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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

6 July 2001
Subject: Please, please help us stop this...


Jeff Halper provides important details below about Israel’s campaign of home destruction and expulsion of Palestinians who live in the area south of Hebron. The full extent of this campaign has yet to appear in the Israeli media, although Ha’aretz reported on Wednesday that “The Civil Administration destroyed a number of Palestinian homes near the spot where Har-Sinai’s body was found, leaving up to 500 Palestinians homeless. IDF soldiers were also reported to have uprooted trees and destroyed wells.”

How would you react if the homes of 500 indigent people in your country were destroyed by the army in retaliation for the killing of someone? And their water supply not cut off, but permanently demolished?

Please help us stop this. This is a plea from someone who loves Israel, and finds this behavior unbearable. If you feel the same way, please read through to the end and help us stop this.

Gila Svirsky


The Israeli Army’s Campaign of Revenge and Ethnic Cleansing

On July 3, after an Israeli from the settlement of Susiya in the southern West Bank was found murdered, and without any suspects being identified or arrested, the Israeli army unleashed an unprecedented campaign of revenge and ethnic cleansing against the entire civilian Palestinian population of the area. (The same day the Israeli government authorized a wholesale campaign of assassinations as well.) As this is being written (Thursday evening, the 5th of July), we are in the third day of this campaign.

The first 24 hours witnessed the demolition of at least five Palestinian homes in the city of Yata, which was completely sealed off to the outside world, leaving the army to act with impunity towards the civilian inhabitants. Reports are that up to a thousand residents were forced from their homes before demolishing dozens of them. The army also attacked residents in the entire rural area between Yata and the area around Jibna where the Palestinian “cave-dwellers” live. Additional houses were demolished, wells and reservoirs destroyed and the agricultural infrastructure severely damaged. Even the Channel 1 Israel news spoke of the army as acting out of “revenge.” If this is so, the Israeli army, which once prided itself as a “defense” force whose moral code included “purity of arms,” has been reduced during the repression of the past months into a mere gang. The fact that no outside observers were allowed into the entire West Bank south of Hebron during this 24-hour period, including journalist and human rights observers, and even the Red Cross was prevented from providing humanitarian aid to the hundreds of families affected, raises fears about acts of violence and intimidation committed with absolute impunity by an army against a defenseless civilian population (most of the area affected is in Israeli-controlled Area C). Not only does international law forbid such actions, but the Fourth Geneva Convention requires Israel as an occupying power to protect the civilian population under its rule and provide for its welfare.

Among the families whose dwellings were destroyed was Rasmiya Nawaja Jamal, a woman in her 60s whose husband Mohammad was murdered by settlers from Susiya ten years ago (no one was ever tried). Rasmiya, who ekes out a living as a shepherd, managed to raise 12 children on her own, the family living in an underground cave. Since her compound is situated close to Susiya, the family has endured harassment for many years, including settlers riding horses through her living area. Two years ago the Israeli Civil Administration demolished the cave, claiming that the Nawaja family had no permit to live there. Rasmiya then constructed an ingenious compound over her demolished cave, made of skeletons of automobiles. She and her smaller children lived in the shell of a mini-van, her son and his family lived in the cab of a truck, and a pick-up truck was converted into a stable. Rasmiya used the fenders to fence off her gardens, and even constructed a cooking area of solar panels. On Tuesday morning the army returned and destroyed Rasmiya’s compound, as well as those of her neighbors, making more than 50 people homeless. They also uprooted more than 1,000 olive trees belonging to Rasmiya and her neighbors, and destroyed all their cisterns.

