Peace Centre near Jerusalem demolished by Israeli army

By staff writers
5 Nov 2012

Palestinian and Israeli peace groups have sharply criticised Israel's government following the demolition of a peace centre on the edge of Jerusalem.

The Beit Arabiya Peace Centre, built by Palestinians, Israelis and international volunteers, was demolished by the Israeli army in the early hours of Thursday 1 November. It was the sixth time it had been destroyed.

Salim Shawamreh, who worked at the centre, said he was struck by grief when arriving at the remains of the building on Thursday morning. He told Ekklesia, "It's not [just] a demolition. It's an earthquake. It's hate."

He said that the Israeli forces were giving the Palestinian people a clear message: "They are telling us to get out".

The majority of tiles had been individually smashed and the bathroom pipes twisted to make them unusable. The bodies of two stray dogs were lying in the rubble, apparently killed as the building collapsed.

Before its use as a peace centre, the building had been Shawamreh's home. It had been demolished for the first time in 1998. He says that on that occasion he was arrested and his children were tear gassed.

The Israeli authorities routinely deny building permits to Palestinians. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) reports that 94 per cent of Palestinian applications for building permits are refused. Applying for a permit costs around $5,000.

Many Palestinians are forced to build houses without permission. When demolished by the Israeli army, the residents are often charged for the cost of the demolition.

"We are living under occupation," said Shawamreh. "All the rules are made to serve the occupation."

ICAHD have records of over 27,000 house demolitions in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. "Every one is a violation of international law and the fourth Geneva Convention," said ICAHD's Linda Ramsden, referring to the rules that prohibit an occupying power from destroying personal homes.

Speaking to Ekklesia's reporter in the rubble of the demolished building, Shawamreh said, "It's not just concrete they are demolishing. It's a family." He added, "Our human rights have been violated by this occupation."

Christian Aid joined the international criticism of the destruction of the Peace Centre.

"Israel makes it notoriously difficult to obtain the permits required to build, leaving many with little choice to build without one," said Christian Aid's William Bell. He told Ekklesia, "House demolitions have a devastating effect on families and communities living under occupation".

For more details:

Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions - http://www.icahd.org
Christian Aid - http://www.christianaid.org.uk

[Ekk/1]

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