-By Mark Hage, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine

Israeli soldiers evict Sur Bahir family from their home.

The community of Sur Bahir, in occupied East Jerusalem, experienced its worst fears on Monday, July 22, when Israeli soldiers, accompanied by bulldozers and other heavy machinery, arrived at about 2:15 a.m. and proceeded to destroy 11 buildings in the neighborhood of Wadi al-Hummus.

Dozens of Palestinians were rendered homeless.

According to the blog Mondoweiss, “The buildings in question, containing some 70 apartments, were slated for demolition last month when the Israeli Supreme Court gave the final ruling — after a seven year legal battle between residents and the state — that the buildings were to be destroyed due to their proximity to Israel’s separation barrier, citing ‘security concerns.’”

Local activist Hamada Hamada told Mondoweiss that “The soldiers were really aggressive, pushing and shoving people, firing tear gas at us, and even beating some people with the butts of their rifles.” The demolition project was so swift residents were not given time to collect their belongings.

“When they removed the families they put them next to the buildings and made them watch as their homes were destroyed,” Hamada said. “They destroyed the homes in front of the people, in front of their kids eyes,” he continued. “If you were there you could feel that everyone, the old, the young, everyone was in despair over their homes. It was a devastating, agonizing experience.”

The demolitions drew widespread international condemnation, including from Canada, the European Union, Kuwait, Indonesia, South Africa, and the Arab League.

David Friedman, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, described the outrage over the demolitions as “fake news.”

His counterpart at the United Nations, Jason Greenblatt, blocked an attempt to bring a resolution of condemnation on the demolitions to the Security Council.

Let us Struggle Together

Great March of Return founder Ahmed Abu-Artema gave the following speech via video from Gaza to the 2019 Palestine Expo held in London, England, July 6 and 7.

Thank you, dear friends. Peace be upon you all.

Ahmed Abu-Artema

At this very moment over two million Palestinians are confined in the besieged Gaza Strip from which I’m speaking to you.

We, the Palestinians of Gaza, have been blockaded by the Israeli occupation for over 11 years during which we have been denied our right to freedom.

Hundreds of sick civilians have died due to the lack of lifesaving medicines, and due to the Israeli restrictions on medical referrals outside of Gaza.

At the same time Israel bans the entry of goods and construction materials. Hundreds of facilities and factories have been destroyed by the Israeli attacks.

Meanwhile tens of thousands of youth live with no jobs, no hope.

Dear friends, the situation in the West Bank is not so different. Israel continues to tighten the military grip around the Palestinians’ necks. The occupation soldiers humiliate the Palestinians at the checkpoints. The Israeli government continues to annex more lands. It arrests thousands of Palestinians; some of them have spent more than 20 years in prison.

The trauma and suffering inflicted by such practices are just beyond words, and represent another chain in a series of crimes that date back to 1948. Back in 1948, Israel, aided by the world’s superpowers, announced the establishment of a Jewish state on occupied Palestinian land; providing a shelter for Jews and paying no heed to hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians that it killed, displaced, imprisoned, and traumatized. What has become an undeniable fact of history…is that the establishment of the state of Israel has caused a tragedy on an entire people.

Over the years, Israel has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians, sent hundreds of thousands to jail, and demolished tens of thousands of homes. Today, over 6 million Palestinian refugees have been scattered across the globe awaiting the moment when Israel green lights their safe return to their homes as dictated by international law. Despite all the pains inflicted on us we have shown an unyielding commitment to our dream to return to our motherland and retrieve our freedom and dignity.

Dear friends, stability cannot be achieved in a place where millions of people are denied the right to return to their homes from which they have been forcibly displaced. Their only fault is that they are not Jews. There is no way to achieve stability in a world where millions of people are locked up behind bars, subjected to discrimination, and deprived of their rights to travel, work, and healthcare. Stability will only come true if all peoples are allowed to live freely and with dignity regardless of their color, religion, and race.

Dear friends, over recent months I have met dozens of Jewish friends who are against the Israeli occupation. I have kept telling each of them that we are sharing the same aspirations for justice and equality. Jews are not our enemies. Our sole enemy is the occupying force that took away our land from us, and forced us out of our homes. To my Jewish friends, and every free human being on the globe, I shall say all that we long for is justice and equality. Aren’t you striving for the same rights? We share the same goal and same struggle. Our enemy is one and the same — racial discrimination.

Let us combine forces. Let us struggle together. Cross the mountainous road together, and strive together for a better world for us, for our children, and for our grandchildren. A world where all human beings are equal, safe, and free.

Thank you.