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First demolition in Nabi Saleh: Warning shot or ominous sign?

Four years ago, the residents of the village received demolition orders, but they were never carried out. On Monday, bulldozers razed an uninhabited house. Now the villagers, who have been protesting every week since 2009, fear that the army will carry out the rest of the demolition orders to collectively punish them.

Ruins in Nabi Saleh, following Monday's demolition campaign. Credit: Bilal Tamimi

Ruins in Nabi Saleh, following Monday’s demolition campaign. Credit: Bilal Tamimi

“When we started the demonstrations five years ago, we knew we would have a heavy price to pay,” says Manal Tamimi, a resident and activist in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. “Not just with violence and home demolitions, but also with our lives.” She pauses. “But under occupation you lose everything. And when you have faith in what you are doing, you don’t care what will happen to you.”

Nabi Saleh ended up paying a heavy price, many times over. Since 2009, when weekly non-violent demonstrations began to protest the annexation of the village’s well and land by the next-door Halamish settlement, the villagers have been embroiled in ongoing clashes with the Israeli army. Injuries from live ammunition have become a regular feature of the protests, with Manal herself having recently been shot in the leg. Two protesters have been killed over the years, including Mustafa Tamimi who was shot in the face with a tear gas canister at close range. And now, with the arrival of bulldozer at 4 a.m. on Monday, the threat of home demolitions was finally underway.

“Four years ago, the army gave demolition orders for thirteen houses in the village, but they were never carried out,” explains Manal. “At four in the morning on Monday, we suddenly heard the sound of a bulldozer and didn’t know what was going on. They didn’t give any excuse or warning.”

Following the events of Monday night, Nabi Saleh’s residents are now worried that the army will begin carrying out the rest of the demolition orders. The house that the Israeli army demolished was uninhabited, but the remaining orders are for buildings that house families, including children.

“About 20 percent of the village is under threat,” says Bassem Tamimi, another prominent activist in Nabi Saleh. Because the majority of the village’s land falls in Area C of the West Bank, which is fully controlled by Israel, residents are unable to obtain building permits. This, in turn, provides the military with a pretext for issuing demolition orders.

But the residents of Nabi Saleh are convinced that the army’s actions are merely a form of collective punishment. “When they gave the orders four years ago, they told us: ‘If you stop the protests, we will stop the demolition orders’,” says Manal.

There is also a general feeling in Nabi Saleh that with the demolition, they are entering a new period of violence. The last few months have already seen a noticeable escalation in the army and Border Police’s suppression of the weekly demonstrations. In addition to the use of live ammunition in contravention of army regulations, in recent weeks soldiers have also been filmed firing tear gas directly at demonstrators and assaulting photojournalists.

Nonetheless, on Tuesday, residents began rebuilding the home that was destroyed. The army intervened, causing a confrontation with youths who were working on the house, but Manal confirms that the rebuilding will continue until it is complete – in spite of the threat from Israeli security forces. For those in Nabi Saleh, this episode is symbolic of their wider struggle. “The house demolitions are meant to scare us. But we will not stop our resistance,” Manal says. “We have been told before that if we stop our demonstrations, we will get our well back. But we do not want to give up and be weakened; if we do, they will just take another area from us later on.”

“They have to understand that it’s not just about a piece of land. This is about the occupation.”

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    1. Bar

      So 4 years pass but they’re “paying a price.” Man, the Israelis are soooooo incompetent.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Hmmmm. The Israelis are on the contrary very competent at annexing a village’s well and its land, shooting demonstrators with live ammunition, murdering them, and shooting them in the face with gas canisters; and bulldozing houses. If the targets are Arabs. The fact that you callously deride that as a paltry price paid speaks volumes about your two sets of standards for two separate peoples to put it politely.

        It never seems to occur to you that Israel’s seeming lack of being “soooooo competent” is due to the fact that Israel is stayed from that “competence” only because it realizes it can’t quite get away with it without being criminally disciplined by the civilized world.

        The Israelis are on the other hand strikingly incompetent at exacting even the mildest price from any Jewish criminal in the occupied territories (again, if the victims are Arabs). No one gets murdered, no one gets shot in the face point blank with a tear gas canister, no one gets shot with live ammunition, no one gets their house bulldozed. No one gets indefinitely detained. And no one gets tortured. Not a single violent settler was ever treated this way.

        It’s a striking variation in competence. And in how two sets of human beings are treated, with vast difference. How to explain it? Everyone is puzzled.

        You come across as remarkably callous. You may not actually mean to sound so callous but here’s feedback: you do. To some it might seem that you are incompetent at empathy towards some people but not others based on ethnicity. Whether it’s the 50+ discriminatory laws (even if the first one on the list turned out not to be discriminatory but actually indirectly helpful to the Arab parties despite its originator’s intentions, many of the other 49+ clearly are), or the murderous treatment of demonstrators, it seems like it’s all a big joke to you. That conveys a strong message.

        Reply to Comment