6 Jan 2021

Two month ago, I visited the community of Khirbet Humsah in the Jordan Valley after Israel demolished it. The place looked like a tsunami had hit it. The remains of tin shacks, livestock pens, clothes, bedding, outhouses and kitchen utensils lay scattered. Exhausted, desperate, angry people were trying to salvage bits of tin and fabric to improvise shelters for their young children in the cold.

Demolitions are the routine of the occupation. Hardly a day goes by without our field researchers calling me to report yet another home taken down. These calls fill me with anxiety and despair, because I know what suffering lies ahead for the families – the enormity of the trauma, and the economic, social and mental hardship that now exist where a home once stood.

Israel uses various methods to implement its policy of reducing Palestinian presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both areas where it claims ownership: preventing Palestinians’ access to land; military training on Palestinian land; refusing to hook communities up to water, power and road networks; and banning construction. Life is made unbearable and Palestinians are subjected to abject poverty without basic services – all in the hope they will leave their homes, supposedly of their own free will. Representatives of the Israeli planning authorities visit these communities to demolish or confiscate – never to plan or build. Since B’Tselem started documenting demolitions in the West Bank in 2006, we have counted more than 10,000 Palestinians, about half of them under the age of 18, who lost their homes in this way.