Demolished house in Beit HaninaOn my first day back, I finished an early morning stint at Qalandya when we got a house demolition alert from the Displacement Working Group. While I was away, my colleague Jenny had been several times to Beit Hanina, a quite posh suburb of East Jerusalem where police had advised a young couple with three small children that the house demolition order they had received a year ago would be carried out on the Sunday. It did not happen and they hoped against hope it never would. But at 8.00am on Monday morning, the bulldozer arrived with a dozen soldiers in jeeps, ten border police, a team of removal men, mounted police, and dog handlers. For a one-bedroom house! The husband Amjad Triaqe and his three-year old daughter were forced out, the furniture dumped in the street, and the house crushed, all in a matter of minutes. Amjad’s wife returned from taking the two older kids to school to find a pile of rubble. She fainted.

I have visited many houses with demolition orders and seen many houses after they’d been demolished. But I had never actually watched it happen before. The sheer senselessness and waste of it fills you with rage and despair. And such use of force: as if treating it like a military operation justifies the brutality. There had been a demolition hiatus during the summer, but we heard Jerusalem City Council still has a budget of a million shekels for demolition this year, enough for 15 more houses. There were three demolitions in Beit Hanina that Monday, mercifully only the Triaqe’s was inhabited. The second was a working bakery; the ovens were left on the street. The third was only house foundations. The fourth a block of flats with only one storey built, belonging to the Abu Aisha family. They had received a stop work order several years before but had no idea demolition was on the cards that day. Luckily for them, the Caterpillar broke down after the first blow and in the time it took to fetch another one (a Volvo much to the chagrin of Jenny who fired off a photo to some Swedish BDS organisation) the owner arrived. To stop proceedings, he had to pay 40,000 shekels (8,000 euros) to the court, and another 40,000 to the municipality, within the hour. He won that race against time, but it is only a stay of execution. Fees, fines, lawyers, pauperise Palestinians facing what, as I have previously explained, is discriminatory housing policy.

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