This morning we received word that Civil Administration bulldozers were destroying homes, farming structures and cisterns in the area of Jibna. This is where, two years ago, the Israeli army tried to force the area’s 3,000 farming families out of their cave dwellings where they had lived for generations. In October 1999, the Israeli army declared their lands – some 100,000 dunams of land (25,000 acres) south of Hebron – a “closed military zone.” (In fact, this was only one of 16 orders closing vast tracts of land throughout the West Bank at that time.) The land, though semi-arid and rural, is home to an entire society of Palestinian farmers who had farmed and grazed that area for centuries, developing a unique culture around the many caves that dotted the mountainous landscape. The expulsion order affected, at that time, around 42 families, consisting of around 730 people (among them some 500 children), who were violently and brutally driven from their homes.

They army claimed they needed the land for a “firing zone,” but in fact it is coveted because it connects the Israeli city of Arad with the settlements of the area and creates a corridor from Israel to Kiryat Arba and Hebron. At that time ICAHD and other Israeli human rights organizations initiated an appeal to the Supreme Court, which ruled in March of 2000 that the families would be allowed to stay in their homes until the issue of their residence was resolved. Since that time, the Civil Administration has admitted it cannot find fault with the families’ claims to the land. Today’s action, then, was intended to by-pass the Supreme Court by simply demolishing the houses under the guise of “security.” One of the caves, belonging to the family of Musa Jabarin, was demolished today, together with four other houses, a number of cisterns and many farming structures essential for the economic survival of the community. Clothes, furniture, dead chickens, pieces of pens and chicken coops lie scattered over the ground. (Pictures will be posted on the AIC website: Many other families were ordered to remove their belongings and preparations were made to demolish their homes as well. But an appeal to the Attorney General’s Office has resulted in the Civil Administration being ordered to desist – at least for the time being.

It should be noted that according to Amnesty International Israel has demolished at least 7,000 Palestinian homes since 1967, to which more than 500 have been added since the second Intifada began.

At a time when Sharon is being feted by the Chancellor of Germany and the President of France, Israel’s occupation and the actions it engenders stand in stark violation of international law. Collective punishment is explicitly forbidden in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the demolition of houses constitutes a grave violation of Article 53. The increasing use of international courts to enforce accountability to human rights covenants (upon which Israel itself has signed) should put the Israeli government and its agents on notice that they may find themselves one day being tried for war and civil crimes. Besides the simple injustice and moral indefensibility of such actions.

Contact your political representatives, write in your local newspapers, let your voice be hear in your community against this increasingly brutal Occupation which is destroying Palestinian and Israeli societies alike.

Jeff Halper
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
Rehov Tiveria 37, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: (+972-50) 651425
Fax: (+972-2) 623-6210


This is Gila back again:

Please write a very brief letter – one line is enough – to some or all of the names below. All the letter has to say is something like:

"I protest the brutal destruction of Palestinian homes and property in the occupied territories."

Feel free to write more, but, really, I don’t think those who get the letters do more than count them. And, sorry to put you to more trouble, but faxing it is much better than e-mail, especially to American and Israeli authorities.

President George W. Bush
Fax: +1-202-456-2461

Secretary of State Colin Powell
Fax: +1-202-261-8577

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
Fax: +1-212.963.5012

Mr. Terje Rod Larsen
Personal Representative of the Secretary General to the United Nations in Palestine
Fax: + 972 8 282 0966

Mr. Miguel Moratinos - Special EU Envoy to the M-E:
Fax: + 32 2 285 87 52

Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres
Fax: +972-2-5303704

Israeli Defense Minister, Benyamin Ben Eliezer
Fax: +972-3-6916940 or 6976990

Prime Minister Sharon
Fax: +972-2-5664838

And if you still have energy: send a copy to the Israeli embassy or consulate in your country;

Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC
Fax: (202) 363-4156

Israeli Embassy in Canada
Fax: (613) 237-8865
E-mail: OR

Sorry I don’t have more embassy numbers.


At-Home with Gila Svirsky

Letters from Jerusalem, 2001
Letters from Jerusalem, 2002
Letters from Jerusalem, 2003
New & recent letters from Jerusalem (2004)
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© 2001 Gila Svirsky, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

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