The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions released the following statement on June 29:
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Rabbis for Human Rights-Shomrei Mishpat welcome the Jerusalem Municipality’s announcement that it is considering a freeze on the demolition of 70% of the so-called “illegal” Palestinians homes built without a permit. The Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem himself, Yakir Segev, revealed that in 2008 only 18 permits were issued for building in the Palestinian parts of the city, home to some 270,000 Palestinians. It was the Municipality’s policy of granting so few permits that was driving Palestinians to construct illegally. “To get a construction permit in East Jerusalem you have to be more than a saint,” said Segev. In 2008 the Municipality demolished 87 Palestinian homes, issued 959 demolition orders and collected $3.6 million/€2.5 million in fines from Palestinians, 70% of whom live below the poverty line.
While we welcome any change of policy that reduces home demolitions, we must protest the continuation of that policy, even if parts of it are “frozen.” Twenty thousand (20,000) Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem housing 180,000 people currently have demolition orders. Freezing the demolition of 70% of them means that 6,000 homes would still be slated for demolition. In fact, the Municipality has indicated that it intends to remove completely those 6,000 homes. It seems to believe that offering compensation will legitimize that action.
This is not merely a game of numbers. Lying behind the plan is the intent to leave intact “unauthorized” Palestinian homes in areas of East Jerusalem of little interest to Israel – those on the periphery of the city in particular – while targeting those in areas that Israel wishes to annex. The targeted 30% are therefore in the most politically sensitive areas subject to conflict: the Old City, the Silwan area adjacent to the al-Aqsa mosque (already renamed the “City of David”), the Mount of Olives, Sheikh Jarrah and other strategic locales.
We call on the Jerusalem Municipality and the Government of Israel to end their policy of demolishing Palestinian homes altogether, whether in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza – or inside Israel, where the homes of Palestinian and Bedouin citizens of Israel are also targeted.