Saturday, August 18, 2018

“This is worse than the West Bank:” residents of East Jerusalem live in constant fear of home demolition


By Annelies Verbeek - May 06, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [demolition] [House Demolition] [Jerusalem]

The women of Al-Issawiya talked feverishly and impatiently as they sat on the stairs of their apartment building on the steep slopes of Mount Scopus. The scene overlooks rubble of an apartment building demolished by Jerusalem municipal authorities on Tuesday. 

“My sons are imprisoned,” one woman wailed. “They [the Israel Defense Forces] come every night, they scare my children,” said another. “Life is hard here,” Fatima Abdelhamid Aliyan sighed as a tear rolled down her cheek.
 
Aliyan lived in the house that is now rubble. “Me and my husband were sleeping when they blew up the door. It was 5AM,” Aliyan said, referring to her home being demolished by Israeli soldiers on May 1. “My husband is ill from diabetes, he was pushed out of the house in his bare chest. I had to bribe a soldier to go in and get him a blouse to wear.”
 
Aliyan told Palestine Monitor the Jerusalem Municipality did not notify her that they were about to demolish her house. Seven month before the demolition, the Municipal Court had imposed a 250,000 shekel (70,000 USD) fine on her and her husband for building illegally. They had already paid 15,000 ($4,200) of it.
 
Now, Aliyan and her husband are forced stay in a different house every night. “My clothes were inside [my home], I don’t even have anything to wear,” she lamented.
 
Aliyan is a resident of the East Jerusalem village of Al-Issawiya. The small, overcrowded neighbourhood is encircled by Israeli settlements from the West, and cut off from the East by the separation wall built to close off the West Bank from Jerusalem.
 
Whoever enters the Al-Issawiyah from the wide, clean and open spaces of the adjacent settlement of Giv’at Shapira, cannot help but note the cramped, dilapidated outlook of the Palestinian neighbourhood.
 
The village, like other Palestinian areas in East Jerusalem, suffers from a lack of municipal services. Al-Issawiyah is annexed territory that falls within the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Municipality. Its residents pay the same taxes as other inhabitants of Jerusalem, but the municipality does not provide services such as waste disposal, road maintenance and education.
 
In these dismal living conditions, clashes between Palestinian youth and the Israeli authorities are the order of the day. So are arrests.
 
An 18-year-old inhabitant of the village showed the way to the demolished house. “I just left prison one week ago,” he casually remarked. “I lost count of how many times I’ve been imprisoned. I was arrested the first time when I was 13.” He chose not to disclose his name, out of fear of retaliation. “There is no man in this village that has not been imprisoned,” he explained.
 
Though the demolition of Aliyan’s apartment building was a painful shock to her and her family, it came as no surprise. It is virtually impossible for the inhabitants of Al-Issawiya to obtain building permits.
 
According to Israeli rights group B’tselem, the Jerusalem Municipalitydeliberately avoids providing a detailed building plan for the neighbourhood, which is the only avenue for obtaining building permits legally.
 
Moreover, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committeeapproved a master plan in 2013 that confiscated 40 dunams (40,000 m²) of Al-Issawiya’s land for a “national park.” This was free space originally allocated for land development, and the last piece of land left empty within the boundaries of the village.
 
National parks are used as a tool to constrain Palestinian neighbourhoods. Since 1974, the Jerusalem municipality has approved four different national parks in East Jerusalem, on Palestinian privately owned land or in already built-up areas.
 
These restrictions often result in Palestinian residents of Jerusalem building without permit. Authorities then impose fines on the residents for building illegally.
 
Aliyan said they have to pay everything double. “We pay Arnona taxes (an annual municipal tax levied on land and building owners) and we pay fines. And now we will have to pay the expenses of the bulldozer.”
 

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