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And the Walls Come Tumbling Down

“Townsmen, wake from your sleep!" It was 2:30 in the morning and the desperate calls from the city mosques broke the night silence. The residents of my city were being summoned to protect a home from being demolished.

Heavily armed soldiers and police on horseback surrounded the area. Spectators watched helplessly as the bulldozer crashed into a family’s home, dismembering it, room by room.

For decades, the Israeli government has demolished Arab homes in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Gaza and East Jerusalem.

The numbers are staggering. Between 1967 and 2011, over 26,000 Palestinian homes in the OPT have been demolished. In 2011, 622 structures were demolished, of these 222 were homes resulting in the displacement of 1094 people, 609 children under the age of 18. The remaining structures were related to livelihood (water storage and agricultural structures). Compare that to 2010 – 439 structures, 140 of them homes, and 606 displaced people. Additionally, hundreds of homes belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel were demolished last year. And there are tens of thousands of demolitions orders still standing.

According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, “The demolition of Palestinian homes is politically motivated and strategically informed.” Israel’s goal is to group the 4 million West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza residents into enclaves as a means of land expropriation in order to Judaize the West Bank through settlement expansion. In other words, push the Palestinians from the lands they have owned for centuries.

The Bedouin community, citizens of Israel, is especially vulnerable. Betrayed by their government, the homes of 30,000 – 45,000 people are under threat of demolition, and plans are in the works to relocate the residents, changing their semi-nomadic lifestyle, and confiscate their lands.

Palestinian rights to adequate housing and to a decent standard of living, and the right to live without fear of house demolitions (which are considered a war crime) are protected by international human rights laws. Additionally, Israel, as an occupying power, is obligated to abide by its legal obligations and responsibilities towards Palestinian citizens.

In spite of this, Israel’s control of the OPT is far reaching. Through an extensive military infrastructure, apartheid roads, settlements, land expropriation, and house evictions and demolitions, Israel controls 40% of the West Bank – all of it acquired illegally while the international governments quietly watch.

The settlement system, and resulting home demolitions, has had a horrific effect on the rights of the Palestinians.

“A man's home is his wife's castle” (Alexander Chase) well describes the Palestinian family. Not only do home demolitions cause a deterioration of living conditions, they also have devastating effects on women and children.

When a Palestinian woman loses her home, she loses her center, her identity as a wife and mother. The stress on a marriage and family caused by living in a relative’s house for an endless period of time is unimaginable. Women’s stress is magnified when their control over the domestic sphere disappears.

Children do not fare much better. School life becomes disrupted, and everything familiar fades away. Living in strange, crowded homes, many are absorbed by trauma, tension, and depression.

Israel’s pretenses for home demolitions do not stand on solid ground. Collective punishment - to punish an extended family for an act or suspected act against Israel is illegal. Military operations – the destruction of property and force displacement is illegal unless absolutely necessary. Unlicensed homes – well, 94% of building permit applications in the West Bank were rejected in recent years. As families grow, people are forced to build, and hope for the best.

It’s simple. Israel must be forced to abide by international human rights laws. Why isn’t Israel paying attention to people all over the world, including its own citizens, who have taken to the streets in protest, and have bravely blocked the path of bulldozers? Why do foreign governments, especially the United States, place a light slap on Israel’s hand and gently whisper condemnations? The light slap should be harder, and the whispers should be shouts backed by actions until the Palestinians are able to live in peace, freedom, and dignity.

How would you feel if a bulldozer showed up at YOUR front door in the middle of the night?

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

Stella Paul's picture

Dear Noreens

Right place, right time and right words spoken with the right force. Now let us hope the words will reach the right ears, if not today, then tomorrow. In India we were overjoyed when Palestine got the recognition of statehood a few months back. e took pride in the fact that India voted in favor this time. The next hope will be to see the demotion of Palestinian homes stopping, forever. Keep up the good job dear!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

noreens's picture

The demolitions are not just

The demolitions are not just in Palestine, but also the homes of Palestinian citizens of Israel, mostly for not having building permits. But the permits are rarely granted so people really are taking a risk by building. But they have little choice but to build as families get larger. Catch 22. Yes, let's hope the demolitions will stop, but unfortunately it doesn't look as if they will - the numbers almost doubled from last 2010 and 2011. Thanks for reading!

