23 December 2009
Residents of Qusra witnessed a Caterpillar bulldozer, flanked by 20 Israeli military jeeps, entering the village at 7am on Wednesday, 23 December. Israeli Occupation Forces quickly occupied the entire village, establishing three checkpoints at its entrances and imposing curfew on the residents. Members of Abu Amer’s family, owner of the station and adjoining supermarket, were forbidden from leaving their home as the bulldozer began razing the area before their eyes. Abu Amer was forced back in to his house when he attempted to exit, begging soldiers to allow him to remove his wares and possessions before they were destroyed.
The building were located in Area B, under Palestinian civilian authority. When asked why Israeli forces had demolished the family’s property, the military stated that the gas station was deemed a security risk, claiming that children of Qusra had been spotted throwing rocks in the direction of nearby Migdalim settlement from the area.
Problems first arose several years ago when Abu Amer’s application for a Jordan Valley work permit was refused by Israeli officials unless he first close the gas station. Family members reported that Israeli Occupation Forces had enforced an order to close the businesses of Abu Amer’s family and seven other businesses on Qusra’s main street seven months previously. The sole source of income for Abu Amer, his five children and elderly mother, the businesses’ closure severely crippled them financially. The eight families of Qusra who had been handed the orders then sought legal aid.
Knowing the unscrupulousness of Israeli courts and the greater clout held by Israeli lawyers, residents hired a lawyer of Qedumim settlement to handle the cases. “If the judge is your enemy,” says Abu Amer’s brother, “you must hire your enemy to speak for you.” The case was still in court at the time of demolition. No demolition orders have ever been issued to any of the eight families involved.
Perpendicular to the gas station’s lies the road leading directly to the Israeli settlement of Migdalim, some 500 metres away. Abu Amer recalls doing business with many of its residents coming to and from the settlement. Approximately 15 of Migdalim’s 70 houses are occupied at any time, says Abu Amer, largely by economic settlers, drawn to the heavily government-subsidised West Bank settlements after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The family has spent over 5,000 shekels on legal fees to date. The economic loss goes above and beyond this figure, the original construction of the gas station and supermarket costing approximately 300,000 shekels. The destruction not only of the physical structures, but a family’s financial security, is undoubtedly the paramount effect of another chapter of Israel’s economic stragulation of Palestinian rural communities.