The Society of St. Yves – Catholic Center for Human Rights, in cooperation with Trocaire, launched its short movie “From Shelter to Rubble: 50 Years of House Demolitions” in an event on Thursday, August 3rd 2017, at the Jacir Palace Hotel in Bethlehem.
The movie sheds light on the suffering of Palestinian families living in area (C), who are constantly under the threat of their houses being demolished as Israeli house demolition policies have made thousands of entire Palestinian families and children homeless. The Movie demonstrated the direct relation between house demolition policies and the illegal settlement enterprise, showcasing the mass demolition of the Shalaldeh family homes in S’eir, south of Hebron for the purposes of expanding the surrounding Asfar settlement.
Mr. Declan Johnston, the Deputy Representative of the Irish Representative Office in Ramallah delivered the opening remarks, stressing the importance of keeping Palestinians who reside in areas (C) in their homes, safeguarding their dignity and protecting their basic human rights as enshrined in international law, so that they lead a normal life. Mr. Johnston also noted Ireland’s commitment to the two-state solution and its clear stance against Israeli land confiscation and settlement expansion policies. Mr. Johnston also delivered the opening speech on behalf of Trocaire, partner organization to St. Yves, which shares the same values in safeguarding human dignity and rights, including the right to adequate housing.
The movie was followed by a panel discussion, analyzing house demolition policies under local and international legal frameworks. Adv. Raffoul Rofa, General Director of St. Yves gave an analysis on the Israeli legal set of measures and procedures used to implement house demolitions against Palestinians in area (C), which constitutes a discriminatory and inadequate planning system that prevent Palestinians from building on their own property, while Israeli settlements continue to expand illegally in the same areas. Adv. Rofa insisted on the fact that the continuity of such policies threatens the presence of Palestinians in the area on one hand and is paving the way for more land confiscation and settlement expansion, gradually imposing a new reality of annexation the ground.
Mr. Atta Hindi, Legal Advisor at Diakonia reflected on international law’s stance on the Israeli house demolition policies, and the illegality of such measures under international humanitarian law, namely the Fourth Geneva Convention. Mr. Hindi also noted that besides being a result of the discriminatory planning system, house demolitions can also take the form of collective punishment measures, which is also a breach of international law, and stressed on the importance of third State responsibilities and the more active role states can play in standing against violations of international law.
In conclusion of the panel and on behalf of the victim families, , Mr. Raed Halabi, Field Officer at St. Yves demonstrated the devastating consequences of house demolitions on the families, focusing and the heavy long-term psychological and social and economic damages and the constant state of terror and panic that accompanies the families long after the demolition has taken place. Mr. Halabi also noted that besides the actual financial damage of the demolition, the means of livelihoods are often destructed and families are sure to go in a state of helpless poverty.
The event was attended by a diverse audience and included a number of diplomatic mission, civil society partners and activists, public institution and ministry representatives, church institutions, academia and media who engaged in a Q&A session after the panel.