Noreen

Paulina Lawsin's picture

I will feel scared. I will

I will feel scared. I will feel angry if a bulldozer show up at my doorstep in the middle of the night. Noreen, you vividly describe the atmosphere when demolition happens in your city. Your voice is clear and powerful. I hope your OpEd will reach people who can help end the injustices you experience. And to a greater public who needs to be educated on the Palestinian situation.

Good luck sister.
Paulina, Philippines

noreens's picture

I think so many things about

I think so many things about life here are vague to people. I hope through my stories people will have a clearer picture of what the Palestinians feel. Just the threat of a demolition puts the families under so much pressure, as they wonder if it will actually happen and when. Not an easy way to live. I'm glad you read my story!

Noreen

Nusrat Ara's picture

This is so sad. What drives

This is so sad. What drives me mad is that no one is able to do anything about it.

Love

Nusrat

noreens's picture

Hi Nusrat, It is very sad.

Hi Nusrat,
It is very sad. The joy of building something that is YOURS, and putting all your life savings into it, just to have it destroyed. Foreign governments can put a stop to it, instead of turning a blind eye. There are a lot of sad stories around here.

Love,
Noreen

jormouse's picture

Together, we are not helpless

Dear Nusrat,

Again and again, I have felt the same helplessness. But if we take one step at a time and learn from each other what actions make a difference...together, we are not helpless! For instance, the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions/BDS movement called for by Palestinian Civil Society in 2005 and supported by a growing number of activists and institutions worldwide is having a slow but sure impact (see http://www.bdsmovement.net/) Thanks to such campaigns, people world-wide start to use their small powers for instance as consumers in boycotting goods produced in settlements. I read today for instance that the Presbytarian Church is divesting from Caterpillar (whose bulldozers destroy Palestinian family's homes) - that's bad for 'business as usual'. And the more people join the cause and raise their voices, and name and shame those benefiting from occupation, the more people will join the struggle for justice and human dignity ... and the Occupation power will be challenged... It's a long struggle, but humanity will win in the end and Palestinians be freed from oppression... Never give up hope for a just cause!

I have lived long enough to see the Berlin Wall fall (what seemed unthinkable during my childhood) and the Apartheid Regime in South Africa was forced to dismantle - due to international solidarity.

So at least we can learn, work together - thanks to the internet with all good people around the world, we can raise awareness to injustice and support resistance - inshaalllah!
Don't feel helpless, everyone is needed in this struggle

you are not alone!

noreens's picture

The BDS movement is one.

The BDS movement is one. There are also many good people and organizations out there trying to make an impact - such as the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, International Solidarity Movement, and Stop the Wall. There are also many many organizations - some of them Israeli - that disseminate information about the situation in the West Bank. But in the end, it seems that it is only the BIG governments that can make the difference -- if they want.

Noreen

malba66's picture

Heart breaking and poignant!

Heart breaking and poignant!

I think that acts such as these are another form of genocide, because rather than a swift death, people die slowly from all of the many evils of occupation....

Thank you for this piece. Absolutely a story we will never see in mainstream American media.

Light....
mari

noreens's picture

You are right Mari. I asked

You are right Mari. I asked a couple of people from a refugee camp what are their dreams for the future. The 13 year old boy said "I don't dream", and the lady said "Let my dreams sleep". How sad to go through life without hopes for the future - as you said, a slow death..

Thanks for taking the time to read it!

Noreen

Rahel Weldeab's picture

Excellent OpEd! Although the

Excellent OpEd! Although the issues revolved around the occupation of Palestinian territories is quite mainstream (let it be the bulldozing of homes or the illegal Isaeli settlements), and although little has been done to stop such illegal actions, I can easily imagine that your writing can literally break barriers and get people to take action. The flow of your words is superb, your evidence (i.e. statistics) are very helpful in painting an overall picture of the situation on the ground, and you finish off your OpEd with a powerful ending. YOU'VE DONE AN EXCELLENT JOB! KEEP IT UP!!

noreens's picture

Thanks so much Rahel! It was

Thanks so much Rahel! It was hard to put such a big subject into so few words. Thanks for your encouraging words.

