Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem – Hundreds of Palestinian families are struggling to reunite their lives after Israeli authorities demolished their homes and businesses, either as a collective punishment for the operations carried out by relatives against the Israeli occupation or as part of the plans. ‘Israel to change demographics in occupied territory. .
The village of Thurmasiya, north of Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, is home to many expatriate American Palestinians, with many ostentatious two-story villas dotted with the village’s valleys and hills.
Saneh Shalaby, 40, was able to move into her brother’s village house after Israeli authorities demolished it.
She house was destroyed on July 8 after her husband, U.S. citizen Montaser Shalabi, allegedly shot dead an Israeli killer and wounded two more in May near a checkpoint in the northern West Bank during an intense period of fighting between Hamas and Israel .
Despite a legal appeal and the intervention of the American embassy that criticized the collective punishment inflicted on Saneh and his three children – who did not participate in the shooting and only learned the facts after the incident – the demolition continued.
Israel argues that its policy of collective punishment against relatives of alleged aggressors is a deterrent to other Palestinians who consider acts of violence against Israelis.
But Israeli rights group B’Tselem, which said Israel had carried out hundreds of punitive degradations at home leaving thousands of Palestinians homeless, refutes this.
“The state has never presented any figures that show that the demolitions are, in fact, deterring Palestinians from carrying out attacks, nor has it ever been pressured to do so,” the defense group said.
“Without evidence of effectiveness, the utilitarian justification of such an extreme and harmful measure is lost. On the other hand, conflicting evidence indicates that house demolitions have increased the motivation of Palestinians to carry out attacks. “
No punishment against international law applies to Israelis who have committed similar crimes against Palestinians.
Both Saneh and his mother were interrogated by the Israeli Shabak or the national intelligence agency, but neither was treated harshly, probably because of their American citizenship and the intervention of the American embassy.
However, Saneh is still deeply traumatized by the incident.
“Saneh is very depressed and stressed and sleeps most of the day just waking up to eat and shower,” her mother Elizabeth Khamis, who visited the US to support her daughter, told Al Jazeera.
Khamis said Saneh’s children seemed to adapt to the situation and their new home, but that it was difficult to know how their mother’s grief, their father’s imprisonment and the loss of their children had really affected them. home.
“My other children who study and live in the United States are also very concerned about their sister and her phone all the time to see how she is, while encouraging her to be strong.”
“I don’t know how I will feed my children”
In Silwan, in occupied East Jerusalem, another Palestinian family is struggling with the emotional and economic effect of demolishing the family business and the pending demolition of their home.
Nidal Rajabe’s butcher’s shop was demolished two weeks ago after it was unable to obtain a building permit due to an Israeli policy limiting Palestinian construction in East Jerusalem, while encouraging the construction of Jewish settlements, while legal under international law.
Several Jerusalem city officials and Israeli cabinet ministers, including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, have openly stated that Israel’s official policy is to create a Jewish majority in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
On June 7, the Jerusalem municipality issued a series of demolition orders to residents of the al-Bustan area in Silwan. The 13 affected families, made up of about 130 people, were given 21 days to evacuate and demolish their homes themselves.
Rajabe received a notice to demolish his business within 21 days, an order he refused to comply with.
Subsequently, the municipality demolished the building and Rajabe expects the bill for what is expected to exceed NIS 60,000 ($ 18,200).
On the day of the demolition protests broke out and Rajabe and two of his brothers were arrested and imprisoned.
“I was beaten and spent four days in prison, one of my brothers was hospitalized with a head wound after Israeli soldiers hit him in the head,” Rajabe told Al Jazeera.
Rajabe not only has to pay the city of Jerusalem to demolish his business, but he has lost his monthly income of up to NIS 20,000 ($ 6,000) with which he maintained his wife and eight children.
In addition, the city of Jerusalem has fined him NIS 20,000 for building his butchery without permission, NIS 50,000 ($ 15,200) for building his house without permission and NIS 10,000 ($ 3,000) for building his gallery without permission. .
He has also received a demolition notice to build his house.
In one of the protests following the destruction of his business, Rajabe’s son, Harby, a diabetic, was shot in the back by Israeli soldiers with live ammunition.
He was later rushed to hospital where he was operated on for hours, during which time one of his kidneys and some of his intestines were removed. He now has chronic pain and struggles to walk or stand up straight.
Rajabe confirmed that he would not comply with the order of the Jerusalem municipality to self-demolish his house, which will lead to new expenses to be paid by the municipality carrying out the demolition.
Due to the huge debt he has, the payments to the municipality have been broken down into monthly installments, which Rajabe showed to Al Jazeera, and which will take a few years to pay off, assuming he is able to find work.
“My wife is very worried about the situation and my children are stressed and angry,” he said.
“I’m looking for work, but I don’t know when I’ll find work or how I will continue to feed my children or pay off the debt.”