Israel is continuing with its policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem on the pretext that the properties do not have official permits. In at least one case, the home owner was forced to demolish his home himself; failure to do so would have landed the man with demolition by the authorities and a heavy fine. A staggering 95 percent of building permit applications submitted by Palestinians are refused by the Israeli authorities.
Jerusalem resident Ahmed Abdul Rahim Al-Bilbeisi told Quds Press that staff from the Israeli occupation municipality handed him an order to stop working on his house which, it was claimed, is built on “unauthorized” ground. The local court then issued an order to demolish the house located in Yakoute El-Hamawi Street, in the Gouze Valley. Mr Al-Bilbeisi said that he had to demolish his house with his own hands in order to avoid a fine of 50,000 shekels (around £8,500) which the court said it would impose if he didn’t abide by the demolition order. In addition, he would have had to pay for the authorities to demolish his home. He was given until the 25th October to fulfil the court order.
According to Al-Bilbeisi, he built his house in 2008 for $25,000 even though the Israelis refused his application for a building permit simply because his old home was too small for his growing family.
The Israelis impose many restrictions on Jerusalem residents to prevent them from obtaining building permits. Official statistics indicate that despite Jerusalem’s needs for 2,000 housing units to meet natural population growth fewer than 20 permits are approved annually.
The Jerusalem Centre for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER) asserts that the Israelis charge very high fees for building permits of between $25,000 and $30,000. Palestinians have to wait an average of five to ten years to get the licence. The statistics show that 45 houses were demolished in 2010, with 200 people being displaced. A total of 116 demolition orders were issued in the same period.
The Jerusalem authorities say that there are about 20,000 “illegal” buildings in occupied East Jerusalem, including 657 in the Silwan neighbourhood alone. If all of the demolition orders are carried out, nearly 120,000 citizens of the holy city will be displaced. In1997, the Israeli authorities established a special police unit to follow up house demolition issues.