Are NGOs imposing a double standard when it comes the demolition of Palestinian houses?
That is the question that Elliott Abrams asked Wednesday on his blog on the Council of Foreign Relations’ website.
On Tuesday, the Palestinian news website Ma’an reported that Hamas was moving ahead with plans to demolish 75 homes belonging to the Abu Amrah clan in the al-Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza. The Hamas government claims the homes were built illegally. The family is protesting the move, and resisting relocation.
The article noted that the impending demolition follows a previous round of demolitions some months ago, affecting the same community.
In his blog post the following day, former US Deputy National Security Advisor Abrams took NGOs, as well as the United Nations, to task for reacting with outrage over instances where Israel has demolished illegally built homes, yet remaining silent over cases where Palestinians order similar demolitions.
Citing this week’s Ma’an story as well as an earlier instance of home demolitions carried out by Hamas in 2010, Abrams wrote “I am unaware of any outcry across the globe.”
[My] 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.
Abrams also noted the vast number of NGOs, including the European-funded Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions which are focused on the issue of housing demolitions – provided they are carried out by Israel.
Compare, the silence over the demolitions in Gaza with, for example, the uproar over Israel’s ongoing construction of the City of David National Park in Jerusalem’s City of David/Silwan neighbourhood near the Old City, which requires the demolition of some Palestinian houses, with residents compensated and relocated.
In 2010, rabid Israel critic UN special rapporteur on human rights in Palestinian territories Richard Falk threatened that any effort to demolish houses and resettle the affected residents would, in his eyes, constitute a war crime.
Also that year, the so-called “Elders” group, comprising of Former Irish president Mary Robinson, former US President Jimmy Carter, and Indian women’s union leader Ela Bhatt, joined together with Palestinian representatives from the neighbourhood to condemn the Israeli plans for the area, especially house demolitions.
Last year, the announcement of the construction of a visitors centre to the park, directly across the street from the walls of the Old City near the Western Wall, was met with condemnation by representatives of the UK and France.
None of the aforementioned parties have commented on Hamas’ Gazan demolitions.
Of course, this is not limited to the Silwan example. Sinister narratives about Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes built without permits have long been steady fodder for a number of media outlets over the years, such as the Guardian
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Neither, however, this is not the first time a prominent journalist or blogger has picked up on this apparent double standard.
To his credit, in a story titled “UN won’t act as Hamas makes people homeless“, John Lyons reported in The Australian decried the first round of the current Gaza demolitions last July 28.
Some days earlier, the UK Spectator’s Douglas Murray blogged on the subject, “When is a house being pulled down not news? When it’s not Jews doing it, of course.”
Meanwhile, back in 2010, Reuters carried a story critical of Hamas regarding home demolitions carried out in Gaza at that time.