Peace in our Time?

December 23, 2006

Letter from ICAHD to diplomatic corps re. increased home demolitions

Filed under: Palestine — angelajerusalem @ 10:06 pm

December 18, 2006

Dear Colleague:

On December 15, we sent you a notice about the significant increase in the number of Jerusalem Municipality demolitions in East Jerusalem. This is a particularly dangerous period because the Municipality must use up its outstanding 4 million shekel budget for home demolitions before the fiscal year-end. We know of scores of homes under threat of demolition before year end; indeed, we are witnessing a daily toll of home demolitions (already 8 this month and some 130 this year).

Now equally worrying is the fact that the municipality has published a warning (see attached), signed by Yossi Havilio, Municipal Legal Advisor and Osnat Post, Municipal Engineer, in which it has decided to tighten the enforcement of the laws of planning and construction in the city, to fight against illegal construction that “has become a plague and destroyed the quality of life in the city.” The Municipality has announced that as of today it will strengthen enforcement, use aerial photos to track infractions, confiscate tools used in illegal construction (e.g., tractors, cement mixers, generators), put court appeals on the fast track, and bring offenders to trial to the fullest extent of the law, including imprisonment. It states that it will immediately demolish illegal construction and prohibit the inhabiting of houses that have not received building permits. In serious cases, the Municipality is going to reject people’s ability to receive retroactive permission. These measures are “for the well being of the entire community, to guard the aesthetic of the city, and to respect the law.”

We understand by this warning that the Municipality is planning in the coming years a level of home demolitions, targeted almost exclusively against the Palestinian community, unknown until now. This is the first time the Municipality has published such a warning and is indicative that the coming year will be terrible for residents of East Jerusalem. Demolition of Palestinian homes has become an obsession on the part of the Israeli authorities, not only in the Occupied Territories but within Israel itself. Interior Ministry officials have recently declared their intention to carry out massive demolitions of Bedouin homes in the Negev, homes of Israeli citizens. In the past two weeks at least one entire village has been demolished. More are threatened. Interior Minister Ronny Bar-On has even stated in the Knesset that there are not enough demolitions in the Negev, although Bedouin citizens losing their homes have no legal alternative provided by the State.

Unfortunately, so many homes have been demolished by Israeli authorities in the past 40 years of Occupation (more than 18,000!) that this issue is barely newsworthy anymore. Nevertheless, for the many families who will lose their homes, this is a shattering experience. We know from experience that diplomatic pressure has been one of the few effective ways of preventing demolitions. We call on you to bring up this urgently before your governments, as well as to make overtures to the municipal and governmental authorities.

Sincerely,
Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, Action Advocacy Officer
Dr. Meir Margalit, Coordinator of Field Activities
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)

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