Saving Homes and Humans in Gaza

Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, 5/24/2004

Below is a copy of a statement issued by RHR in response to the home demolitions in Rafah. In addition to the suggestion to contact Israeli officials, we have added the names of American leaders. Some of us may feel comfortable calling both Israeli and American officials, others may prefer to contact Israeli officials only.

Please feel free to share this statement as widely as you wish.

Below the statement you will find a copy of a resolution adopted in March by the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism regarding administrative home demolitions.

May the new month bring all a respite from spiraling violence,

Chodesh Tov and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gerry Serotta,Chair
Rabbi Brian Walt, Executive Director
Rabbis for Human Rights /North America Box 1539 West Tisbury, MA. 02575 Phone: (508)696-1880 Fax:(508)696-8048


Rabbis for Human Rights and Rafah

"Justice, justice, shall you pursue" Deut. 16:20

While Israel has the right and the obligation to guarantee the security of its citizens, what it is doing in Rafah goes far beyond security concerns. Rabbis for Human Rights condemns as morally reprehensible the wanton destruction of homes, the excessive use of force, the indiscriminate bulldozing of homes which has turned thousands of people into refugees, and the killing of all too many innocent Palestinians. Last weekend alone, 116 homes were destroyed, 198 families lost their dwellings, and 1160 were made homeless. Tuesday, 20 Palestinians were killed, including several children. Plans are being implemented to expand the military actions with hundreds of additional homes slated for destruction.
We, the Jewish people, who have been the victims of oppression and brutality, who know the pain of homelessness and eviction, dare not stand by while our nation acts in such a gratuitously cruel manner toward other hapless victims.
The time has come to stop the bulldozing and to return to the negotiating table before more Palestinians and Israelis fall victim to this meaningless violence.
"It has been told you, o human being, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: to perform justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

Please communicate the content of this statement to the following:

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Fax (+972 2) 670-5361

Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz, Fax (+972 3) 691-6940

Minister of Justice Yosef Lapid, Fax: (+972 2) 628-5438

President George W. Bush — Tel (202) 456-2461; Fax (202) 456-2461.

Secretary of State Colin Powell — Tel (202) 261-8577; Fax (202) 261-8577.

US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer — Tel in Israel: (+972-3) 519-7575

Your member of Congress: Call the Capital switchboard toll-free: 1-800-839-5276 and ask to be connected to your member of Congress.


Adopted by the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism March 2004 RESOLUTION ON DISCRIMINATORY ADMINISTRATIVE HOME DEMOLITIONS IN ISRAEL

BACKGROUND As Jews with a deep and abiding love for Israel and her security and a long and cherished tradition of pursuing social justice and equality, we feel compelled to speak out against acts committed in the name of Israel that deprive others of their most basic human rights and dignity for purposes completely unrelated to national security. The policy of discriminatory administrative home demolitions is one such act.

Administrative home demolitions, the destruction of a home for a violation of zoning or building regulations, constitute an especially disturbing human rights issue. A sense of home is an essential part of our humanity; homelessness has always been considered a human tragedy. Jews, because of our own history, are especially conscious of the issue of home, and Zionism can be said to be the movement to find a home for a people so often deprived of our homes.

B'tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, reports that since 1987, literally thousands of homes have been built for Jews in these same areas, many receiving permits retroactively. Since 1987, 2,500 Palestinian houses on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem have been demolished for administrative reasons, leaving more than 16,000 Palestinians homeless. The destruction of a home can only be experienced as a violation by its inhabitants. Something fundamental to one's identity has been removed. To be deprived of one's home is to be naked in the world. More, it can mean that one is unable to locate oneself in the world, to feel that one has a place. Without a home, wherever one walks in the world, a sense of tragedy and pain, of emptiness and shame accompanies you.

Any society must proceed with absolute caution before it destroys a home. That is a basic claim of justice. It is why Rabbis for Human Rights has been so involved with issues of home demolition since 1997. It is why Rabbi Ascherman stood with the Maswadeh family in Beit Hanina when the bulldozers came, leaving Sufian and Sana Maswadeh, their children, Mr. Maswadeh's sick mother, as well as his brother's entire family homeless, within a matter of minutes. It is why he stood with the family of Ahmed Mousa Dari in Issawiyah, when the bulldozers came to demolish their home. It is why he is currently standing trial. In both of these cases, the homes were demolished because of a violation of zoning regulations in the context where it is almost impossible for Palestinian families in those parts of the West Bank under Israeli civilian control or in Jerusalem to legally obtain building permits.

The discriminatory administrative home demolition policy contradicts the kind of Israel envisioned by the founders of a Jewish state, one that celebrates the prophetic voice which has animated our people for centuries, and which has given such vitality to the Zionist movement. This vision is articulated in the Declaration of Independence when it describes the state as one that "will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel." In the spirit of this vision, Israel must protect minority rights, and cherish and listen to its critics, to those who stand with the poor and powerless.

We believe that the word of the prophets still speaks to us today: ultimately, Zion will only be redeemed through justice and those who return to her through acts of righteousness (Isaiah 1:27).

THEREFORE, the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism resolves to:
1.Oppose the government of Israel's policy of discriminatory administrative home demolitions, the destruction of a home for a violation of zoning or building regulations (as distinguished from home demolitions performed for security reasons, which are not addressed by this resolution), and work together with like-minded human rights organizations to this end, because such policies are applied preferentially to Jews and discriminatorily towards Arabs, particularly in:
a.the granting of zoning and building permits; and
b.imposing penalties which far surpass the level of infraction and fail to recognize the great importance of having a home;
2.Urge the government of Israel to rescind its policy of administrative home demolitions, and, as a result, dismiss all charges against Rabbi Arik Ascherman and others who have protested this unjust policy; and
3.Commend Rabbis for Human Rights and Rabbis for Humans Rights - North America for their efforts towards defending the human rights of all people in Israel.

Rabbi Gerry Serotta,
Chair and
Rabbi Brian Walt Executive Director

Rabbis for Human Rights North America Box 1539 West Tisbury, MA. 02575 Phone: (508)696-1880 Fax:(508)696-8048