Monday, November 5, 2007

CAMERA Obscura - ICAHD and Jeff Halper - Part 1

I must thank Shlomo and someone from the team at Zionism on the Web for writing comments about Jeff Halper and ICAHD. I have read all the material that you recommended and appreciate your taking the time to do so. You have both raised so many issues that I expect to devote a number of posts to them.

Let me start with the article from CAMERA. I have had the opportunity to be in the legal community for 47 years. CAMERA has the traits and characteristics of many of the lawyers I have known. The report shows excellent research. There is a wealth of facts to support most statments. It is well written. The entire report is a well-crafted argument in favor of and a brief in support of its client, the Government of Israel.

What that means is that there is no attempt on CAMERA's part to be objective.

For this post let me limit myself to its comments about house demolitions.

The first is CAMERA's response to its quote from Jeff Halper: "no homes for the young generation (Israel has demolished 12,000 homes since the occupation began and refuses to issue permits to build now ones)."

"Halper's other claims are just as false as his agricultural claims. For example, his allegation that there are 'no homes for the young generation,' because Israel has 'demolished 12,000 Palestinian homes and refuses to issue permits to build new ones,' is utter nonsense."

What is CAMERA trying to say?

You might think that it is saying that the demolition figures are utter nonsense?

OR you might thing that it is saying that the claim that the Government of Israel refuses to issue permits is utter nonsense.

And you might believe CAMERA.

The problem that CAMERA has to deal with is that if you were to find out that the Government of Israel has demolished 18,000 homes of Palestinians for no security reasons, you would be outraged and might believe that that action of the Government of Israel is illegal and immoral.

You would likely have the same reaction if you find out that the Government of Israel refuses to issue permits to build houses to Palestinians and only issues them to Jewish settlers.

What CAMERA then seems to do is to either totally avoid providing facts to prove that the allegation about the demolition of the 18000 homes is false OR sweep it away with the comment that it is "utterly ridiculous".

Here is what you can learn about House Demolitions in the Occupied Territories since 1967.

These are figures for Palestinian homes. If approximately 120,000 Druze and Arabs were expelled from the Syria Golan Heights in 1967 and their villages (134 in number) were completely demolished, that makes about 20,000 additional demolished homes, assuming six people per family unit. The following sources are by year. In years without sources, the figures were arrived at through interviewing Israeli government or military personnel, or by collecting Palestinian testimonies.

compiled by Jeff Halper, Executive Director, ICAHD
(sources below)

* year - number of demolitions
* 1967 - 6,317
* 1968 - 140
* 1969 - 301
* 1970 - 191
* 1971 - 2,231
* 1972 - 35
* 1973 - 34
* 1974 - 61
* 1975 - 77
* 1976 - 24
* 1977 - 1
* 1978 - 2
* 1979 - 18
* 1980 - 30
* 1981 - 24
* 1982 - 35
* 1983 - 12
* 1984 - 2
* 1985 - 44
* 1986 - 49
* 1987 - 104
* 1988 - 587
* 1989 - 567
* 1990 - 306
* 1991 - 307
* 1992 - 193
* 1993 - 130
* 1994 - 153
* 1995 - 69
* 1996 - 168
* 1997 - 257
* 1998 - 180
* 1999 - 142
* (Intifada) - 4,747 (2,781 military, 1,966 administrative)
* 2005 - 290
* 2006 - 319

* TOTAL 18,147


* 1967: United Nations General Assembly (1967). “Report of the Secretary-General under General Assembly resolution 2252 (ES-V) and Security Council resolution ).” Retrieved 25 September 2006 from . Thomas Aboud (2000) “The Moroccan Quarter: A History of the Present.” Jerusalem: Jerusalem Quarterly. Retrieved 25 September 2006 from . Palestine Remembered (n.d.) “Imwas”, “Bayt Nuba”, “Yalu”. Retrieved 25 September 2006 from . The UN Report refers to 850 houses demolished in Qalqilya and 360 in Beit Awa. It also states that the Beit Mersim (Beit Marsam) was entirely demolished and had an original population of approximately 500. We averaged just over 8 people per house to arrive at the figure of 60 houses for this village. Also quoted in the report is the demolition of 18 houses in Surif. Abowd’s articles states that 135 houses were demolished in the Moroccan Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The villages of Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba were entirely demolished in 1967. The website “Palestine Remembered” cites the 1931 British census listing 224 houses in Imwas, 245 in Yalu and 226 in Beit Nuba. According to the 1961 Jordanian census, the population of the towns increased by 91%, 70% and 43%. An extremely conservative estimate would be a 10% increase in the amount of housing by the 1961 census, adding a total of 69 more houses for a three-village-total of 764. This total does not include the numbers from the Jordan Valley villages of Nuseirat, Jiftlik, and Arajish, all of which were leveled.

