- October 2 - Global citizens are contacting their political representatives and demanding that the Israeli government immediately rescind the demolition order against a Palestinian home that has been demolished four previous times. Four hundred United Methodist Churches of Minnesota provided a "love offering" to finance the home's construction, bringing Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals together last August to build.
On Monday, the "Civil" Administration, Israel's military government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, issued Mr. Salim Shawamreh a summons to appear before a military court. His "crime": rebuilding a home for his family on his own privately-owned land. On Tuesday, the Civil Administration issued a house demolition order to be executed within 48 hours. Citizens gathered at the home to prevent demolition. This afternoon, an Israeli Court stayed demolition for 2 weeks time - standard procedure to give the Civil Administration time to show why the house must be demolished.
"Since first demolished by the Israeli authorities five years ago, the Shawamreh house has become a symbol of resistance, not only against the Occupation, but against Israel's sustained campaign to displace Palestinians altogether," said Jeff Halper, Coordinator for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. "It is only one of over 10,000 houses demolished in the Occupied Territories since 1967 -- the house of a family of refugees who cannot return home. Yet they are not allowed to build a new home in their place of refuge: on their own land."
Unable to continue living in the densely-packed Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem, the Shawamreh's bought a plot of land in the nearby village of Anata. Four times they applied for, but were denied, a building permit, with total application costs of $20,000: their barren stony plot was zoned "agricultural"; "the slope was too steep"; unnamed signatures were missing on the deed; the plot was too close to a planned Israeli highway. Finally, the Civil Administration "lost" their file. But the underlying reason for not granting them a permit and demolishing their home is to confine them, and other Palestinians, to the 42% of the West Bank Sharon has in mind as the Palestinian "state."
"I faxed Senator Norm Coleman of the Foreign Relations Committee to request his urgent action: that he call the Israeli Foreign Minister to demand they let our house stand," said Reverend Ric Koehn, of the Palestine-Israel Justice Project of the Minnesota Methodist Church. "It is time our political leaders find their voice and stand up for those Israelis and Palestinians who build together and refuse to be enemies."
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, www.ICAHD.org, is a non-violent,
direct-action group established to resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses. Fundraising to rebuild the Shawamreh home was organized by the Global Campaign to Rebuild Palestinian Homes, www.RebuildingHomes.org. The Palestine-Israel Justice Project of the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, www.mumac.org/pijp educates and encourages parishioners to take action for social justice.
Jeff Halper and Rev. Ric Koehn are available for interviews. Salim and Arabia Shawamreh arrive in Detroit on Oct. 3rd for a midwest speaking tour.