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Israelis rebuild Palestinian homes -

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Israelis rebuild Palestinian homes

Anne Barker reported this story on Thursday, August 13, 2009 12:30:00

ELEANOR HALL: To Israel now where some Israeli citizens are challenging the Jewish state over its
practice of demolishing Palestinian houses.

They've taken up trowels and buckets to rebuild two houses that were knocked down in a Palestinian
town that straddles East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as Middle East correspondent Anne Barker
reports.

(Sounds of construction taking place)

ANNE BARKER: Younes Sbaih watches on as volunteers rebuild his house from a pile of rubble in a
Palestinian neighbourhood just inside East Jerusalem.

A human chain of about 20 people carts sand and cement while others work with saws and jackhammers.
All up it'll take just two weeks to build the house from scratch.

(Younes Sbaih speaking)

"They're my brothers," he says. "There are no words I can give you to show my appreciation."

Younes Sbaih knows he built the home illegally under Israeli law but did so in the knowledge that
Palestinians applying for a building permit in East Jerusalem are nearly always knocked back.

And sure enough one month after his house was built Israeli authorities ordered its demolition,
forcing this family of eight to move in with neighbours.

PETER SMITH: There is clearly to my mind a clear ethnic cleansing being conducted by the state of
Israel in flagrant denial of international humanitarian law and international law.

ANNE BARKER: Peter Smith from Leeds in Britain is one of the 60 volunteers who've joined the
campaign to rebuild Palestinian homes. This year they're building two.

PETER SMITH: I have no doubt that in five or six months' time they'll be rubble again like we're
standing on. We have to keep doing this.

ANNE BARKER: So if this house though is demolished again in a few weeks, a few months, you don't
feel that you're wasting your time?

PETER SMITH: No, we'll come back and we'll rebuild it again.

ANNE BARKER: Younes Sbaih's house is just one of thousands of homes slated for demolition in East
Jerusalem alone.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions says since 1967 Israel has demolished 24,000 homes
in the occupied Palestinian territories. Its director Jeff Halper says in the past decade his
volunteers have rebuilt about 165 houses.

JEFF HALPER: It's a political act of resistance. If we were building humanitarian, and it's a big
deal, it's 165 houses out of 24,000, it really wouldn't make any sense, especially if they can be
demolished again.

But if you think of this as 165 acts of resistance of Israelis and Palestinians together plus
international people that gives it a whole different meaning.

ANNE BARKER: Israel maintains it has every right to demolish homes that are built without correct
permits even though the international community doesn't even recognise Israel's sovereignty over
East Jerusalem.

And Mark Regev from the office of Israel's Prime Minister says like Jewish citizens, Palestinians
have every right to appeal through the courts.

MARK REGEV: There's no such thing as a housing demolition that happens because some policeman or
some military officer says that house has to be destroyed. There has to be due process.

There's always the option for appeal. And I can assure you that in any case where there's been
housing demolition the correct legal process has gone through.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Mark Regev from the office of Israel's Prime Minister, ending that report from
our Middle East correspondent Anne Barker.