Sunday, September 30, 2007

The war for the house

Taken from Haaretz, 30/09/2007
By Gideon Levy

Theirs is an apartment building no one has ever heard of. No architectural International Style, no style at all, just an apartment building. Five floors, 11 families, new tiles in one of the bathrooms. Situated on a hillside, the house hovers above the city below. Hovers? Hovered.

Many other buildings surround this one. Densely constructed, the houses almost touch one another. A narrow alley, the width of a person, separates the buildings. All of the residents of the apartment building are family members - parents, siblings and cousins. They built one floor on top of another, residing in cramped proximity. Residing? Resided.

Last Thursday, the bulldozer arrived. How did the bulldozer get to a home at the end of the narrow alleyway? Along the way, as they say, the bulldozer paved a route of destruction for itself, damaging all the homes in its path. Here it demolished a stone fence, there it cracked a wall. What difference does it make already? Some of the homes have now become hazardous for human residence, their cracked walls threatening to collapse. The bulldozer finally reached its destination and began razing the building.

The five stories collapsed like a house of cards, stirring up a huge cloud of dust, burying everything in the apartment building: kitchen utensils, furniture, toys, electronic appliances and memories. Nothing remained; everything was buried. Last week, I saw two children trying to save something: the new bicycles purchased for the school year. Demolished walls with iron rods protruding from them covered the red bikes the children struggled to extract. Finally, they uncovered them: bent, smashed. Pain surfaced on the faces of the children, a girl and a boy, nine or 10 years old. Nothing remained of their home. Just a row of children's clothing fluttered in the wind, hung on a wire descending from the remains of the roof. The staircase remains suspended in the air on iron rods, leading nowhere, threatening to crash down at any moment on our heads and upon the heads of the rummaging children.

Here lives the Mabruk family, not happily. The father, Ali, his sons and daughters. About three weeks ago, the Israel Defense Forces killed his son, Nasser; another son, Majid, is still wanted by Israel. A fighting family, active in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. A giant red flag of the Popular Front is now planted among the ruins of the house, protesting the world that has shown no interest in them. Not far from there, at the end of a row of houses, the soldier Ben Zion Henman was killed in a gun battle that erupted here about 10 days ago. Within the camp, Mohammed Khaled, 17, and Adib Salim, 38, were killed. Adib was a disabled tirmis [lupin bean] salesman, paralyzed on the right side of his body. He fell, bleeding, under a sign memorializing his brother, Jamal, a Hamas activist who was liquidated here by a missile in 2001. The IDF claims that the paralyzed Adib was armed. In its response, the IDF emphasizes as supporting evidence the fact that his brother was a terrorist.

It was a successful operation: The IDF prevented a horrible suicide attack. Some of the planners of this attack were here, among the alleyways of the Ein Beit Ilma camp, located on the western edge of Nablus. No one can dispute the need to carry out an operation like this, which prevented killing. The fact that only two Palestinians were killed during the three days of the nameless operation - this time the IDF did not follow its habit of assigning the operation one of the childish names it favors - attests to the caution the soldiers employed.

In this light, there is even more reason to ask: Why the apartment building? Why was it necessary to destroy the lives of 11 families? How will it contribute to the security of Israel, even if the IDF calls the building a "combat post?" When will we finally wean ourselves of this unnecessary and criminal means of destroying the homes of innocent people? Does the fact that the commander of the Popular Front in the camp lives in the house justify demolishing the entire five-story building? When will the IDF learn that the next terrorists will sprout from among these very ruins? Was not the urge for revenge aroused in the heart of the child who searched for the bicycle among the ruins of his home, who saw his world destroyed? Anyone wishing to become acquainted with the real "infrastructure of terror" is invited to travel to Nablus, to see the ruins of the home at the edge of the Ein Beit Ilma camp.

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