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Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)


The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) works in close co-operation with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron and the Occupied Territories. ICAHD representatives Jeff Halper and Salim Shawamreh recently made presentations on their work in major cities across Canada. A summary report of their Canadian presentations appears below. For more information, visit the Christian Peacemaker Teams website. Jeff Halper is a Professor of Anthropology at Ben Gurion University, Israel. Salim Shawamreh is an Engineer with the Palestinian Ministry of Industry.

Towards a just and viable peace? A view from the ground

Canada-US Speaking Tour of Salim Shawamreh and Jeff Halper

January 25-February 18, 2001
Most of what the public knows about the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" comes from the media, which by its nature tends to focus attention on the political dimension -- the negotiations, deals, agreements and differing positions. Looked at solely in this way, it appears that great progress has been made since the signing of Oslo. Israel has recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians; Arafat has returned from exile and a Palestinian Authority has been elected; a series of interim agreements have been reached and some withdrawal of Israeli troops from West Bank and Gazan territories has taken place; and Israel has declared its intention to eventually recognize a Palestinian state.

Why, then, did the Second Intifada break out? Was it really because Arafat is not a "partner" for peace, as Israel has charged, that in the end the Palestinians cannot accept a "reasonable peace"? Or, as the Palestinians counter, was it because Israel attempted to impose a final status agreement that would have left them only a truncated and non-viable state composed of enclaves under complete Israeli control, with most of the settlements intact and the refugee issue left unresolved?

Salim Shawamreh, a Palestinian whose house has been demolished three times ( April 2001 ) by the Israeli authorities and who is still unable, for political reasons, to inhabit his rebuilt home, and Jeff Halper, the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), evaluate(d) the peace process from a perspective largely hidden from public view -- that of Israeli policies "on the ground." By diverting attention from the Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem to the "peace process," Israel has managed to conceal the matrix of control it has laid over the Occupied Territories -- the massive expropriation of Palestinian lands for ever-expanding Israeli settlements; the construction of massive highways for control; confining Palestinians into dozens of cantons while imposing an economic "closure;" pursuing forms of economic warfare such as uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian fruit and olive trees and exploiting to depletion Palestinian natural resources; causing massive environmental degradation to the Holy Land, one of the world's most sacred and historic heritage sites; demolishing thousands of Palestinian homes and committing other human rights violations.

From "the ground," Shawamreh and Halper argue(d), an entirely different picture emerges of a "peace process" that never really was. Through presentations using slides, maps and dialogue with the audience, Shawamreh and Halper reveal(ed) the hidden reality on the ground that must be taken into account in any comprehensive evaluation of the "peace process" and its prospects for success. Shawamreh and Halper are not interested in merely criticizing the parties, however. They have definite ideas of what has to be done to ensure the just, viable and lasting peace that both Palestinians and Israelis desire. Scenarios of what may happen in the region after peace is secured are(were) also brought up for discussion.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
Rehov Tiveria 37,
Jerusalem, Israel
Tels: (+972-2) 624-8252; 050-651425
Fax: (02) 623-6210
Jeff Halper, Coordinator

What is ICAHD?

ICAHD is a non-violent, direct-action group originally established to oppose and resist Israel's demolition of Palestinian houses on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Since 1967 some 7000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed on the West Bank, in Gaza and in Arab East Jerusalem, more than 2000 since 1987, leaving 30,000 people homeless, destitute and living in fear and trauma.

The work of ICAHD and other organizations has made a difference: in 1999 "only" about 100 homes were demolished, down from 277 in 1998. Yet 2000 demolition orders remain outstanding in the West Bank, another 2000 for East Jerusalem, altogether threatening some 6000 families. The Bedouin population, harassed and being driven into tiny "reservations," is also targeted. The motivation for demolishing these Palestinian and Bedouin homes is purely political and violates all human rights covenants, although an elaborate system of planning regulations, laws and procedures gives it a legal facade. The goal is to confine the 3,000,000 residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza to small, crowded, impoverished and disconnected enclaves, thus effectively foreclosing any viable Palestinian entity and ensuring Israeli control even if the Palestinians achieve some form of internal "autonomy."

ICAHD's activities, therefore, extend to resisting all aspects of the Occupation - human rights violations; the massive expropriation of Palestinian lands for Israeli settlements, by-pass highways and industrial parks; "cantonization;" the closure, forms of economic warfare such as the government's uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian fruit and olive trees; exploitation to depletion of Palestinian natural resources; environmental degradation (as Israel moves its most polluting industries to the West Bank); as well as house demolitions.

The 2000 Intifada has made our work all the more pressing and important. ICAHD is comprised of members of many Israeli peace and human rights organizations, and works closely with Palestinian organizations, the Palestinian Land Defense Committee in particular. Among our grass-roots activities, ICAHD resists demolition by the army and rebuilds "illegal" houses together with Palestinian residents. House rebuildings have proven effective vehicles of peace-making, bringing together hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians for construction week after week. ICAHD works closely with the international press, as well as peace and human rights groups abroad, to raise the issue of house demolitions and other issues of the Occupation. ICAHD conducts a Family Matching Program which links Palestinian families who have received demolition orders with families in Israel and abroad. ICAHD works with other human rights organizations to present legal challenges to Israeli actions and policies in the Occupied Territories. ICAHD provides strategic practical support to Palestinian families and communities: aid in filing police claims; aid in dealing with the Civil Administration and the army; assistance in applying for building permits; arranging and subsidizing legal assistance. We are currently helping to build a kindergarten in the Jenin refugee camp. This is the stuff of reconciliation between our peoples. ICAHD's work is supported solely by donations.