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East Jerusalem hit by wave of home demolitions

Nine families are made homeless in a series of demolitions in East Jerusalem. The pace of demolitions so far in 2017 outstrips that in 2016, currently the worst year on record.

By Aviv Tatarsky

A home being demolished in East Jerusalem, May 4, 2017.

A home being demolished in East Jerusalem, May 4, 2017.

Israeli forces conducted a wave of demolitions in East Jerusalem on Thursday, destroying four homes in al-Walaja, one house and four apartments in a-Tur, one apartment in Sur Baher and three garages in Issawiya. Nine families lost their homes as a result.

It was an especially difficult day, but one in keeping with an ongoing phenomenon over the past two years. Israel has significantly stepped up its demolition of homes in the occupied territories, destroying 123 housing units in Jerusalem in 2016 — a record, and more than double its prior yearly average. Israel demolished 66 housing units in East Jerusalem during the first four months of 2017, a pace which, if maintained, would make 2017 a far worse year than the one before.

Last year was also the first in which Israel destroyed homes in East Jerusalem neighborhoods cut off by the separation wall, which brings us back to al-Walaja — where, a week ago, construction of the barrier resumed.

The demolitions were carried out in the part of al-Walaja that has been annexed to Jerusalem. Despite its annexation, the municipality and the state have never provided even a semblance of services to the village. Yet Israel insists on demolishing buildings constructed without a permit — which itself is a result of the government not approving a master plan for the village.

The separation wall has caused considerable damage to the groves that al-Walaja’s residents use to support themselves, and has taken away 1,000 dunams (247 acres) of land that remained on the Israeli side of the fence. The area will now become a national park for the enjoyment of Israelis.

The separation wall being built in al-Walaja, December 7, 2010. Once completed, the wall will completely surround the village. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The separation wall being built in al-Walaja, December 7, 2010. Once completed, the wall will completely surround the village. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The separation fence will also physically cut al-Walaja off from Jerusalem, another step in the ongoing disregard of its residents’ existence. But in spite of the physical separation, Israel is determined to “maintain the connection” by way of demolishing homes in the village. Dozens of families in al-Walaja are living in homes under threat of destruction.

While exact details of the affected families are still unclear, the nature of the threat is stark, and the maliciousness of the demolition policy in al-Walaja, East Jerusalem and Area C is unmistakable. Thousands have been made homeless by demolitions in the last two years, with the underlying goal of expelling the Palestinian population to the Area A and B enclaves throughout the West Bank.

Also evident is the despair — and apathy — of al-Walaja’s residents, who no longer have the strength to tackle the violence against them, and who have no hope that positive change is on the horizon. The building of the wall, demolitions, land theft — all are surrendered to, with no attempt at opposition and no community organization that can put a stop to the blows raining down on the village.

The hardening of Israeli hearts is clear as well. The only thing that rivals this impenetrability is the smugness of being “the most moral people and the only democracy…” We don’t want to know, and even if we are forced to address these crimes, most of us set out to blame the victims.

Al-Walaja can be seen from numerous Jerusalem neighborhoods: Gilo, Malha, Ir Ganim, Katamonim, Aminadav, Talbiya. Thousands of Jerusalemites went out from their homes on Thursday morning, as the demolitions were in progress. They looked over toward al-Walaja, and they didn’t see a thing.

Aviv Tatarsky is an activist with Engaged Dharma Israel.

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    1. Bruce Gould

      The home dempolitions are state-sponsored terrorism. Why are there no comments on this from the graduates of Hasbara U?

      Reply to Comment
      • Itshak Gordin Halevy

        These houses have been built without authorization from the authorities. That is the same everywhere in the world. If I build an additional room in my house and even if I make a window without authorization I will have problems with the housing department.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          It gets tiresome to continually remind makers of these statements that the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem only build without authorization from the authorities because they cannot get authorization from the authorities. And they cannot get authorization from the authorities because they are Arabs and not Jews, and for no other reason. There is no such thing as “united Jerusalem.” There is only divided Jerusalem, in which everything is divided by the occupier along racial, ethnic, religious lines in a blatantly discriminating way, with a whole bag of devious tricks used to make it appear somewhat less blatant.

          Reply to Comment
          • Itshak Gordin Halevy

            Please come to Jerusalem and visit the areas where live the Arabs. You will see a lot of building in construction. Watch by yourself the reality.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            This is a meaningless reply. Changes nothing.

            Reply to Comment
          • Itshak Gordin Halevy

            Your reply explains why the Israeli left is going from bad to worse. There is a growing gap
            between the Israeli people and persons who think as you..

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            No, Halevy. Construct some minimal argument. Not some BS oily travel ad about “come to Jerusalem” and see the few Arabs we showcase building in their little allowed spaces.
            Sarah Kaminker, a city planner in Jerusalem for more than thirty years, describes a decades-long regime of the rankest discrimination in land use, planning, development, draconian bureaucratic measures, and what amounts to a whole bag of dirty tricks:

            “…There are literally a hundred other discriminatory practices that ruthlessly prevent Palestinians from building homes in Jerusalem. There are unjustiably huge charges for building licenses that are imposed only on Arabs…
…The Israeli government claims that it has no choice but to punish the “scofflaws” in East Jerusalem who build illegally. If only they would ask for a license, the municipality would issue one. The government says it gets about 150 requests from Arabs each year and dutifully supplies them with building licenses. What the municipality does not tell us is that over one thousand Arabs each year ask a special team of Arab civil servants in the city engineer’s office for information about the planning regulations that apply to their land. About 150 of them have land where housing construction is permitted. These lucky few apply for and gain building licenses. The others, having been told informally that their land is not zoned for housing, never get into the data bank, allowing the municipality to continue to claim that it issues licenses to all applicants….”
            B’Tselem likewise documents an indisputably distantly second class status for Arabs versus Jews under Israeli administration of Jerusalem. For decades and with no end in sight.

            Reply to Comment
          • Itshak Gordin Halevy

            If the land of some is not zoned for building, what is the problem? It is the same for Jews. You cannot build without authorization. And everywhere in the world. I am an immigrant from Switzerland. If you build there without authorization, your building will be demolished and you will have to pay penalties. Even for a wooden shed.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “It is the same for Jews.”

            The whole point is that is not the same for Jews. Neither is the moon made of green cheese. To anyone who is not willfully blind.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Willem Sassen

      great article

      Reply to Comment
    3. Awesome post. It is very informative post. I like your post. Thanks for sharing this post.

      Reply to Comment

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