Saturday, October 31, 2020

East Jerusalem neighbourhood hit by harsh collective punishment measures

By Carla Mari - January 20, 2017
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [Jerusalem] [Collective Punishment]

East Jerusalem - Israel’s measures following a deadly attack in Jerusalem earlier this month will put dozens of Palestinians at risk of displacement.
On January 8 Fadi al-Qunbar, a 28-year-old Palestinian from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal al-Muqabber, ran over a group of young Israeli soldiers with a truck, killing four and injuring at least 13. He was shot dead at the scene.
Following the incident, members of his immediate family were arrested, issued home demolition orders and threatened with residency revocation. Some of the arrested family members have since then been released after paying hefty fines. Al-Qunbar's home, where he lived with his parents, was measured by Israeli authorities in view of an impending punitive demolition.
Additionally, in an unprecedented move following an attack, the Jerusalem municipality issued Al Qunbar's extended family with 40 demolition orders, according to B’Tselem, arguing the homes lack building permits or violate building regulations.
“Israeli authorities have since [the attack] adopted a series of punitive measures against Al-Qunbar’s extended family and other local residents. Such measures constitute collective punishment targeting individuals who are not charged with any wrongdoing. There can be no possible justification for these vindictive steps,” Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem said in a press release.
“Imposing collective punishment in conjunction with adopting administrative measures against Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem is an acknowledged Jerusalem Municipality policy,” the press release continued. Human rights organisations including Badil, the Palestinian Resource Centre for Residency and Refugee Rights, have argued the policy amounts to mass forcible transfer of the Palestinian population.
Punitive demolitions target homes where an attacker or suspect and his immediate family live, affecting family members who have committed no crime themselves. Punitive house demolitions are based on the 1945 British Emergency regulations. Israel argues they should work to deter future attackers, however a study commissioned by the Israeli defence ministry nearly a decade ago concluded that collective punishment does not work as a deterrent.
Human rights organisations have called them a form of collective punishment, which may amount to a war crime under international law.
“Israeli policies make our lives unsustainable and the house demolition would have come anyway, regardless of his conduct,” said a member of Fadi’s family who asked to remain anonymous.
All of Jabal Al-Muqabber neighbourhood has been hit by a wave of demolition orders for lacking building permits. Hence, demolishing our house on the basis of his conduct is an excuse, as Israel would have soon demolished our house anyway,” he added. JLAC, the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre, counts 81 demolition notices were issued in the past week.
“Normally, 10% of these notices end in a demolition and this happens when all the other legal procedures have been exhausted,” JLAC's Jerusalem branch director Rami Saleh told the Palestine Monitor.
“This case though is peculiar. Some of the notices were in fact handed to houses that were built during the 80s and thus they are not possibly illegal, as they were built following the old regulations. Another part of the notices was handed in to families who were already in the process of adjusting their houses to the regulations after receiving a previous notice,” he said.
Re-issuing those notices, added Saleh, means Israel is disregarding the legal procedure it put in place. Demolition notices are documents alerting the owner his house does not comply with the municipality's regulations, and requiring he take the necessary measures to regularise the building to avoid demolition. Residents would normally try to regularise or appeal to the court in cases where notices appear to be issued unjustly.
Other notices were handed in to houses under construction. In these cases, he said, there is little hope they will not be knocked down. Demolitions are ongoing in the neighbourhood. Following the attack, 8 structures were destroyed, including three shops and five buildings used as stockyards which did not belong to the Al-Qunbar family.
2016 was a record year for home demolitions in the West Bank since OCHA records began in 2009, resulting in the displacement of 1,593 people. In East Jerusalem, 153 houses were demolished between January and October, displacing 227 people. The number of structures demolished in the first week of January 2017 was three times last year's weekly average. During the first ten days of 2017 Israel demolished 84 structures in Area C citing the lack of building permits, displacing 160 people, including 96 children.
In addition, Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced his intention to revoke the Jerusalem residency permits of 14 members of al-Qunbar's family, as well as cancel their application for family reunification on behalf of other family members. Fadi’s mother, Manwa Al Qunbar, said Israeli forces escorted a government employee to deliver her residency revocation notice in person shortly after the incident.
East Jerusalemites are “permanent residents” rather than citizens of Israel. However, their status is in fact anything but permanent, as 14000 residency permits have been revoked since 1967. Spouses of East Jerusalemites, may apply for a temporary residency permit. Fadi’s mother was given her residency permit after her marriage, back in the 80s. According to a member of the family, Manwa al Qunbar's residency revocation notice mentions irregularities in her application dating back 30 years.
Even though house demolitions both as collective punishments or due to lack of building permits are an established practice, the scale of both in Jabal al-Mukabber raises concerns of wide-scale displacement.
As B’Tselem wrote last week in a press release, “the measures being adopted now against the residents of Jabal al-Mukabber seem to be a further implementation of this discriminatory policy. While the policy is indeed an overt one, this does nothing to detract from it being a wrongful one which involves widespread persecution by the authorities of thousands of Jerusalem residents.”


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