* . United Nations General Assembly (1984). “Report of the Secretary-General, Living Conditions of the Palestinian People in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Retrieved 25 September 2006 from . This is the source for all statistics on demolitions between 1967 and 1982. In the actual report these are listed as punitive demolitions because all demolitions were classified as “Collective Punishment.”

* 1971. Human Rights Watch (2004). Razing Rafah. New York: Human Rights Watch. Jeff Halper (2005) Obstacles to Peace (Third Edition). Jerusalem: PalMap. This number is from a mass demolition that took place in the Gaza Strip in August. It happens that Ariel Sharon was the leader of that mission.

* 1983. Ronny Talmor (1989). Demolition and Sealing of Houses As a punitive measure in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the Intifada. Jerusalem: B’tselem. This report is the source for the data on punitive demolitions from .

* 1987. B’tselem (2005). “Statistics on demolition of houses as punishment .” Retrieved 25 September 2006 from . All the statistics on punitive house demolitions from come from this source. B’tselem (2006). “Statistics on demolition of houses built without permits.” Retrieved 25 September 2006 from . All the statistics on administrative demolitions between come from this source.

* 1994. Meir Margalit (2006) Discrimination in the Heart of the Holy City. Jerusalem: IPCC. Also personal communication with Dr. Margalit, field researcher for ICAHD. B’tselem (2006). “Statistics on demolition of houses built without permits.” Retrieved 25 September 2006 from . UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ). Weekly Humanitarian Briefings #s 86-178. All statistics about administrative house demolitions between come from these sources.

* . B’tselem (2006). “Statistics on houses demolished for alleged military purposes.” Retrieved 25 September 2006 from . UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ). Weekly Humanitarian Briefings #s 86-178

My suggestion is that you ask CAMERA to do similar research and determine the number of houses of Palestinians which have been destroyed without any security reason and ask CAMERA to justify that by international law and the teachings of Judaism.

This is THE issue, not the comment that there are "no homes for the young generation". What do we call that in law - the red herring, the straw man? Pick something minor and blow it up and destroy it. Maybe no one will notice the elephant in the room.

Razzle dazzle 'em.

And CAMERA goes on to say "Even Palestinian officials contradict Halper's claims, and admit that Palestinians can build, both with and without permits. For example, Khalil Tufakji, the leading Palestinian building and demography expert, and obviously no friend of Israel (why is that, CAMERA, is that because all Palestinians hate Israel?)stated on CNN (interesting to rely on the station that broadcast God's Warriors, the program CAMERA referred to as CNN's Abomination)that: "We can build inside Jerusalme, legal, illegal -- rebuild a house, whatever, we can do. Maybe we lose ten house, but in the end we build 40 more houses in East Jerusalem."(CNN, September 19, 1998)

And THAT is supposed to be an argument AGAINST the ICAHD statement that the Government of Israel refuses to issue permits to build new ones!!

CAMERA obscura.

There are numerous sources for the position that the Government of Israel does not issue permits for Palestinians to build houses.

Here's what the Rabbis for Human Rights has to say:

Amir Cheshin, who served as Teddy Kollek’s and Ehud Olmert’s Arab affairs advisor, writes in his book, From Separate and Unequal: The Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem, “In 1967, Israel’s leaders adopted two basic principles in their rule of East Jerusalem. The first was to rapidly increase the Jewish population in East Jerusalem. The second was to hinder growth of the Arab population.” While there are countless examples of this ruthless policy being applied, there is one family in particular that has suffered excessively – the Dari family, who have been labeled “common criminals” by Jerusalem’s Mayor, Uri Lupolianski, because they dared to build their home without the requisite permits. Why? Because such permits are virtually impossible to acquire because Israel has turned urban planning in Jerusalem into a tool of the government in order to prevent the expansion of the Palestinian population in the Holy City.

