A Voice for Justice
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions advocates justice and peace
by Ferry Biedermann
A barren hillside on the edge of the Palestinian village of Anata on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem symbolizes much of what Jeff Halper and his Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) are about. It is not just the house of Salim Shawamreh, Mr. Halpers friend, that has been destroyed by the Israeli authorities and rebuilt by ICAHD four times since 1998 or the bulldozed remains of at least five other houses that lie crumpled in the spring grass higher up the hill or the looming new Israeli border police headquarters across the valley or the proposed expansion of the main Israeli settlement outside Jerusalem, Maale Adumim, into West Bank land abutting Anatas hillside or that not far from Mr. Shawamrehs house is the planned route of Israels separation barrier.
Each of these facts is discouraging for Palestinians and Mr. Halpers organization, which is committed to Palestinian self-determination. Taken together, they speak to the futility the tit-for-tat violence of the past several years in the Holy Land. The blanks are being filled in, said Mr. Halper of the steady expansion of settlements on the West Bank and the construction of the separation wall. Soon, if not already, he said, Israels control over the West Bank will have become irreversible and any notion of a truly independent and viable Palestinian state next to a secure Israel will have become impossible.
Mr. Halper is stout with a white beard and an easy smile. He clearly enjoys the shouts of recognition from the Palestinians of Anata. American by birth and Israeli by choice, Mr. Halper settled in the country in the early 1970s and immediately became involved in the Israeli peace movement.
In 1997, he joined other peace activists and founded the ICAHD, which advocates nonviolent direct action to resist the Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes. ICAHD activists, including Mr. Halper, physically block bulldozers and rebuild homes after they have been demolished. The organization also coordinates with like-minded human rights groups in campaigns opposing the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. The ICAHD has called for sanctions against Israel, and divestment from companies such as Caterpillar, whose bulldozers are used to tear down Palestinian homes.
Bassam Eid of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group said the ICAHDs activities are appreciated by the Palestinians, the international community and maybe even by some Israelis. They create awareness in Israel of house demolitions, one of the most severe human rights violations.
Anata is one of the places where Mr. Halper and his committee have been most active. Mr. Shawamrehs house, called Beit Arabiya (the house of Arabiya, his wifes name) is once again being threatened with demolition, though the Shawamreh family has since moved to another home. Currently, the house serves as a peace center, where the ICAHD conducts summer camps that bring together Palestinians, Israelis and international guests.
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Tags: Palestine Israel Homes/housing