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Gideon Levy, "The War for the House"--Haaretz 9/30/07

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*The war for the house*

_By Gideon Levy <mailto:levy@haaretz.co.il>

Theirs is an apartment building no one has ever heard of. No
architectural International Style, no style at all, just an apartment
building. Five floors, 11 families, new tiles in one of the bathrooms.
Situated on a hillside, the house hovers above the city below. Hovers?

Many other buildings surround this one. Densely constructed, the houses
almost touch one another. A narrow alley, the width of a person,
separates the buildings. All of the residents of the apartment building
are family members - parents, siblings and cousins. They built one floor
on top of another, residing in cramped proximity. Residing? Resided.

Last Thursday, the bulldozer arrived. How did the bulldozer get to a
home at the end of the narrow alleyway? Along the way, as they say, the
bulldozer paved a route of destruction for itself, damaging all the
homes in its path. Here it demolished a stone fence, there it cracked a
wall. What difference does it make already? Some of the homes have now
become hazardous for human residence, their cracked walls threatening to
collapse. The bulldozer finally reached its destination and began razing
the building.

The five stories collapsed like a house of cards, stirring up a huge
cloud of dust, burying everything in the apartment building: kitchen
utensils, furniture, toys, electronic appliances and memories. Nothing
remained; everything was buried. Last week, I saw two children trying to
save something: the new bicycles purchased for the school year.
Demolished walls with iron rods protruding from them covered the red
bikes the children struggled to extract. Finally, they uncovered them:
bent, smashed. Pain surfaced on the faces of the children, a girl and a
boy, nine or 10 years old. Nothing remained of their home. Just a row of
children's clothing fluttered in the wind, hung on a wire descending
from the remains of the roof. The staircase remains suspended in the air
on iron rods, leading nowhere, threatening to crash down at any moment
on our heads and upon the heads of the rummaging children.

Here lives the Mabruk family, not happily. The father, Ali, his sons and
daughters. About three weeks ago, the Israel Defense Forces killed his
son, Nasser; another son, Majid, is still wanted by Israel. A fighting
family, active in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. A
giant red flag of the Popular Front is now planted among the ruins of
the house, protesting the world that has shown no interest in them. Not
far from there, at the end of a row of houses, the soldier Ben Zion
Henman was killed in a gun battle that erupted here about 10 days ago.
Within the camp, Mohammed Khaled, 17, and Adib Salim, 38, were killed.
Adib was a disabled tirmis [lupin bean] salesman, paralyzed on the right
side of his body. He fell, bleeding, under a sign memorializing his
brother, Jamal, a Hamas activist who was liquidated here by a missile in
2001. The IDF claims that the paralyzed Adib was armed. In its response,
the IDF emphasizes as supporting evidence the fact that his brother was
a terrorist.

It was a successful operation: The IDF prevented a horrible suicide
attack. Some of the planners of this attack were here, among the
alleyways of the Ein Beit Ilma camp, located on the western edge of
Nablus. No one can dispute the need to carry out an operation like this,
which prevented killing. The fact that only two Palestinians were killed
during the three days of the nameless operation - this time the IDF did
not follow its habit of assigning the operation one of the childish
names it favors - attests to the caution the soldiers employed.

In this light, there is even more reason to ask: Why the apartment
building? Why was it necessary to destroy the lives of 11 families? How
will it contribute to the security of Israel, even if the IDF calls the
building a "combat post?" When will we finally wean ourselves of this
unnecessary and criminal means of destroying the homes of innocent
people? Does the fact that the commander of the Popular Front in the
camp lives in the house justify demolishing the entire five-story
building? When will the IDF learn that the next terrorists will sprout
from among these very ruins? Was not the urge for revenge aroused in the
heart of the child who searched for the bicycle among the ruins of his
home, who saw his world destroyed? Anyone wishing to become acquainted
with the real "infrastructure of terror" is invited to travel to Nablus,
to see the ruins of the home at the edge of the Ein Beit Ilma camp.