An Israeli human rights NGO revealed on Sunday that the occupation authorities have forced around 3,000 Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem between 2004 and 2019.
“The Jerusalem Municipality demolished 830 residential units, and 120 more were demolished by their owners on the municipality’s orders,” explained B’Tselem in a report published on its website. “The municipality deliberately left 2,927 people homeless, 1,574 of them minors.”
The report points out that the Israeli-run municipality adopts policies which have deliberately created an acute construction crisis for the city’s Palestinian population, while Jewish neighbourhoods enjoy massive development and substantial funding. “Israel has expropriated more than a third of the land it annexed from the West Bank and has built 11 neighbourhoods exclusively for Jews,” said B’Tselem. It noted that these neighbourhoods are as illegal under international law as Israel’s settlements are in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli authorities use a number of strategies to block Palestinian use of the land. According to the human rights report, they either declare Palestinian-owned land as “open scenic areas”, where development is forbidden, or as national parks, where construction and urban development are almost entirely forbidden. In other parts of the occupied Palestinian territories, large areas, including towns and villages, are declared to be “military zones” almost as a matter of routine, and residents have to leave their homes for set periods when the army moves in.
The Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem “have no choice” but to build without permits because the Israeli municipality rarely grants the right to build or extend homes. The authorities estimate that between 15,000 and 20,000 Arab homes have been built or extended without planning permission in the past five years.
“Thousands of Palestinians in the city are living under constant threat to their homes and businesses; in many cases, the authorities follow through on this threat or force residents to demolish the structures themselves,” said B’Tselem. “Israel does not see the residents of East Jerusalem [the Palestinians] as human beings with equal rights, but as people it strives to remove from their homes, as they are an obstacle to Judaising the city.”
The measures adopted by Israel to achieve that end, added the respected human rights group, are all illegal. “[The authorities are] deliberately denying Palestinians construction permits for residential and other purposes, issuing demolition orders for structures built without a permit for lack of choice, and demolishing dozens of such structures a year.” Israel, concluded B’Tselem, has implemented this policy, designed to clear parts of the city of Palestinians, since occupying the West Bank and annexing East Jerusalem and the surrounding villages [in 1967].