Posts Tagged ‘judaization’


When a Family is Forced to Demolish their own Home…

July 5, 2010

Imagine building a home for your family with your own hands…putting your life savings into this house and planning a future in it for your children. Then one day, the authorities come and say that you have built your house illegally. Because of this, you must now pay a fine of thousands of dollars, and if you don’t want to pay thousands more, you must demolish your own house—leaving your family homeless.

This is the life of a Palestinian Jerusalemite.

Background on House Demolitions in Jerusalem

In 1999, the Israeli Ministry of Interior said that more than 20,000 homes in East Jerusalem (the mainly Palestinian area of Jerusalem) had been built illegally. Following this, the Municipality of Jerusalem issued 141 demolition orders that year.

Almost one hundred homes have been demolished since the Oslo Agreement was signed—causing hundreds of people to be displaced in Jerusalem.

Judaization of Palestinian Neighborhoods in East Jerusalem

The Israeli government is very clear that they want Jerusalem as the “eternal, undivided capital” of their Jewish state. This poses a major problem for the Christian and Muslim Palestinian residents who have been living for generations in homes now considered illegal.

“It was reported that at a meeting of the Jerusalem Regional Planning Committee, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert has said that the most important task in the coming years was to increase the numbers of the Jewish inhabitants within the city limits. He had also said it was important to include ‘Green areas’ in the plan. He had made little mention of any particular vision to develop the eastern part of the city.” (Jerusalem Post, 21 October 1999)

Between 1967 and 1997, only 12% of all new buildings were in Palestinian neighborhoods while at least 40,000 housing units were constructed in the Israeli public sector for Israeli Jews living on expropriated land.

The Blue Line and Green Areas

Jerusalem Now

24.5 square kilometers (35% of the total annexed area of East Jerusalem—70 sq km) is expropriated land by Israel. In theory, this leaves 45.5 sq km for Palestinian use. However, the Israeli authorities get past this using several different techniques.

Only land within the “blue line” can be built on, however, most of the land within the blue line has already been built on. The “green area” is land set aside for environmental or recreational reasons.

In reality, this is a zoning tactic used by Israel to remove the land from Palestinian use and reserve it for future Jewish housing. How many “tourist parks” does one city really need?

Here is one example of this:

The Jabal Abu Ghneim neighborhood was initially defined as a green area to prevent the neighboring Palestinian villages of Sur Baher and Umm Tuba from expanding. It was later rezoned for residential construction for the new Jewish settlement of Har Homa.

In general, there are very different attitudes and conditions used by the Israeli authorities about planning in Palestinian and Jewish neighborhoods. For Jewish ones, the authorities tend to promote and assist as much as possible  so that they can settle as many people as possible on the available land. For Palestinians, it is the opposite. They are confronted with numerous obstacles and restrictions.

Difficulties in Building “Legally”

On average, according to the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER) the Jerusalem municipality grants Palestinians only 150 building permits per year. In addition to all the other bureaucratic difficulties in obtaining these visas, they also cost 25,000 USD—an unaffordable sum to most Palestinian residents.

Because of these obstacles, there are an estimated 1400 houses inside the Old city that are in desperate need of renovation but cannot get the permits. Because of this and the natural population increase, large scale “illegal construction” is the result.

Double Standards

When a Palestinian builds or renovates without the proper permits, the Ministry of Interior and Jerusalem Municipality respond by imposing high fines and by carrying out house demolitions. These demolitions can take place within 24 hours—leaving Palestinians no opportunity to go to court to defend themselves.

There have been some demolitions in West Jerusalem (the Jewish part) but only of an extra room or porch—never a whole building like in Palestinian neighborhoods. JCSER estimated that 84% of building violations take place in the Jewish sector of Jerusalem. While Palestinians are responsible for 16% of building violations, more than 60% of the demolitions are carried out on Palestinian homes.

Table of Palestinian Homes Demolished in 2009

Table of Palestinian Homes Demolished in 2010

Forcing Palestinians to Demolish their own Homes

As families grow, the homes need to grow as well to accommodate them. So what happens when the Israeli authorities will not give out the necessary permits so that the families can add extensions? Or when they delay giving out the permit for months or years?

