Friday, March 13, 2009

Update - Um Kamel and Home Wrecking

Um Kamel
As promised I want to update you on the case of the woman who was evicted from her home that she has lived in for over 50 years, a couple of months ago, after she won a law suit to remove the settlers that were living in half of her home for three years. For those who did not read the original story you can find it in the archive on the panel to the right. A few weeks ago Um Kamel had her date in court that I told you about. The court room only holds eight people, four on each side. There were lots of internationals and press on hand for the trial. They had to stand outside. Um Kamel picked my teammate Alice from Sweden out of the crowd to sit next to her in the court room. Alice did not understand a thing but was glad to be able to comfort Um Kamel during the proceeding.
The foundation of the settler’s case is that the UN and the Jordanian government had no right to the land that the 22 refugee homes were built on in 1956. They claim that the land was leased to a Jewish family under a 100 year lease in the late 1800’s and that this Jewish claim precedes the claim by the Jordanians. The document they have presented as evidence has been shown to be a forgery but that has not seemed to put this issue to rest. Um Kamel’s lawyers traveled to Turkey prior to this court session and located a legitimate Turkish document that proves that the land was Arab land. The judge’s comment was, “Why didn’t you present this before as it changes things”.
Noting that the case is slipping away from them, the settlers attorneys are now demanding that the judge step down from the case and give it to a more senior judge on the basis that the other judge has been on the bench longer and can render a better opinion because he knows the area better than the current judge. The other judge is known to be sympathetic to the settlers. This is where it was left. Um Kamel has no idea when a decision will be made as to weather the judge will continue and make a decision in the case or if he will step down and it will effectively start over. It goes without saying that the judge is now under tremendous political pressure to step down. This case is clearly not about law or what is right. Courts here are completely political.
In the mean time, the housing authority is busy trying to create additional “facts on the ground” before the Um Kamel trial is completed and precedent is set. Two additional families living in two of the other 22 homes included in the area the settlers are laying claim to have received eviction notices that are set to be executed this Sunday. They were evicted once before a few years ago and won the right to move back into their homes. Even though they won at that time, one of the family members was put in jail for moving back into the house because he did not have the written proof of the decision in hand when the army came to his home after they moved back in. He got out of jail after three months only after the proof was presented by his attorney.
These evictions affect 52 people including two people in their 80’s. Members of International Solidarity Movement are staying with these families and will resist the evictions. Many other support groups, including us, will be standing by to document the evictions and report it to the world. If this sounds too bizarre to believe, I assure you this is the way justice happens in this “democratic” country.
Home Wrecking
Home demolitions have not only continued but have accelerated. I visited the home of one family in East Jerusalem that had their home demolished last week. Like all of these cases the family built their home on land they owned after they were unable to get a permit. The army arrived unannounced last Wednesday morning while the father was at work. The family was not allowed to remove their possessions from the home. The army spent a few minutes removing a few things which they video taped so they could say they removed the personal items. As soon as the video camera was turned off they stopped removing items from the home and demolished it. All of the family’s clothes are on the bottom of the pile. I took these pictures of one of the children standing on the rubble of what was their home. The bulldozer driver made a point of driving over this boys bicycle as it approached to home. This family of 8 including 6 children is now living in a tent next to the pile that was their home.
I am reading a book called Separate and Unequal that was written by Amir Cheshin who was the Jerusalem mayor’s advisor on Arab affairs from 1984 to 1993 and two other local government insiders. The book was written in 1999. The authors were directly involved in the development and implementation of specific policies that were, and still are, designed to force Palestinians to move out of the Jerusalem area. During their tenure the authors were a weak voice within the government for cohabitation with the Palestinians. Their voices were squashed. In the book they outline the secret meetings and unstated policies that were focused on increasing the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem by taking land for Jewish only settlements and strictly limiting the increase in the number of Palestinians. Unfortunately since this book was written 10 years ago, the policies they talk about have continued unabated while new and more evil strategies have been developed like home demolition.
In another recent development a long running case involving 88 homes, 140 families and 1500 people has reemerged. These 88 homes have demolition orders on them because the municipality wants to build a park on the site. The site is immediately adjacent to a settlement that is in the middle of a Palestinian neighborhood. It too was taken to be an archeological park but the park soon became Jewish only houses.
In that same area a demolition order has been issued for an apartment building that houses 150 people. That order is supposed to be executed this Sunday as well. Close by there is another apartment building that was also built illegally and also has a demolition order on it. That building was built by Jewish settlers. That demolition order was issued 18 months ago but it will not be demolished. There is lots of precedent for those buildings getting permits through political and administrative channels after they are built. This happened with a whole neighborhood that was built illegally by settlers in another part of East Jerusalem. In that case the judge decided that it was too much of a hardship to remove the whole neighborhood. After a long court battle with neighboring Palestinians to have the settlement demolished, the settlers were issued building permits for the buildings they had built illegally. They are still living there today. It is apparently not a hardship to displace Palestinians only Israeli’s.
People in the West often wonder how a person could be so desperate that they strap a bomb to their body and try to kill others along with themselves. Most, of the suicide bombers come from families whose homes were demolished and their lives destroyed as a direct result. They literally had nothing left to live for. The truth is that Israel has created these threats with their insidious and ongoing ethnic cleansing policies in and around Jerusalem.

60 Minutes - Is Peace Out of Reach?