That is about the issuance of permits in East Jerusalem. What about in the West Bank?

Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes built without permits continued around Israeli installations in the West Bank including East Jerusalem, displacing hundreds. Building permits were almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain, and according to Israeli officials as many as three thousand homes in the West Bank could be subject to demolition. At the same time Israel targeted Palestinian homes for destruction, Israel authorized massive housing construction, tax incentives, and roads and related infrastructure for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Government approval of new construction often immediately followed attacks by Palestinians on settlers, as in the decision in August to expand the Yitzhar and Tel Rumeida settlements, and to allot NIS 90 million to build new settlements and expand existing ones. In response to a survey in August by Peace Now that found 5,892 new units under construction in 142 settlements, while 2,888 completed units stood empty, the Housing Ministry admitted that almost a quarter of all units built by the government in the West Bank between 1989 and 1992 had never been occupied. Human Rights Watch World Report 1999

I am serious wnen I say that I appreciate your sending your comment. It encouraged me to look at CAMERA in a way that I have been resistant to do in the past. As I mentioned above, unless I get sidetracked, I plan to continue to analyze this article about ICAHD because I think that these two entities - ICAHD and CAMERA represent two diametrically opposed views of not only Israel/Palestine but the world.

What is missing in the geographic area in which I live is any ANY such open discussion such as we are having and that IS the path to a just peace.

In the same respectful way you asked me to take another look at ICAHD, I, of course, suggest you do the same with CAMERA.


Zionism On The Web said...

Ron, with respect, you are conflating issues. The role Camera plays and the role ICAHD play are very different.

If ICAHD only gave facts and stuck to the facts that would be a service. If it promoted a two state solution, or even if it simply refused to express a view regarding the future by for exmaple saying it was otuside of it's remit... that would be an honourable position. Instead, ICAHD puts its own credibility at risk, and further pushes the sides in the conflict further appart by adopting a radical political agenda that has nothing what-so-ever to do with housing demolitions.

CAMERA is a media watch dog. If Halper wa snot in the media so much, CAMERA would indeed be out of it's remit. As things stand, what it is doign is showing fault. It's remit does not include doing detailed investigation in general, rather it focuses on the inaccuracies.

Once does not critisize those observing an election in the third world no not making the election run fairly. That is not their role. The role of reporting is in and of itself an useful and worth while one. CAMERA does this on the media and focuses on those inaccuracies that are bad for the Jewsish people and bad for Israel. Provided they are promoting truth, we should be supporting them. You yourself praise their research. ICAHD on the other hand acts outside of its remit and against the truth.

It is not just the numbers that are a problem, far more important is the support for suicide bombers and the promotion of a one state solution, coupled with the demonisation of Israel. You may not better, but not everyone who listens to Halper does. This leads to entrentched positions based on hyperbole and totally disconnected from the reality on the ground and the needs of both sides for a fair peace. This is not dialogue, but obstruction... a position I believe Halper support strongly.

Perhaps we expect more from NGOs like ICAHD than we do from governments... but then we also tend to trust them more. And this is unfortunatly also true when they are promoting a radical position that is an obstruction to peace. A dilema you may want to comment on further?

Ron Fox said...

Hi …. (your name, please)

I strongly disagree.

The roles that CAMERA and ICAHD play are identical. They are both well known advocates for their positions.

CAMERA’s goal is to write and thereby do whatever it takes to support its client, the Government of Israel, and to point out that what it is doing is appropriate.

ICAHD, I believe, is participating in a variety of activities, especially in opposing house demolitions, to show that the Government of Israel, in maintaining the occupation, is in violation of human rights laws, international laws and the teachings of Judaism. Interesting that you seem to be critical of ICAHD when you say it has a “radical political agenda”. I have usually thought of that as a complement. The definition of “radical” is favoring fundamental change in a situation. It has everything to do with house demolitions. What ICAHD is doing is making this terrible policy public with the hope that it will lead to fundamental change and the end of another terrible policy, the occupation. What is wrong with that? We usually referred to those making superficial efforts as having tried “band-aid” approaches.

