Al Haq, the Palestinian human rights organization’s 2020 field report on human rights violations in Palestine makes grim reading.
In the midst of the pandemic and the Zionist occupiers deliberately withholding vaccines from the Palestinians, the heavily-armed Israeli soldiers and settlers have escalated attacks against Palestinians.
Such attacks are part of a broader Israeli policy to crush Palestinian resistance to occupation and home demolitions with the clear aim of driving them out of the land, especially in the eastern part of Al Quds (East Jerusalem).
Al Haq’s report (released on March 2, 2021) followed a similar report by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem (January 12, 2021) titled “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean” that categorically denounced Israel as “an apartheid state”.
In its report, Al-Haq drew attention to the fact that in 2020 while Palestinians were busy combating the deadly coronavirus, Israel “seized the opportunity to advance its settler project and intensify repressive measures against Palestinians in all their places of residence.”
These included massive home demolitions, land confiscation, settlement expansion, and the violation of freedom of movement and the right to health, among other things.
Such measures have gone hand-in-hand with attacks on and arrest of thousands of Palestinian children, deliberate flooding of Palestinian farms destroying crops, destruction of trees (Israel has uprooted 800,000 olive trees in the West Bank since the 1967 occupation) as well as the Zionist settlers’ inhumane practice of flooding Palestinian lands with raw sewage (see here, here and here).
Five Palestinian children were arrested on March 11, 2021for doing nothing more than picking up vegetables.
In the Zionist state that pro-Israeli groups never tire of telling us is the only “democracy in the Middle East”, even picking up vegetables is a crime!
The intent is clear: to make life so miserable for the Palestinians that they are forced to leave.
The demolition of homes and structures—shelters and businesses being essential for survival—escalated alarmingly in 2020.
The number of Palestinian structures, both public and private, destroyed in the midst of the pandemic in 2020, doubled from the average number of structures destroyed on an annual basis over the past 10 years.
Al Haq recorded 535 Palestinian private and public structures demolished in 2020.
The average rate of demolition over the past 10 years (2010-2019) was 325 structures.
The prestigious Palestinian human rights group headed by international human rights lawyers provided further breakdown of demolition figures.
Of the 535 structures destroyed last year, 248 were homes (46%), the vast majority of which (242) were demolished under the pretext of lacking Israeli-issued building permits, which are notoriously difficult to obtain.
The other six homes were demolished on punitive grounds—a practice employed by the Israeli regime against Palestinians accused of committing attacks against Israelis.
Rights groups have characterized such demolitions as “collective punishment.”
Israel claims that punitive home demolitions “deter” future attacks, though that claim has been disputed by top Israeli security officials over the years.
Home demolitions in 2020 resulted in the displacement of 941 persons, of which 462 are women and girls, 442 are children, 267 are school students, and 124 are Palestinian refugees already displaced from their original homes, according to Al-Haq’s report.
Often, demolitions are carried out without allowing home owners to evacuate their belongings before the big machines start their destructive spree.
Last year, 69 homes were demolished without the home owners given an opportunity to evacuate their belongings.
Additionally, some affected families are “violently harassed, attacked, or physically assaulted” during the demolition.
Today, 500,000 Palestinian structures located inside the boundaries of the Green Line are still under threat of demolition.
The UN recently reported that among the structures at risk, are 53 schools located across the West Bank.
Demolition of Palestinian homes go in tandem with a furious illegal Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank and East Al-Quds (East Jerusalem).
This is done by employing salami tactics. What this means is that Israel indulges in creeping annexation.
One parcel of land is confiscated in one area and another in a different locality.
In terms of appearance, it looks like small steps but their impact on Palestinians is huge.
Al Haq reported that in 2020, Israel confiscated 20,030 dunums (4,949 acres) of land for settlement expansion throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
According to settlement watchdog Peace Now, 2020 saw the highest level of settlement construction plan approvals per year in the past two decades.
A total of 12,159 housing units were approved for Israeli settlements last year alone.
In comparison, only 245 housing units, many of which already exist, were approved for Palestinians.
Both the UN and the European Union have denounced such demolitions and the illegal expansion of Zionist settlements but Israel is undeterred.
Even some US lawmakers mustered enough courage to denounce Israel’s illegal policy but to no avail.
Unless sanctions are imposed on this illegal entity—a pariah state—it is difficult to imagine it will stop its illegal activities.