RAMALLAH, July 30 (JMCC) - An Israeli settler is tracking Palestinian building in order to pressure authorities to tear structures down, reports
Ovad Erad works for Regavim, a right-wing organization that has played a key role in the issuing of demolition orders in the Hebron village of Susiya, where the entire community is under threat.
“I don’t lie. When they ask me what I’m doing there, I say I’m doing research into the area. I try not to go into deep conversation. I do the work and go,” Arad told IPS. But he adds that he doesn’t reveal who he works for, or the real reason he takes photos.
A resident of the Israeli settlement Mero Horon, Arad is head of the Judea and Samaria (West Bank) division of Regavim, a right-wing Israeli organisation whose work focuses primarily on using legal channels to have demolition orders on Palestinian homes and other structures carried out.
Asked whether he feels bad when a Palestinian family has their home destroyed as a result of his work, Arad responded: “No. Really, no.” And what about Israeli settler homes being destroyed? “I don’t feel good. It actually hurts me when I see Jews being thrown out of their house. But I’ve never seen Palestinians thrown out of their house; I’ve seen Jews being thrown out of their house.”
Regavim works mainly in the Negev desert in southern Israel and Area C of the occupied West Bank, which covers approximately 60 percent of the territory and, according to the 1995 Oslo Accords, is under complete Israeli military and administrative control.
Approximately 150,000 Palestinians and 300,000 Israeli settlers currently live in Area C. Israeli settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and settlement outposts are illegal under Israel’s own laws. Under international law, Israel – as the occupying power in the area – is also responsible for providing for the needs of the population living under its control, namely the Palestinians.
For Regavim, however, the applicability of international law to Israel’s control of the West Bank is up for debate. “The position of Regavim (is that) there is no (Israeli) occupation,” said Ari Briggs, director of Regavim’s International Department.
Regavim relies on the legal framework of the Oslo Accords in carrying out its work in the West Bank, Briggs explained. He said that Regavim gets most of its information through freedom of information requests submitted to the civil administration.
Using geographic information systems (GIS) software and detailed aerial photography, Briggs said Regavim can map out virtually every inch of Israel – which, he said, encompasses both Israel proper and Area C.