Josh Newmark is a History and Politics graduate from Durham University and an incoming History MSc at the University of Edinburgh, currently teaching in Salamanca. He is part of the youth-led #DontSettleForThis campaign with Yachad, the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement in the UK.
The security of a roof over one’s head, a space for personal and familial privacy… Having “a place to call home” is widely recognised as an essential prerequisite for human wellbeing. This is acknowledged across the political spectrum – from the phrase “property-owning democracy” shared by both Thatcherites and American liberal philosopher John Rawls, to left-wing movements for affordable housing. In Judaism, too, the value of having a home is recognised. A key aspect of Judaism’s story is learning from the experience of being a people in exile, yearning for a home – “love the stranger, for we were once strangers in Egypt” is a frequent refrain in the Torah. Moreover, the Jewish household is of central importance to Jewish life – with its important physical features, like the mezuzah (boxed prayer scroll attached to each door frame), and key practical functions, such as hosting the traditional Friday night family meal to welcome the Sabbath. Undoubtedly, this is one of the motivating factors for young British Jews’ repugnance towards the Israeli’s government continuing policy of demolishing Palestinian homes.
Yachad is a British Jewish NGO which promotes support for a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the Jewish community through education, debate, and advocacy. Under the hashtag #DontSettleForThis, young Yachad activists are raising awareness within the Jewish community of the demolitions of Palestinian homes, and pushing the UK government to help prevent these demolitions.
According to Israeli humans rights NGO B’Tselem, Israel has demolished at least 1,323 Palestinian residential units in the occupied West Bank, plus over 600 just in East Jerusalem, since 2006. This policy has taken homes from over 8,000 people in that time period, more than 50% of them minors. These figures exclude the demolitions which Israel controversially carries out upon the family homes of convicted or deceased terrorists. Rather, these are homes which are being demolished because they have been built without permits. While demolishing such structures might seem to be the right, even obligation, of a governing authority, only a little detail is necessary to make clear that this policy is an inflammatory and unjust policy which compounds the wider injustice of the occupation itself. The dual policy of allowing and stoking a Palestinian housing shortage whilst allocating land for well-planned, well-connected illegal Israeli settlements, often with illegal (even under Israeli law) structures tolerated on them, highlights the deep inequality inherent in the occupation.