Noreen

Juliette Maughan's picture

Speechless

Noreen,

I just do not understand why some Israelis treat Palestinians the way they do.

I do not even know how it will ever come to an end. It appears that over generations people have lost basic human respect for other.

In answer to your question, given the political environment, I can only liken it to historical accounts of how Blacks were treated in the South of the US if people we thought to 'step out of line' or were considered a threat. I would not even know what to do. I would be angry and resentful. I would want to fight back.

My heart aches for your people.

What do you see as the way out of this horrible position? How do you and other react?

Juliette

noreens's picture

Hi Julliette, Like I said in

Hi Julliette,

Like I said in final paragraph, there are so many people trying to make an impact, and trying to fight for the rights of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel. In spite of that. still the demolitions and evictions, and so many other things continue. I think that it is only the big governments that can stop these human rights violations. Pressure must be put on the foreign governments to put a stop to this. Also, the regular person, like you and me, must be educated about the situation here. If people don't understand, then they will not care enough to put pressure on their own governments. (I should have written in my Op-Ed !!)

Thanks for reading, Juliette!
Noreen

Hummingbird's picture

Noreen

Dear,

We went together through this, in Syria we were there with Palestine all these years, and still we will always be with Palestine hoping that one day together we will be able to find peace and be free.

This is a great op-ed, you did a wonderful job.

A drop of rain can revive the earth, be the drop.

Hummingbird

noreens's picture

Thanks Hummingbird! We also

Thanks Hummingbird! We also are watching with great sadness what is going on in Syria. Everything in the world these days seems to be upside down. Like you, I hope we will all find peace.

Noreen

parwana fayyaz's picture

Dear Noreen:

Your piece is bringing the everyday reality that is visible to the world, but you have spoken as a Palestinian woman for justice to be done in this century, which is unique and praiseworthy. Your voice is so authentic and so powerful for change. Your Palestine and my Afghanistan will break borders and free their nations from injustices. We will keep alive our open eyes, wide smile, clenched fests, and prayers for those who need wisdom to let everyone lives peacefully on the land of the Earth planet. We will teach the powerful people to erase the imagining territories from their mind. We will... please keep thinking, hoping, and writing about Palestine. As I do for my Afghanistan, there is only voices left for you and me, we are blessed to take this step for change in VOF.
Thanks,
Parwana Fayyaz

noreens's picture

The best things that we have

The best things that we have are our voices, our love for our countries and human rights, and our love of writing Combine these three things and we are on our way to informing people about what we see and feel, and through that hopefully we can create a step towards change.

Noreen

nilima's picture

Dear sister

Your article is STRONG, POWERFUL n COMPELLING. While reading your article there was a picture in my mind. It just came like a movie scene. NO but its not, its not a part of movie scene, its real. Real like anything. It makes me scared enough even to think the situation that you people are facing there.

Like other sister have said, you have raised the voice at the right place and right time. I am sure it will be heard by the right people to take action.

Proud of WorldPulse and VOF programme! Hats off to you.

noreens's picture

Hi Nilima, Unfortunately it's

Hi Nilima,

Unfortunately it's not a movie. It is TOO real. I hope that my voice will be heard loud and clear, and that I can be a part (even a tiny part) of the change!

Love,
Noreen

usha kc's picture

Noreen,, you have takenall of

Noreen,, you have taken all of us there in your city. I envisioned all the moments you have mentioned .
thank you for choosing this topic dear.

Great piece!
Hugs

noreens's picture

Thanks for reading my article

Thanks for reading my article Usha!

Hugs to you too!
Noreen

piu's picture

Hold Your hand in this

"The best things that we have are our voices, our love for our countries and human rights, and our love of writing Combine these three things and we are on our way to informing people about what we see and feel, and through that hopefully we can create a step towards change."

I went through your writing and the many comments that followed and I quoted you as a beginning to my comments.We are indeed fortunate to have our voices and a platform to get it heard.The best part of this forum is that not only our knowledge about issues get enriched we also seem to share the emergency of the situation ..coming from a first hand experience,such as this.We relate and understand the gravity on a very personal level.The issue of dislocation as you are facing (this for international political reasons) is very much relevant in so many other countries for various internal political reasons.

