Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Houses Demolished, Outcry Missing

by Elliott Abrams
February 13, 2013


The government demolishes some houses, saying that they were illegally built on public land. There is an international outcry. True or false?

Here’s an account from 2010:

Hamas police expelled Palestinian Arabs from perhaps three dozen houses along the border of Sinai, and demolished them. Hamas said those houses were illegal, being erected on government property in Rafiah. Masked Hamas policewomen beat fellow Arab women and children with clubs, until they evacuated the houses.

Here’s a story from this week:

Members of the Abu Amrah family in Gaza City demonstrated Tuesday in front of offices of the Palestinian Legislative Council protesting a decision by the Hamas-run government to demolish 75 houses belonging to the family in the al-Rimal neighborhood.

I am unaware of any outcry across the globe.

The government of Israel sometimes demolishes homes, saying that they were illegally built on public land. And of course, it is a member state of the United Nations, not a terrorist group. But when it does, one can expect various governments to condemn the action and can expect action in the UN Human Rights Council, perhaps even a debate in the UN General Assembly or Security Council in New York. It’s no surprise that ┬áBaroness Valerie Amos, the UN under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, has said that “Palestinians are utterly frustrated by the impact of Israeli policies on their lives….They are evicted from their homes. Their homes are regularly demolished.” In Israel there is actually an NGO fighting such demolitions, the Israel Committee Against Home Demolitions, a group that takes some rather extreme political positions and has chapters in the UK, Finland, and Norway. And who pays for this–who supports this organization financially? Directly and indirectly, the EU, Norway, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Denmark, the World Bank, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UN Development Program. Of course, this comparison between actions taken by Hamas and actions taken by the government of Israel will annoy some readers, and I do not mean to suggest that all such actions are the same. I mean to suggest that all those international bodies that are outspoken about home demolitions should turn their attention to Gaza as well as to Israel and the West Bank.


Post a Comment 6 Comments

  • Posted by Gary Katz

    It’s the same phenomenon where Muslims killing Muslims is not nearly the news (or outrage) as Jews killing Muslims. Did anyone notice how the Syrian civil war disappeared to the back pages of newspapers, during Israel’s defensive operation in Gaza? Of course, Israel is under the microscope like no other nation in history.

  • Posted by Aaron Burr

    it may be naive to consider why the media, special interests and other so-called NGO’s in the ME and about the globe would not see the similarity between the acts but not the actors ID, and question the pro Hamas propaganda in the face of pesky facts, i.e., truth. And seeing the truth for what it is, then calling a spade a spade. just doesn’t happen.

    but then again, there is difference; Israeli actions are not coddled by an ever growing cabal of interests world wide who gain by wealth of taxation and grant when they pile on the Israelis. to wit, there are a lot more Mercedes driving Italian suit wearing Hamas and PA nowadays what didn’t get the material things due to private productivity. a lot more than C4 is purchased with those gains. so, it’s not the deed but the doer than is important in the analysis.

    go ahead then, call me naive. there’s no alternative choice.

  • Posted by ah

    No wonder there are no critical comments on this article, despite its poor logic and argumentation. CFR continues to take down any comments that criticize this post.

  • Posted by Elliott Abrams

    The policy is simple: all policy arguments and criticism are welcome. Ad hominem comments are not posted.

  • Posted by ah

    So I agree with you that there should be an outcry against both, but I think comparing the two is misleading.

    I think the primary difference is one of legal authority. Hamas as a legitimately elected government over the Palestinian territories has more of right to demolish homes within its territory than does a foreign government occupying the land of another people.

    Similarly, there would be more of an outcry internationally if the US were to demolish homes in occupied Iraq than if it were to demolish homes in Tempe, Arizona.

    It is also a matter of scale. In the Second Intifada, Israel demolished over 4,000 homes. I do not know the numbers of the PA demolishing Palestinian houses, but I will assume it is nowhere close.

  • Posted by Jonh

    Are you seriously comparing the ethnically cleansed palestinian villages to Hamas implementing law and orderin Gaza?!?!?

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