In a heated and impassioned conversation about housing demolition in Israeli-government occupied territories Friday night, some called “for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians” and “the right to a home and a homeland.” The event was sponsored by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality.
Elizabeth Barlow, outreach coordinator at the Center for Middle East and North African Studies, said more than 9,000 homes have been demolished since the beginning of the Israeli occupation.
Encouraging student activism and awareness of this issue of home demolition, Jeff Halper, a sociology professor at Ben Gurion University and founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition, said, “This is an issue the government isn’t going to support us. It is a civil society issue.”
Halper emphasized that with the emergence of world human rights through the United Nations and Human Rights Convention, international civil society is gaining more power and is coming together.
“We are having an impact and we have to be encouraged,” he added.
The root of the house demolition problem lies in the Israeli occupation, he said. “Israeli infrastructure has gotten to such a degree, it’s hard for me to see how it’ll roll back,” Halper said.
Halper delineated two outcomes of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The first outcome illustrated what he referred to as an apartheid regime taking shape in Israel with the impossibility of Palestinians to receive citizenship.
“How can you claim a country and deny 40 percent of the population of the country? … I can’t see the U.S., Germany and Holland pressuring Israel. The two-state solution seems less and less likely,” Halper said.
The second outcome of a binational state seemed unlikely, according to Halper.
“Binational state is very abstract and has never really been considered. … (The) campaign in South Africa was one person, one vote. This would be much better for Palestinians,” Halper said.
Salim Shawamreh, a Palestinian who has had his house demolished three times by Israelis in three years, said the Israeli government has been continuing to confiscate land from Palestinians.
“More than 200 soldiers with bulldozers and tear gas came to my house to destroy it. … They destroyed trees, fences and destroyed our life,” Shawamreh said.
As a result, Shawamreh lived in a tent; yet, he needed a permit to do this. He described this process as ethnic cleansing.
“They’re making our lives very hard to get us to leave the area. There is no free movement,” Shawamreh said.
Shawamreh emphasized the importance of the American role in the peace process. He said nobody is able to help the Palestinians like the Americans.
“There will never be peace without fairness and justice. We need the international community, especially the U.S., to come and make this lose-lose situation for both to win-win situations,” Shawamreh said.
Halper provided encouragement to the students by urging them to continue with campaigns for “the right to a home and a homeland.” In the world campaign for The Right to a Home and a Homeland, Halper said there is no room for enemies. Everyone is on the same side.
“One of the most effective ways to get the word out is through campaigns. Campaigns are ongoing. … Campaigns are slow but they are the most effective,” Halper said.