A documentary about Home Demolition in “Area C”
Produced by: The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Right Center
Hundreds of houses and buildings in the West Bank are considered “illegal” buildings by the Israeli Authorities, marking scores of them to be demolished and leaving thousands of Palestinians without shelter. The documentary “Alert!”, premiered by JLAC at the Al-Kasaba Theater in Ramallah, sheds light on the suffering and plight of those threatened with demolition.
Among the audience members were many key figures, including political, academic, and trade unionists, as well as colleagues from other NGOs, UN agencies, Arab and foreign consulates, researchers and the media. All expressed their rejection of Israel’s policy of home demolition, which deprives Palestinians of their right to adequate housing and shelter.
The film presented 3 stories from three different areas in West Bank: Kufr al-Deek, al-Sawya, and al-Aqaba villages. The first story is about Radi Farhat, who is a 30-year-old university student with special needs. His family received a demolition order and their fate now hangs in the balance before Israeli military commissions and courts. Radi’s only fault is the constructions of his humble home intended to house him and his elderly mother upon the only stretch of land he owns in the village of Kufr al-Deek). Regretfully, his land is situated in the area now classified as 'C’, and as a struggling student with special needs and meek resources, he is unable to acquire an alternative plot to build upon.
The second story is about al-Muarajat area in the Jordan Valley. The Ka’abneh Bedouin school there received demolition orders after they brought trailers to add as additional classrooms. Demolition of the school will leave 60 students without a place to learn, depriving them of their right to education.
The third story is about al-Aqaba village, where more than 95% of its buildings are threatened with demolition. There are now 15 cases in the Israeli Supreme Court to stop implementation of the demolition orders. The Village’s local council submitted a master plan for the village to the Israeli authorities, and was waiting for a reply from them. After the making of the film, the Israeli Higher Planning Council did not approve the initial master plan submitted, contending that the expanse of land outlined for the plan was too large in relation to the number of residents in the village. JLAC then conducted a comprehensive survey to establish the exact number of residents in the village and is in the final stages of designing a new master plan to fit within the Council’s requirements.
The film also addressed Israel’s discriminatory zoning and planning policy that does not issue Palestinians the necessary building permits to account for their natural growth and construction needs.
The General Director of JLAC, Mr. Issam Abu al-Haj, spoke after the film debut about the need to document these violations by utilizing new and influential techniques, such as a documentary. The positive reaction to the film showed the importance of such techniques in reaching an audience. Mr. Abu al-Haj also noted that the number of demolition/stop-work orders issued have increased in the last 4 days alone. As a result of Israeli policies, vast expanses of land in West Bank will stay empty to be used for Jewish settlement expansion, hindering the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
After the screening, the honorable committee (Minister of the Palestinian Ministry of State and Settlement and Wall Affairs, Mr. Maher Ghnaim, Mayor of Ramallah and Member of JLAC’s General Assembly, Mrs. Jannet Michael, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mr. Tayser Al-Aruri) acknowledged key persons featured in the film: Mr. Radi Farhat and his mother, Mr. Sami Abu Al-Haj (Al-Aqaba service council Director), and Abu Omar Abu Khrebesh, the head of the Rashaydeh Clan in the Fasayel Village. In addition, the Board acknowledged activists who have made it their quest to combat house demolition: Mr. Marwan Toubassi, governor of Tubas and the northern Jordan Valley; Ya’qub Odeh, a Jerusalemites’ human rights activist; Mr. Akrama Samara, mayor of Bruqin; Mr. Ahmed Asaad Hassan, President of al-Sawya Village Council and Chairman of the Joint Service Council of the southern villages of Nablus; Idna Municipality; Mr. Nasr Abu Jaish, President of the Village Council of Beit Dajan and Joint Service Council of the villages of eastern Nablus; Tayseer Daraghmeh, Principal of the Ka'abneh Elementary School west of Jericho; Engineer Hassan Abu Salbak, representative of Arabtec Jardaneh, a model of private sector social responsibility, and who treats JLAC as a partner rather than a customer; Lawyer Bassam Karajeh, representing JLAC’s legal team which consists of 8 lawyers (Suleiman Shahin, and Razan Muhsin, Osman Hamdallah, and Mohammed Abu Sunaina, Mu’een Odeh, Haitham Al-Khatib, Wa’il Qut, and consultants Osama Halaby, Ahmed al-Safadi, and the Engineer Abdullah Abu Ktaish).