In these cases, many families decide to build without permits. In doing so, they risk demolition and thousands of shekels in fines. If the family does not demolish their own home, the Israeli authorities will do it—and then send the family a bill for the costs of the demolition—leaving the family homeless and broke.

Abu Shusha Family

Abu Shusha, his wife and five children live in Al Tour neighborhood in East Jerusalem. In order to accommodate his growing family, Abu Shusha decided to add a room to the house. Soon after, he received a demolition order from the Jerusalem municipality, along with a fine of 90,000 NIS (24,384 USD).

The municipality claims that the land on which the room was constructed is part of the “green area” and therefore no construction is allowed there.

Officials from the Jerusalem municipality and the Israeli Ministry of Interior came to Abu Shusha’s house to threaten his family. They informed him that if he doesn’t destroy the room himself in the next 24 hours, the municipality will destroy it and charge the family additional costs to cover the expenses of the demolition.

To add a twist to this story, the Abu Shusha family had just moved to Al Tour neighborhood from Sheikh Jarrah. Sheikh Jarrah is one of the most infamous neighborhoods of East Jerusalem because of the problems caused by Israeli settlers moving in, and forcing Palestinians out with house demolitions.

The policy of Judaization by the Israeli authorities had forced this family to move only to be forced to demolish part of their own house.

Legal Statement

According to Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, the destruction of property is prohibited. This means that the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israeli Interior Ministry, which adopted a policy of demolishing homes in East Jerusalem since its illegal annexation, violate the Geneva Convention.

On 24 November 2001, the UN Committee Against Torture stated Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in breach of article 16 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Israel ratified in 1991.

For more information, check out JCSER’s website at:


Legalizing the Jerusalem Lie

July 1, 2010

A great article written by a friend of mine who works for Palestine Monitor (

Three months after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “spat in Obama’s eye” by timing high-level diplomatic visits with the announcement of sweeping development plans in East Jerusalem, the city is about to codify into law an even more ambitious master plan for taking over the entire heart of the stateless Palestinian nation. And once again, Bibi is off to Washington.

In symbolic microcosm, construction began this past weekend on the controversial grounds of the Shepherd Hotel. The compound lies in the traditionally Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, on the Palestinian side of the green line in Jerusalem, just north of the old city. The hotel itself was considered property of the Jordanian authority (having passed from the erstwhile ownership of the Grand Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini) until it was purchased in 1985 by Irving Moskowitz, a wealthy American Jew and a major financier of the Israeli settler movement.

In the wake of dramatic 2008-2009 settlement activity in Sheikh Jarrah — recall that several Palestinian families are now living in tents outside their former homes while protected Israeli settlers sleep inside — plans were floated to construct 20 Jewish-only housing units on the large property of the Shepherd Hotel. The plan was met with international condemnation and was silenced more than once, but it never went away. On Sunday, construction work began. The new development will see upwards of one hundred Israelis wedged into the heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem.

“You see, they want all Sheikh Jarrah,” says local resident Muhammad Sabagh. Muhammad has problems of his own, because a legal claim against his house is currently grinding through the Israeli courts. He hopes to be luckier than some of his now-homeless neighbors. “We don’t accept settlers in our neighborhood,” he says.

On Tuesday afternoon, there was no activity at the hotel site. A security guard present said that construction work had never begun. The heavy-duty digging activity on the weekend, he explained, was just to test the support strength of the ground.

For decades, East Jerusalem has been the intended capital of a future Palestinian state, but in recent months, Israeli officials have pumped up the volume on their propaganda slogan that all Jerusalem is “open and undivided.” In this view, the east-west distinction is no longer relevant, and Israelis should be able to build and develop on the occupied Palestinian side as freely as they do on the Israeli side.

In a statement issued this week, city officials cleverly obfuscated, “Just like any other municipality in Israel, Jerusalem Municipality hands out building permits in the entire city based on their compliance with professional criteria only, and without checking religion, race, or sex, which is against the law.”

This statement, however, includes a massive lie of omission, because it implies that Palestinians have equal building rights. While the city may not discriminate on “religion, race, or sex, which is against the law,” they in fact discriminate on the basis of citizenship. The Palestinians of East Jerusalem have been deemed “permanent residents” by Israeli authorities but specifically excluded from citizenship. This distinction is crucial because only citizens can legally obtain building rights from the Israeli Land Administration, which has jurisdiction over most of the city’s residential landscape — both East and West Jerusalem.

