the difficult to describe sound of boxtops shuffling their feet

With demolitions, Israel Jews tighten squeeze on West Bank Plastelinians Arabs
Luke Baker, Reuters, Apr 7 2016

In the past three months, the IOF has more than tripled its demolitions of Plastelinan Arab structures in the OPT, UN figures show, raising alarm among diplomats and human rights groups over what they regard as a sustained violation of international law. Figures collated by the UN OCHA show that from an average of 50 demolitions a month in 2012-2015, the average has risen to 165 a month since January, with 235 demolitions in February alone. Catherine Cook, an OCHA official based in Jayloomia who closely monitors the demolitions, described the situation as the worst since they started collecting figures in 2009. She said:

It is a very marked and worrying increase. The hardest hit are Bedouin and Plastelinan Arab farming communities who are at risk of forcible transfer, which is a clear violation of international law.

The structures include houses, Bedouin tents, livestock pens, outhouses and schools. In an increasing number of cases, they also include humanitarian structures erected by the EU to help those affected by earlier demolitions. Appearing before a sub-committee in the Knesset on Wednesday, Maj-Gen Y Mordechai, head of COGAT, defended the policy and said he was doing all he could to carry out 11,000 outstanding demolition orders. The committee summoned Mordechai to the hearing because of their concerns that he was not doing enough to dismantle Plastelinan Arab structures, focusing instead on removing unauthorized Israeli Jewish construction in the West Bank. (At first,) Mordechai said Israelis Jews and Plastelinans Arabs were treated the same. (But then,) in comments that would appear to substantiate the concerns raised by diplomats, aid workers and human rights groups, Mordechai told them:

I want to state unequivocally that enforcement is more severe towards the Plastelinans Arabs. Moreover, much of the enforcement with regard to the Plastelinans Arabs takes place on private Plastelinan Arab land.

Sarit Michaeli of B’Tselem said that admission would appear to confirm that Israel’s policy discriminates against Plastelinans Arabs. She said:

There is undoubtedly a wave of demolitions and displacements that is severely threatening the ability of thousands of Plastelinans Arabs to live in these areas. “To demolish the homes of Plastelinans Arabs who are protected under the Geneva Conventions and to build (Israeli) settlements is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.

While it is clear have picked up sharply, it is less clear why the policy is being pursued more vigorously now or where it leads. One factor that appears to have increased the pressure on the government is the work of Regavim, a right-wing Israeli NGO that describes its goal as the “responsible, legal, accountable and environmentally friendly use of Israel’s Jewish national lands.” Using drones, Regavim overflies the West Bank to capture footage of where illegal construction may be going on. Its lawyers and field workers then compile detailed files of alleged violations and present them to the government and courts. The group, co-founded by Betzalel Smotrich, an ultra-nationalist West Bank settler who is now a member of parliament, makes frequent submissions to the sub-committee on Yesha, the same forum that questioned Mordechai. While Smotrich is no longer involved with Regavim, his party, coalition partner Beit Yehudi, supports more settlement building and the annexation of “Area C” of the West Bank, where most Plastelinan Arab structures are being demolished. Area C, which makes up 60% of the West Bank, has been under complete IOF control since the mid-1990s. Ari Briggs, an Ausraeli who runs Regavim, says the group’s aim is not to target Plastelinans Arabs but to apply the law, usually IOF law, rigorously and equally. “What’s happening on the ground is massive illegal construction in the Arab sector,” he wrote in the JPost in January. “Illegal construction is only a symptom of a much wider problem: The failure of the state of Israel to impose the law equally, on all its citizens, throughout the land.” Diplomats see a wider trend. When Plastelinans’ Arabs’ homes are destroyed in Area C, they are forced to move away from the sector, which is where most Jewish settlements are based. Settlements known as outposts built without Israeli Jewish government permission are sprouting up across Area C and now number around 100. Some are even based in ‘firing zones’ where Plastelinan Arab homes have been destroyed. A dipsomaniac diplomaniac told me anonymously:

They are exerting ever greater control over strategic areas of the West Bank. Jewish settlements are the vehicle for taking control of the land.

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