Muhammad Usamah Taha
Since 1967, the Israeli authorities have demolished approximately 25,000 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. This includes demolitions to allow for the expansion of Israeli settlements and settlement farms, the construction of the Annexation Wall and settler-only roads, closed military zones, military training areas, nature reserves, and punitive demolitions that amount to collective punishment, which is considered a war crime under international law.
Widespread destruction of property not justified by absolute military necessity also amounts to a war crime and entails the breach of a number of human rights provisions, including the right to adequate housing and family.
According to Al-Haq documentation, Israel demolished 368 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank in 2012, including 44 in East Jerusalem. Demolitions in the first month of 2013 increased by almost 30 per cent compared to the same period last year (from 34 in January 2012 to 44 in January 2013).
Countless Palestinian homes are demolished by the Israeli military under the spurious justification of lack of building permit. Given that such demolitions are neither carried out in the name of strict military necessity or for the benefit of the occupied population, they constitute a clear violation of international humanitarian law.
In this regard, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination last year harshly criticized Israel’s “discriminatory planning policy” which rarely, if ever, grants construction permits to Palestinian communities.
There is no such restriction placed upon Israeli settlement construction across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. At least 6,676 new settlement housing units in the West Bank were approved for construction in 2012 by the Israeli authorities, who have already granted approval to hundreds more units this year.
This short video produced by Al-Haq’s Monitoring and Documentation Department gives voice to Muhammad Usamah Taha, whose workshop and house were demolished by the Israeli authorities without prior warning, destroying his only source of livelihood and many of his possessions. Unfortunately, Muhammad’s experience is one shared by thousands of Palestinian families across the Occupied Palestinian Territory.