House Demolition in the Syrian Golan

Hyundai Heavy Industries

Since 1967, Israel has demolished more than 28,000 Palestinian houses, public buildings and private commercial properties in the occupied Palestinian territory. This massive, man-made destruction is not a side effect of the occupation but a fundamental element in its control mechanism. The 7th of September, 2016, marked the first demolition in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. In this update, Who Profits looks at the massive role of Hyundai Heavy Industries in house demolitions in the occupied Syrian and Palestinian territories, as well as the ways in which this company has been profiting from this mechanism of the Israeli occupation.

Demolitions in the Syrian Golan

The 7th of September 2016, marked a desolating day for the Syrian occupied Golan, during which Israeli led bulldozers demolished the home of Mr. Bassam Jamil Ibrahim in the village of Majdal Shams, sending a political message to the Syrian residents of the occupied Golan. Accompanied by hundreds of police officers and Israeli Special Forces, this act announced the beginning of the well-known Israeli house demolition policy in occupied lands. In fact, according to Al-Marsad Human Rights Center, dozens of Syrian home owners in the remaining Syrian villages have already been threatened with house demolitions by the Israeli authorities due to lack of housing permits.

In reality, obtaining Israeli construction permits by the Syrian population in the Golan is almost impossible because of targeted restrictions imposed by Israeli planning and construction committees. Therefore, the Syrian population is forced to build homes without building permits, as this is the only way to meet their demographic expansion and housing needs.

This physical demolition of houses on Syrian land may be new in the post 1967 Golan, but it is a mere additional element to the 50-year-old deliberate Israeli efforts to strengthen the hold over Syrian land and population. The Golan has been a target of Israeli de-development plans, Israeli settlement expansionist projects and Israeli exploitation of Syrian natural resources in land, oil, wind and water. Thus, house demolitions in the occupied Golan could be regarded as mere symptoms to a much graver reality in which systemic de-development, restrictions on urban growth and discriminatory policies are normalized into Syrians' daily and collective reality under occupation.

This specific policy of house demolitions constitutes a direct breach of the provisions of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law. Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention clearly prohibits 'extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly' by an occupying power. Additionally, according to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, any person has the right not to be 'arbitrarily deprived of one's property' and 'subjected to arbitrary interference with one's privacy, family, home or correspondence'.

More generally, although the Israeli 'annexation' of the Golan has been declared illegal and void by the UN's Security Council and the General Assembly, Israel continues in its expansion of illegal settlements, blatantly breaching International Humanitarian, Human Rights and Customary Law.[1] 

Hyundai Heavy Industries

Whether in constructing new Israeli settlements or demolishing Palestinian and Syrian houses, Israel has been undeniably relying on privatized heavy machineries through specific International and Israeli companies profiled by Who Profits Research Center.

Excavators and loaders were and still are reshaping the landscape: building the infrastructure for the illegal Israeli settlement project; separating Palestinian and Syrian communities from each other; and creating roadblocks, barriers and apartheid roads.

Many International and Israeli companies play a central role in the Israeli construction and demolition industry in the Occupied Palestinian and Syrian Territories. Inevitably, the profit made from these industries has often been contingent upon land grab, forced displacement, and at times even settler or state violence.

Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) is one such company. Publicly traded and headquartered in Ulsan - South Korea, HHI is the world's largest shipbuilder and among the top five manufacturers in the heavy industries worldwide.

The company's construction equipment division manufactures excavators, wheel loaders, skid steer loaders and forklift trucks, which are distributed in Israel through Efco Equipment - a large Israeli importer of construction machinery.

Hyundai's track excavators were used in many house demolitions in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Beit Hanina, Silwan, Tsur Baher, Issawiya and Al-Tur in East Jerusalem. The company's tools also preformed demolitions in Beit Jala and in the villages of Jawaya and Derath in the South Hebron Hills. Hyundai excavators were documented during construction works in the settlement of Halamish and in the Barkan Industrial Zone. The models used for all of these tasks are: 320LC-7, 320LC-9, 290LC-9 and 450LC-3.

As previously mentioned, on September 8th, the company was also documented demolishing the house of Mr. Bassam Jamil Ibrahim in the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan, reducing it to concrete rubble.

Financial Information

Ownership: Major shareholders: M.J. Chung (10.2%); Hyundayi Mipo Dockyard Co. (7.98%); KCC Corporation (7.01%); Hyundai Motor Company (2.88%); Asan Foundation (2.53%); and Posco (1.94%).

Subsidiaries and Partners: The independent establishment of the Hyundai Heavy Industries Group included mergers with Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries and Hyundai Mipo Dockyard. Major subsidiaries: Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (42.3%), Sejin Heavy Industries Co. Ltd (13.1%), Hyundai Merchant Marine (2.63%), Hyundai Corporation (2.99%), POSCO (1.51%).  The company has 50 overseas offices and production sites.

Partners: Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co., Ltd (HMD), Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. (HSHI), Hyundai Corporation, Hyundai Oilbank Co., Ltd.

Revenues and profit: In 2015, the publicly traded company generated 39 billion US$ in revenues and 1.16 billion US$ in income.  This year HHI had new orders of USD 27.3 billion and sales of KRW 24.3 trillion last year. For next year the targets are new orders of USD 29.6 billion and sales of KRW 26.57 trillion. 

More facts on the ground

Since 1967, Israel has demolished more than 28,000 Palestinian houses, public buildings and private commercial properties in the occupied Palestinian territories. This massive, man-made destruction is not a side effect of the occupation but a fundamental element in its control mechanism. According to B'Tselem, since the beginning of August 2016, Israel's Civil Administration "demolished 20 homes and 13 other structures in Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank, leaving 53 people - including 25 minors - homeless. In total, Israel has demolished at least 188 Palestinian homes in the West Bank this year - the highest number since B'Tselem began documenting home demolitions on grounds of "lack of building permit" in 2006".

On the 8th of November 2016, Who Profits Research Center received a video documenting the demolition of a house in Al-Issawiyeh neighborhood in East Jerusalem, by Hyundai bulldozers. In addition to the documentation of the unlawful demolition, the video shows a number of men from the Israeli Police Special Patrol Unit securing the area, in order to prevent any resistance or protest from the Palestinian community.

The growing and expanding presence of Israeli settlements inside the occupied territory, including that of the Syrian Golan, represents one of the biggest hindrances that impede the natural economic and urban growth of the occupied dismembered spaces and community.

Today, there is a vast number of settlements scattered across the Occupied Syrian Golan with a population reaching approximately 18,000 Israeli settlers. Katsrin, one of the largest Israeli settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan is home to 6,900 settlers. To that end, Israeli settlements continue to establish facts on the Syrian ground while strangling and isolating the Syrian local economy and population on the one hand, and boosting Israeli profit and control on the other.

Although Israel has been attempting to validate its illegal actions by declaring the Golan Heights an integral annexed part of Israel, the International law and community leaves no room for doubt. Article 49, paragraph 629 of the Forth Geneva convention clearly views Israel's policy of settlement expansion as illegal under international law.

[1] 1981 resolution which states that Israel's "decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights was nul and void and without any international legal effect". Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that 'No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property'.