Discriminatory Administrative Home Demolitions In Israel

Resolution Adopted by the CCAR


Adopted by the 115th Annual Convention
of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
Toronto, Canada
June, 2004


As Jews with a deep and abiding love for Israel and her security and a long and cherished tradition of pursuing social justice and equality, we feel compelled to speak out against acts committed in the name of Israel that deprive others of their most basic human rights and dignity for purposes completely unrelated to national security. The policy of discriminatory administrative home demolitions is one such act.

The sages of the Talmud recognized that having a home of one’s own led to self worth and dignity. A home is considered one of the three things most significant in increasing self esteem (Talmud, B’rachot 57b). Consequently, administrative home demolitions, the destruction of a home for a violation of zoning or building regulations, constitute an especially disturbing human rights issue. A sense of home is an essential part of our humanity; homelessness has always been considered a human tragedy. Jews, because of our own history, are especially conscious of the issue of home, and Zionism can be said to be the movement to find a home for a people so often deprived of our homes. B’tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, reports that since 1987, literally thousands of homes have been built for Jews in these same areas, many receiving permits retroactively. Since 1987, 2,500 Palestinian houses on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem have been demolished for administrative reasons, leaving more than 16,000 Palestinians homeless.

The destruction of a home can only be experienced as a violation by its inhabitants. Something fundamental to one’s identity has been removed. To be deprived of one’s home is to be naked in the world. More, it can mean that one is unable to locate oneself in the world, to feel that one has a place. Without a home, wherever one walks in the world, a sense of tragedy and pain, of emptiness and shame accompanies you.

Any society must proceed with absolute caution before it destroys a home. That is a basic claim of justice. It is why Rabbis for Human Rights has been so involved with issues of home demolition since 1997. It is why Rabbi Ascherman stood with the Maswadeh family in Beit Hanina when the bulldozers came, leaving Sufian and Sana Maswadeh, their children, Mr. Maswadeh’s sick mother, as well as his brother’s entire family homeless, within a matter of minutes. It is why he stood with the family of Ahmed Mousa Dari in Issawiyah, when the bulldozers came to demolish their home. It is why he is currently standing trial. In both of these cases, the homes were demolished because of a violation of zoning regulations in the context where it is almost impossible for Palestinian families in those parts of the West Bank under Israeli civilian control or in Jerusalem legally to obtain building permits.

The discriminatory administrative home demolition policy contradicts the kind of Israel envisioned by the founders of a Jewish state, one that celebrates the prophetic voice which has animated our people for centuries, and which has given such vitality to the Zionist movement. This vision is articulated in the Declaration of Independence when it describes the state as one that “will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel.” In the spirit of this vision, Israel must protect minority rights, and cherish and listen to its critics, to those who stand with the poor and powerless.

We believe that the word of the prophets still speaks to us today: ultimately, Zion will only be redeemed through justice and those who return to her through acts of righteousness (Isaiah 1:27).

THEREFORE, the Central Conference of American Rabbis resolves to:

  • Oppose the government of Israel’s policy of discriminatory administrative home demolitions, the destruction of a home for a violation of zoning or building regulations (as distinguished from home demolitions performed for security reasons, which are not addressed by this resolution), and work together with like-minded human rights organizations to this end, because such policies are applied preferentially to Jews and discriminatorily towards Arabs, particularly in:

  • the granting of zoning and building permits; and

  • imposing penalties which far surpass the level of infraction and fail to recognize the great importance of having a home;

  • Urge the government of Israel to rescind its policy of administrative home demolitions, and, as a result, dismiss all charges against Rabbi Arik Ascherman and others who have protested this unjust policy; and

  • Commend Rabbis for Human Rights and Rabbis for Humans Rights — North America for their efforts towards defending the human rights of all people in Israel.