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Friday, August 13, 1999 Published at 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK


World: Middle East

A Palestinian family's black day

Israeli authorities say the house had no permit

By Jerusalm Correspondent Hilary Andersson

It was a black day in the Palestinian village of Walabi when Israeli bulldozers destroyed two houses.


Hilary Andersson watches the destruction of another Palestinian home
A house was built without a permit and crushed, completely.

There had been hopes that Ehud Barak's new government would change the policy of demolishing Palestinian homes near Jerusalem.

The men from the village came in fury and at least were able to help rescue the furniture.

The Israeli police tried to stop them. Emotions flared but it was fists against guns and the Palestinians were helpless.


[ image:
"We can never trust the Jews again."
The woman that lived in the house and her mother were shocked.

"Where is the peace the politicians talk about? Is this it?" they yelled. "We can never trust the Jews again."

This is just one case, but 3,000 homes have been demolished like this within the last three years and hundreds more are slated for demolition.

'Deliberate policy'

The Israelis say this is merely the practical consequence of building without a permit, but the Palestinians here see it as a deliberate policy to clear the land for the Israelis.

The woman and her husband that own the land the house was built on have the deeds to prove it. But the paperwork is almost useless, for Palestinians are not allowed to build here.

The village is very near Jerusalem and the Israelis want to keep Jerusalem Jewish. Thirty-six more houses in the village are under threat.


[ image: Shlomo Ben-Ami:
Shlomo Ben-Ami: "You would do something about it in Britain"
Still, the government insists this is not political.

Israel's Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said that all over the world, when a house was built illegally, something had to be done about it.

"I guess in Britain you do something about it as well. Here, it becomes an issue because it is entangled with the Arab-Israeli conflict and the peace process."

Fight for land

The issue though is thoroughly entangled with the peace process.


[ image: Land is precious on the outskirts of Jerusalem]
Land is precious on the outskirts of Jerusalem
Since the house was demolished, the Palestinian villagers are rebuilding it, afraid that, if they do not build here, the Israelis eventually will, for at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian battle is the fight for land.

The men of the village then headed off for evening prayers in a mosque which, itself, could be demolished soon.

The family is left to camp out by the ruins of their old house.

The woman used to think that Arabs and Israelis could co-exist.

Now, she says she cannot even teach her children a message of peace.



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