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British mother’s home bulldozed by Israelis

July 2, 2012

Friday, August 10. 2007

A British mother got a glimpse of what Palestinians have endured for decades when Israeli bulldozers demolished her home.

The 32-year-old mother Jessica Barhum and her Israeli-Arab husband woke up in shock at 5:00 am to find two Israeli bulldozers tearing down their two-bedroom house in the village of Ein Rafa, west of al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem).

Pregnant Barhum was given just five minutes to vacate before implementing a demolition order against the house her husband Moussa spent eight years building on land owned by his family.

“You can’t believe a country like this would make a law against its own citizens,” a tearful Barhum told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“I can’t believe that it’s lawful, that this law exists,” she added.

Barhum accused Israel of discriminating against its own Arab citizens, who pay taxes.

“We abide by the law, we’re Israeli citizens.

“We all want to live together, but the people who are making the laws don’t,” she said.

Israeli Arabs are descendants of Palestinians who stayed when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven from their homes when Israel was founded in 1948.

Arabs represent about a fifth of Israel’s population, estimated at nearly 5.2 million.

Though legally considered Israeli citizens, many of them face discrimination in all walks of life.

Poverty rate among Arabs is almost twice that of the Jewish population.

“They know that they weren’t just knocking our house down, they know that they were breeding hatred and anger within our community,” Barhum added.

The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset, has made life unbearable for Israeli Arabs married to Palestinians by adopting a law denying the latter the right to Israeli residency to live with their spouses.

Barhum grew up in the southern British city of Salisbury but moved to Al-Quds after marrying.

In 2005, Moussa was given legal notice he had 18-months to secure an Israeli permit to build the home or have it bulldozed. Up until the deadline, he was unable to get the hard-to-win permit.

Israeli authorities do not issue building permissions for Palestinians who are also banned from renovating their house unless with an Israeli permit, which they rarely get.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories are classified as illegal because Israel is an occupier.

Last year, some 850 houses were demolished, most of them in the Arab sector, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

And since 1967, 18,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the occupied territories, including Al-Quds.

In 1968, Israel enacted a law allowing “illegal” houses to be razed even if permits are pending in the bureaucratic pipeline.

The law is disproportionately used against the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs rather than Jewish Israelis, according to AFP.

ICAHD field coordinator Meir Margalit said Jewish homes are never demolished on the permit pretext under the 1968 law.

For decades, Israel has been involved in the systematic demolition of homes in the occupied territory largely seen as part of a larger scheme by Israeli occupation forces against the holy city of Al-Quds.

In 2006, Israel cancelled a record number of residence permits for 1,363 Palestinians of Al-Quds, effectively denying them access to the holy city.

Permanent residence gives the holder the right to live and work in the occupied holy city and vote in municipal, but not parliamentary elections.

Israel captured Al-Quds, home to Islam’s third holiest shrine, in the 1967 six-day war and later annex the holy city, in a move not recognised by the international community.

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