Israel Destroys New Palestinian Homes

There’s been wide international reporting on Israel’s demolition of new apartment houses in an area adjacent to East Jerusalem that is part of Area A, designated by the Oslo Accords as entirely under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction, but geographically part of a Palestinian neighborhood of Jerusalem and on the Israeli side of the separation barrier.  This links to the NY Times story: “Israel Begins Tearing Down Palestinian Housing on Edge of East Jerusalem.” 

In soccer parlance, this is an own goal.  Once again, Israel under Prime Minister Netanyahu undermines its image and any possibility of rekindling a workable relationship with Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority.  Given the difficulty for Palestinians to get Israeli permits to build for their expanding population needs, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have purchased apartments in new buildings within Area A, partially still under construction.  Their construction permits from the Palestinian Authority have been ignored by Israel, which proceeded to destroy 72 new housing units, including 17 that were inhabited.  The official Israeli pretext is that the buildings were too close to the separation/security barrier, but the animosity generated by such actions among Palestinians (including legal inhabitants of East Jerusalem) surely raises a security risk of its own.

The Times of Israel has followed up on this story with an “Israel Media Review” entitled, “If you build it, they will come (and demolish it).”  It notes how this is mostly a non-story in Israel’s media, with back-page coverage in most print publications, with the exception of Haaretz and the online +972 magazine: 

Israel on Monday went ahead with planned demolitions of dozens of homes in several buildings in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher.

  • Though Israeli demolitions of homes found to be built illegally are not uncommon, the location of the homes in areas under Palestinian Authority control brought extra attention and condemnation over the measures.

  • The homes are in an area that is perhaps a perfect microcosm of the byzantine soup of authorities at play in the liminal zone at the edges of Jerusalem (a) in a neighborhood that is mostly inside Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, but (b) in a part of the neighborhood that lies outside those boundaries, in an area of the West Bank under Palestinian Authority control, and (c) on the Jerusalem side of the security barrier that supposedly runs between East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  . . .

J Street has just hosted an online discussion featuring a Meretz member of Jerusalem’s city council, Laura Wharton, and Ir Amim researcher Aviv Tatarsky.  They discussed the demolitions in Sur Baher and other inequitable policies and unjust actions toward Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem that undermine peaceful coexistence.  Wharton pointed out that despite a recent small upsurge of spending by the Jerusalem municipality, 40% of the city’s population that is Palestinian in East Jerusalem receives only 10% of the city’s budgeted expenditures in services. 

Tatarsky mentioned that the underground passage developed for tourists below the ancient sites of Jerusalem is undermining the foundations of Palestinian homes above, and leaving these families without recompense.  The speakers indicated that Jerusalem’s historic sites have been given by the government to a private rightwing nationalist group called El’ad, whose purpose includes elbowing East Jerusalem Arabs out of the neighborhood of Silwan.  (This links to the video recording of this discussion at Facebook.)

Postscript: To read the analysis of the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, click on its title: “Wadi al-Humos Demolitions: The excuse – security, The strategy – a Jewish demographic majority.”