The power of words can bring about a revolution( as they say the pen is always mightier than the sword) and the collective voice of so many of us in the right direction can surely lead to a positive development.The point is till how long the pain be endured and till how long one can wait..i have no answer but yes being positive is what helps and we have to live with HOPE!

A memorandum can be brought about and more voices can be gathered to gear up a campaign.I am sharing this article with others outside the forum,with people who believe and with people who care.We can have perspectives and that might help.

Thank You

I care

Piali

noreens's picture

Thanks for your nice comment,

Thanks for your nice comment, Piali! I agree - the written word is so powerful. Hopefully through my words and those of so many other people, we will see a change soon. Thank you so much for sharing my article with others, and for your care!

Noreen

ikirimat's picture

Thanks for the your

Thanks for the your informative Op_Ed, I have always read about Israel and Palestine but I think your piece brings yet again another insight into the realities on the ground in regards to human realities.

Thanks and keep raising your voice

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."


noreens's picture

Hi Grace, There are so many

Hi Grace,
There are so many big issues here that I can write about and I wish that we have more modules!! Demolitions is one of the big issues, and they happen in Palestine and also in the Arab villages in Israel. They have terrible effects on the families. Yes, I will keep raising my voice. No intention to stop!

Noreen

amiesissoho's picture

The pain and frustration are

The pain and frustration are felt by those who read your piece. They are he challenges and keep increasing your volume until all those who should make a difference have no other option but to listen and act. Thank for sharing your feeling with us. Keep the courage.

Amie

noreens's picture

Thanks Amie, It is

Thanks Amie,

It is frustrating to know homes that people have put their life savings, hopes and dreams into are being demolished. And the reasons for the demolitions do not make sense and are cruel. Glad you read my story - thanks!

Noreen

patf's picture

An amazing story

Hello dear Noreen,
When you can make your words come across the page so powerfully, just imagine what you will be able to do with your voice! I felt so many emotions as I read your op-ed, and all of the commentary that has been posted. You have made this personal, telling the story of how it feels, and no, I cannot imagine being awakened in the night to have my house crashng down on me. We don't hear the personal side of these incidents through the usual media, so thank you for your passion in getting the real story out there.
Many blessings and much love,
Pat

noreens's picture

Hi Pat! Thanks for reading

Hi Pat! Thanks for reading my story. I can not imagine that happening to me either. I visited with a family in Israel once whose home was ordered to be demolished. They lived for a very long time (many months i think) not knowing when it would happen. It put so much stress on the family, and the kids were doing poorly in school and not sleeping well. In the end, in spite of media attention and demonstrations the house was demolished. And I visited the family I mentioned in my article the morning after the demolition. It was as if they were in mourning. I remember the lady sitting on the ground under an olive tree, and it was starting to rain. These are two families of many. Very sad.

Much love to you!
Noreen

Julie Tomlin's picture

The power of words

You have written a very powerful piece. I really appreciate how you have used personal experiences to illustrate the reality behind the figures and statistics, something that is always important. And it's also important to hear the impact of these acts on the lives of women and children, who are so often overlooked.
Thanks again,

Yours,
Julie

@julietomlin

noreens's picture

Thank you Julie, for reading

Thank you Julie, for reading and commenting about my article. It has a huge effect on the women, many of whose lives revolve around their homes. It's a difficult thing to go through.

Noreen

Okeny-Lucia's picture

Work of Courage

Thank you Noreens,this is powerfull.It brings to mind who owns the World.Is it the West or East?

I think sometimes it is sickening to imagine,40yrs down the line,Israel is still on war with Palestine.Where is sanity here>

This is truly a wake up call for all the nations.

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

noreens's picture

I think the West!! Actually

I think the West!! Actually the conflict started much more then 40 years ago. Did you see the info I posted (The Palestinian Story). An undetailed account of the conflict. Thanks for taking the time to read it, Lucia!!

