Cornered into a Cave: The Callousness of Israeli Occupation

Palestine Center Brief No. 342 (August 19, 2020)

By Mohamed Mohamed

Ahmad Amarneh is a 30-year-old Palestinian civil engineer who lives with his pregnant wife and daughter in the West Bank village of Farasin, west of Jenin.

Farasin happens to be in “Area C” of the Palestinian West Bank, which constitutes around 60 percent of the territory, and is where the Israeli occupation maintains full control of security and land management (in contrast to Area A and Area B, where Palestinians have some control of these affairs).

In Area C, Israel bans virtually all Palestinian construction and development, while encouraging and assisting Israelis to build settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

Palestinians must obtain permits to build homes in Area C, but Israel denies almost all these requests. In fact, between 2016 and 2018, Israel rejected more than 98 percent of Palestinian building permit requests. Even worse, since 2006, Israel demolished at least 1,584 Palestinian homes that it deemed “illegally” built, causing 6,880 Palestinians, including 3,456 minors to become homeless.

How does this tie into Ahmad Amarneh? He received a demolition notice from Israeli authorities. This is obviously nothing new for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation.

What is unique about this situation is that the Amarneh family lives in a cave. Yes, as absurd as it sounds, they literally live in a cave, and the Israelis want to demolish it.

One might wonder why anyone in the 21st century would live in a cave, where there is no proper infrastructure for electricity, water, sewage, or any other basic utility for that matter. The answer is very simple. Israel gave this man and his family no choice.

Amarneh told the AFP news agency that he tried to build a house in his village of Farasin two times, but Israeli authorities denied the permit requests. Knowing the harsh realities of Israeli occupation, he believed he would never receive a permit from Israel to build.

Amarneh decided to improvise with a cave in the hills near his village. He presumed that since the cave is a natural formation, the Israelis could not argue that it was built illegally. As a civil engineer by training, he had no problem sealing the cave with a stone wall and installing a door. He also transformed the inside of the cave to include a kitchen, living room, and bedrooms.

Of course, this made no difference to Israeli occupation authorities. After living in the cave for about a year and a half, Amarneh and 20 other Palestinian families in Farasin received demolition notices from Israel.

The irony of demolition orders against Amarneh’s cave home, along with the thousands of other Palestinian homes, is that Israel considers them to be illegal. In reality, Israel is the one in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which it ratified in 1951. Specifically, Article 53 prohibits an occupying power from destroying property belonging to private individuals.

Ahmad Amarneh’s dilemma shows just how callous and merciless Israeli military occupation is toward Palestinians. Where else in the world can one be evicted from a cave?

As Amarneh wonders himself:

“I don’t understand how they can prevent me from living in a cave. Animals live in caves and are not thrown out. So, let them treat me like an animal and let me live in the cave.”

The fact that any human being would prefer to be treated like an animal speaks volumes, and it is truly demoralizing. Israel does not care about human rights, international law, or justice. It is a rogue, apartheid, racist state that will never change its behavior unless it is held accountable. If the treatment of Ahmad Amarneh, and the many other outrageous Israeli actions do not awaken American policy makers, it is unknown what will.

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