But let us not digress.

I just posted a message that quotes this from a CAMERA article

"Halper's other claims are just as false as his agricultural claims. For example, his allegation that there are 'no homes for the young generation,' because Israel has 'demolished 12,000 Palestinian homes and refuses to issue permits to build new ones,' is utter nonsense."

And attempted to point out facts and quotes from ICAHD and others to show that what CAMERA said was at best misleading and not helpful in the search for the truth.

As you said, “CAMERA focuses on those inaccuracies that are bad for the Jewish people and bad for Israel. Provided they are promoting truth, we should be supporting them. You yourself praise their research. ICAHD on the other hand acts outside of its remit and against the truth.”

I would like you to respond to the message I posted. That will likely give me some insight into why you seem to believe that CAMERA’s efforts promote the truth and that ICAHD is acting against the truth.


gilead said...


I don't know whether it is a straw man or a red herring... but I do know that this technique, which you accuse CAMERA of using, is actually being used by you in your article. you latch onto one sentence in an attempt to discredit CAMERA. One sentence in an article that convincingly shows Halper's disregard for facts and overzealousness in slamming Israel for sins it is not guilty of. (Remember, there is a difference between Israel being guilty of some sins like all countries and Israel being guilty of whatever sins someone is in the mood to feel like accuse it of.)

In any rate, what you fail to mention is that the article shows Halper making things up about Palestinian agriculture, and, yes, about housing permits.

What you leave out of your analysis is this, from the article:

First of all, since the Oslo process more than 95% of Palestinians live under Palestinian civil rule, thus they go to get building permits from the Palestinian Authority, not from Israel. Second, under Israeli rule Palestinians did get building permits, but with or without permits, Palestinian towns expanded tremendously.

To cite two examples of such growth, just south of Ariel is the West Bank Palestinian town of Salfit. According to a 1986 book written by an Israeli professor of geography, Salfit's growth in this period was unmistakably large: "The total built-up area which was added to the town since 1972 has about doubled. It is now roughly equivalent to that of Ariel (as of mid-1985)." According to the same source, Kifl Harith, another Palestinian town "is growing in all directions." (David Grossman, Jewish and Arab Settlements in the Tulkarm Sub-district, West Bank Data Base Project, Jerusalem, 1986, p25)

The same author, in an academic text published just before the Oslo process commenced, concluded that "The lack of planning in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has resulted in uncontrolled expansion of Arab villages and in irregular urban sprawl." (Rural Process-Pattern Relationships, 1992, Praeger).

If, as Halper claims, Palestinians are not allowed to build and expand, how can there be "uncontrolled expansion" and "irregular urban sprawl"?

Seems to me like a fair discussion of Halper's insinuation that Palestinians cannot build houses.

Ron Fox said...

Hi Gilead

Thanks for introducing yourself.

Remember that I said that I plan to point out the inaccuracies of this CAMERA article over a series of articles. This is the first and then we will move on to what CAMERA says about the olive trees and then ......we'll see.

I certainly read the couple of paragraphs and citations to stuff written in 1986 and 1992 but have disregarded them because the overwhelming weight of the evidence is that it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to get building permits.

In fact, I just realized that what is also misleading about the CAMERA article is that it talks about possibly being able to get building permits in the areas under the PA and that there is building with or without permits.

First point. Why does there have to be building without permits? What does CAMERA think about having to live in a house built without a permit knowing that at ANY TIME it is subject to being demolished?

Second point. The article does not want to acknowledge that it IS nearly impossible for a Palestinian to get a building permit on (what is the percent) 42% of the West Bank not within the jurisdiction of the PA (land of settlememts, military, agricultural, roads, checkpoints, the wall.)

CAMERA should perhaps review the material in Land Grab
by B'Tselem if it wants to understand what is happening in the West Bank with respect to land and building rather than tossing out 15-20 year old citations.