Noreen

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Powerful

Dear Noreens,

Your op-ed is powerful and everyone should read it! It brought tears to my eyes, especially knowing that the US plays such a large role in supporting Israel. I commend you for writing this and strongly suggest you pitch this op-ed to US and Israeli publications.

Kind regards,

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

noreens's picture

Thank you Rachael. I felt

Thank you Rachael. I felt good receiving such a nice compliment from you. The US sends $8.2 million a day for military aid. Amazing amount, especially now considering the shape the US is in these days. I will see about pitching it to another publication. Thanks for the confidence you have in me!

Noreen

R's picture

Rosemary Hannan

My dearest Noreen,

You take the reader by the hand and take them to a place, in the middle of the darkest night, where a family stand on the street and watch as their home is wiped out. The difference between your writing and the myriad other pieces on this same subject is that you get right inside the walls of these condemned house...walls that once resonated with the laughter, joy, tears and love of generations of ordinary families. Families just like ours...what indeed would we do if a bulldozer turned up in the middle of the night? You, with your voice of quiet strength and passion, have the power to get beyond the faceless governments who think nothing about the defiance of international human rights, to the men and women that they are. Your voice can and will lodge deep in their consciousness. I agree with Rachael that this op-ed should be pitched to US and Israeli publications.

Much love
Rosemary

noreens's picture

As I said, we are a team, and

Thanks for the sweet message! As I told you in my email, we are a team. Thank you for your suggestions in making it a strong article. I felt comfortable with it when I submitted it, and I am so happy that it has been so well received and brought out the emotions that it did in those who read it. I hoped that it would make people angry, and it did.
Thank you Rosemary!

Much love,
Noreen

mrbeckbeck's picture

Strong

Noreen,
This is a great article. You take your readers straight to the heart of the matter, right from the beginning. I applaud your work. In the middle of the piece, I angrily began to wonder "WHY??!" and then you told me that it's about building permits. I had never heard that, and it's so eye-opening that 90+% of the applications are denied. It's shocking, and I feel that I understand the situation on a new level now thanks to your work.

I look forward to reading more from you on the Feature Story. Thank you.
Best,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Manager

noreens's picture

Thanks Scott! I am so glad

Thanks Scott! I am so glad that the information I passed on was an eye-opener. Mostly the demolitions are about building permits, but a lot of them are also a form of collective punishment against an extended family if a family member is suspected of acting against Israel. The demolitions in the Arab sector in Israel are because of lack of building permits - but again, a very small number of permits are granted. What are people supposed to do as their families get bigger or their sons marry? They HAVE to build. Unlike the States, there aren't apartments that people can rent. Maybe a house for rent here and there, but it's hard to find something like that. The norm is to build. Thanks for reading it - your comment meant a lot to me!

Noreen

clarices's picture

Providing Perspective

Dear Noreen,

Thank you for shedding light on an issue that has grabbed headlines in the states, but rarely shines a light on the impact to the Palestinians affected by the loss of home and hearth. Your voice is clear; your passion strong. Thank you for taking the time to provide compelling statistics and for helping us to understand the heartbreak that exists for Palestinians in the OPT.

Warm wishes,
Clarice

noreens's picture

Hi Clarice, Thanks so much

Hi Clarice,

Thanks so much for reading and commenting on my article! I'm so glad that I was able to offer information about home demolitions so that the situation is better understood. By the way, it does not just happen in the oPT. It happens in the Arab sector too - main reason is lack of building permits, which are rarely granted.

Noreen

Greengirl's picture

How would you feel if a

How would you feel if a bulldozer showed up at YOUR front door in the middle of the night?......... Very scary question and I am still searching for an answer, which I wonder will ever surface. It is better left unimagined, but the stark reality is it has happened to some people, and it is still happening. I just pray that lasting peace will be found soonest.
By sharing the story, you have already taken a step in that direction.

Best Wishes,

Olanike Olugboji

noreens's picture

Yes it is hard to imagine

Yes it is hard to imagine that happening, so it would be even harder to actually experience the reality that tens of thousands have experienced, and thousands have yet to experience. It's very sad that these things still go on, and the international community is basically turning a blind eye. Thanks for reading, Olanike!

Noreen

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