Readers might be aware of the controversy over the Israeli Defence Force’s removal of some illegally-constructed tents and shacks built by Bedouins at Khirbet Humsa in Area C. As described here, they were built on a military firing range and – far from being a village as stated in some reports – had only been placed there in the last few years. This didn’t stop politicians in many countries (including Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney) from condemning Israel for doing what every country does – acting against illegal constructions.
These weren’t the first illegal structures demolished by Israeli authorities this year in Judea-Samaria. Similar demolitions took place at Kumi Uri in January, Maale Shlomo in February, Kipa Sruga and Tekuma in April, Rimonim in May, Givat HaBaladim and Maoz Esther in June, and Yitzhar in August. Later in August, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the destruction of the community of Mitzpe Kramim.
The above concerns roughly 60 buildings (including two places of worship) and the living quarters of hundreds of people. As the links above show, the Israeli media have reported the stories but you will struggle to find any news organisation outside of Israel giving them any coverage. More notably, no politicians outside of Israel have condemned the actions – despite the scenarios being carbon copies of what was done at Khirbet Humsa last week.
Leaving aside the fact that there is no story (apart from a country enforcing planning laws), why might that be? The structures were no more illegal than the structures built by the Bedouin – and were possibly less so since none of them were built on a firing range – so why the lack of reaction? In his condemnation of the demolition of the tents and shacks at Khirbet Humsa, Simon Coveney implied that such actions were made worse by the ongoing pandemic. Yet the demolitions described in the second paragraph also took place during the pandemic.
Could it be because the examples described in the second paragraph above all involve structures built by Jews? Could it be that Israel is only meant to apply planning regulations to one community? There’s a term for that; it’s “double standards” and Israelis – long conscious of being held to a far higher standard than any other country – are wearily familiar with it.
By Ciarán Ó Raghallaigh