider it, because the villagers in al-Walaje, who submitted the plan, hold West Bank ID cards, not Jerusalem ID cards. Israel annexed a part of the village in 1967, but didn’t inform the villagers until 1985 that they were not living in ‘Israel’. They now refuse to give the villagers Jerusalem ID cards, despite the fact that the villagers, who are refugees from 1948, have owned their land and lived on it since well before 1967, when it was illegally annexed.
Now that the submission of a Zoning Plan has been rejected, and there is no possibility for the residents to submit another one, they expect the 25 homes to be demolished very soon."
The human rights observers note that the destruction of homes by Israeli authorities, which has resulted in at least 27,000 Palestinians being made homeless since the beginning of the current initfada in 2000, is illegal under international law and human rights agreements, and ask, "The rule of law, either domestically or internationally, does not and will not ever work unless there are sanctions or punishments for those who break the rules. Where are the punishments for Israel? Who is willing to stand up and take a stand? Obviously not world leaders, so who will help the people of al-Walaje?"