Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

“You don’t have the right to stop working.”

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Israeli human rights defender Meir Margalit is under attack.   Please add your name to the support petition, which follows below.  It matters.

Meir Margalit has been active in East Jerusalem for over two decades, in his dual role as an elected member of the Jerusalem City Council, and Field Coordinator with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

As ethnic cleansing accelerates across Israel and occupied Palestine, Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem – in direct violation of international law – expand rapidly, while Palestinian residents are forbidden to build.  Unable to obtain permits from the municipal authorities, they are left with no choice but to build or extend their homes without permits.  As a result, thousands of Palestinian homes are under constant threat of demolition.

As a municipal councillor, Meir Margalit has been active in ongoing efforts to change these discriminatory building policies.  At the same time, in his work with ICAHD he also supports the rebuilding of homes demolished by the authorities in violation of basic human rights.  He does this work publicly and, together with others, has enabled the rebuilding of over 200 houses.

Recently the Israeli Ministry of Interior launched legal proceedings against Meir, claiming that he has engaged in illegal building.   He joins a burgeoning roster of Israeli human rights defenders who’ve come under government attack for legitimate non-violent protest actions.

Meir Margalit needs and deserves the support of anyone anywhere who is interested in building the grounds for a just peace in Israel-Palestine.

The life and work of this quietly eloquent, determined man are featured in a chapter of Our Way to Fight.  This brief excerpt begins with my own sense of home:

While I travelled in Israel and Palestine, I knew always that I would return to my home, a safe haven in Canada, a country well insulated from war and chaos.  That is, or should be, the nature of home, a place of comfort and refuge.  For Palestinians it can never be so as long as house demolitions remain standard policy for the Israeli government.

I asked Meir how ICAHD people measure success in their work.  He pauses, looks away, then back at me.  ‘This is something very difficult,’ he replies.  “The municipality has a long list of houses to be demolished, so when we freeze one, automatically the municipality goes to the next.  We may succeed to save the house of Mohammad, but for the municipality it’s not a problem because next they go to Ibrahim’s house.  If we save Ibrahim’s house, the municipality says, ‘Okay, Yusef is next.’  So we can feel happy for five minutes, but no longer because we have to run to another house.  We could only say that we have succeeded when we change this policy.”

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions estimates that the number of demolition orders in the West Bank and East Jerusalem reaches into the tens of thousands.

“But you know,” Meir resumes, “for us this question of success is not the most important one.  We feel that even if there is no chance of success in the immediate future, this is something we must do – not just to get results, but to be human.  We know that one day we will succeed, we are sure of that, because there is no other choice.  In the Talmud, the rabbis say something like maybe you will not see the results of your work, but you don’t have the right to stop working.”


If you would like to do more, contact: stopdemolitions@gmail.com.

Author: Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.

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