As a report issued by an Israeli non-profit organization, Ir Amim, concluded: “Of all the land designated for housing development in West Jerusalem and in the Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem [35,000 dunams], at least 79% [27,642 dunams] is ILA land, and therefore theoretically off limits to the city’s Palestinian residents.”

This means that outside of traditional Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, Palestinians have the official legal basis for building or owning in just 20 percent of combined Jerusalem by virtue of their non-citizen status. And within that sliver of the city, along with their own already inhabited neighborhoods, obtaining legal permits is notoriously difficult, both financially and bureaucratically.

As important as these details are, we must be careful not to lose the forest for the leaves. The fact is that Israel holds East Jerusalem by occupation, taken by force in the war of 1967. Like the rest of the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem was never meant to be a part of any Israeli state. Under international law, to which Israel is bound as a signatory, the transfer of civilian population into occupied territory is a war crime. East Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians.

Despite this inconvenient truth, just this week, the city’s right-wing Israeli Jerusalem Municipality approved a provocative and self-styled “Master Plan” for urban development. The new document codifies into law the formerly talking-point view that Jerusalem is “open and undivided,” providing the legal framework for unlimited Israeli expansion in occupied East Jerusalem.

Under the new arrangement, projects like the Shepherd Hotel compound in Sheikh Jarrah would require no special authorization. There would be no difference between East and West Jerusalem.

Further, the plan appears to allow residential development on previously protected land. In the past, Israel has softened the perception of its appropriation of Palestinian territory by declaring certain areas off-limits to housing development of any kind. Now even these so-called “green areas” are fair game, rendering many previous points of contention irrelevant.

For example, according to Israel’s daily newspaper Haaretz, “Despite the National Planning and Building Committee’s decision to designate the City of David – which sits in the heart of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan – as ‘a national park,’ the new master plan allows for the construction of residential units in the area.” So while Israel buttered the Silwan bulldozing announcement with promises that Israeli settlers would not move into the cleared neighborhood, the lie has been revealed.

Under the false banner that Jerusalem is “open and undivided,” the peace-killing initiatives underway in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan will become the new normal and predictably the basis of tomorrow’s bloody conflicts.

There may be a prospect that America will reign in its rogue state, to reign in its rogue municipality, but even with Israel’s premier knocking on Obama’s door, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Michael J Carpenter is a post-graduate student of the University of Victoria in Canada with a special focus on human rights and security issues, currently residing in Ramallah.


Silwan Clashes

June 28, 2010

Palestinian protestors clashed with Israeli Border Police officers near Jewish settlements in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan yesterday.

What began as a confrontation between Palestinian residents and the settlers’ security guards escalated into a face-off between 150 Palestinians and Israeli Border Police officers. At the height of the clashes, the Israeli Border Police used teargas, rubber coated steel bullets, sound bombs, and reportedly even live ammunition against the Palestinian demonstrators and the boys who were throwing stones.

The Israeli Border Police shot teargas into Palestinian homes, breaking windows and injuring dozens of women and children with teargas inhalation, causing several to faint.

20 Palestinians needed medical attention for teargas inhalation, one Palestinian was reportedly injured by live ammunition, and several were hit with teargas canisters—all of whom had to be treated at the scene because the Israeli Border Police would not let the ambulances leave.

Several Border Police were injured by stones.

These clashes were a continuation of the demonstrations that began on Friday in response to the decision by the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, to approve the demolition of 22 Palestinians homes in the Silwan area to make room for a tourist park.

On Friday afternoon, the Sheikh Jarrah protests (another Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem that is facing house demolition orders in order to make room for Jewish settlements) merged with the Silwan protests. Over 500 Palestinians, Internationals, and Israelis demonstrated against the demolition orders.

The neighborhood of Silwan is particularly contentious because it is located on top of the ancient remains of the 3000 year old City of David.  Israeli settlements have been built in the middle of this Palestinian neighborhood in an effort to slowly Judaize the area and Jewish development companies have funded archaeological digging in areas where Palestinian buildings once stood.