The housing apartheid in Palestine

Amnesty International has called on the Israeli authorities to end house demolitions which leave thousands of Palestinians living in daily fear of eviction from their homes…

According to the UN, in 2009 more than 600 Palestinians – over half of them children – lost their homes after they were demolished on order from the Israeli authorities.

“Palestinians living under Israeli occupation face such tight restrictions on what they can build and where that their right to adequate housing is being violated,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Israeli authorities are putting Palestinians in an impossible situation. Whatever choice they make, they face homelessness.

“The majority of people are denied building permits by Israel, even after lengthy and expensive bureaucratic and legal processes, so they have little choice but to go ahead without official permission. But as they do so, they know that these buildings may soon be flattened by Israeli bulldozers.”

Demolitions are generally carried out with no warning of the date, giving no opportunity for Palestinians to salvage their possessions or find elsewhere to shelter. The UN has estimated that some 4,800 demolition orders are pending.

Under Israeli law, evicted families are not entitled to alternative housing or compensation, meaning many would face homelessness and destitution were it not for relatives, friends and charities.

While homes are often targeted, Israeli authorities have also issued demolition orders against Palestinian schools, clinics, roads, water cisterns, electricity pylons, sheds and animal shelters.

You can view and download the report here (PDF).

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Israel’s colonization of East Jerusalem – some context

The first political planning decision in the ‘reunified’ city concerned plans not for construction but for the geopolitical determination of borders…the determining consideration, ‘a maximum of vacant space with a minimum of Arabs,’ laid down as the basic tenet in the delineation of the borders, made possible the planning and implementation of the prinicipal political objective: the creation of physical and demographic faits accomplis.

[It became] clear that the planners must set their sights on the vacant areas on the outskirts of the city and surrounding it. These areas would have to be expropriated from their Arab owners. The legal instrument at the disposal of the Israelis for this purpose was the Land Ordinance (Expropriation for Public Purposes) of 1943, which grants the treasury minister the authority to expropriate private land when there is a ‘public need’ for such action – with the definition of ‘public need’ left to the minister himself…

But no one was deceived by the designation of these ‘ethnically colorblind’ needs; the expropriated areas were being taken from Arabs and handed over to Jews. This was an extraordinary interpretation of the word public: The only legitimate public was Jewish, and therefore only jews were entitled to benefit from the expropriation.

From Meron Benvenisti, City of Stone: The Hidden History of Jerusalem, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996, pp.154-55.

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A visit from Oz

Along with a Youtube video [see below], the following short report appeared on the Ha’aretz website today:

Israel’s new immigration police has joined security forces in cracking down on foreign activists residing in the Palestinian West Bank, Haaretz has learned.

The Oz Unit participated last week in the attempted arrest of a number of activists in the West Bank town of Bil’in, and also in the raid that nabbed leading Palestinian militants Mohammed Hatib that same night. Two weeks ago, the unit took part in the arrest of a Czech activist in Ramallah…

An Israel Defense Forces officer can be seen ordering the activists to obey the unit’s instructions, explaining that immigration officials have every right to make such requests. The same officer then urges the immigration official to search for some default or problem in the detainee’s documents,

The IDF soldiers can later been seen forcefully detaining a few of the activists. When asked why the arrest was being carried out, the soldier said that the immigration official would explain everything.

So for some background on the ‘Oz’ unit, here are some links:

Established by a 2008 cabinet decision, the task force, which goes by the Hebrew name “Oz” (courage), is the enforcement body of the Population Authority that comes under the aegis of the Interior Ministry, and replaced the immigration police. The unit has 200 inspectors, who have policing powers only with regard to foreigners.

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Ethnic Cleansing in East Jerusalem

Inside Story looks at the eviction of 1500 Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the prospect for peace under Netanyahu’s leadership.   Inside Story would have strengthend it’s argument had it mentioned that all Israeli settlements inside the West Bank were found illegal in 2004 by the Interntational Court of Justice.

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