House demolitions: ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem

The Freedom Ride took a day off today, so Mary Brodin took a trip to East Jerusalem and the site of two house demolitions. Here’s her report:

Two houses were built on this site in Ash-Shayyah on the slopes of the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem. One was demolished ten years ago, the other two weeks ago.

The land has been owned by the same Palestinian family for centuries but the Israelis have ruled that the current owner requires a permit to build as it is designated Area C (under full Israeli civil and security control since the Oslo Accords signed in 1995).

But only 5% of permit applications are successful and the process costs 200,000 shekels (£40,000).

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The site in East Jerusalem housed two homes over the past ten years – both demolished by the Israelis

That makes it extremely difficult for Palestinians to build legally so they have no alternative but to build it ‘illegally’.

If they were to go through the legal channels the house has to be deemed part of a district Masterplan and the Masterplan for Ash-Shayyah is the demolition of hundreds of Palestinian homes to expand the Jewish cemetery.

So Palestinians have no option but to take the risk of building a house without a permit, not knowing when the demolition order will come.

Once demolition is notified it can take some years before it actually takes place, leaving the owners in a constant state of worry and insecurity. Meanwhile the homeowners are periodically fined 5,000 shekels (£1,000) making it a lucrative business to keep the house owner waiting.

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What’s left of the family’s second home.

The Palestinian owners then have two options: demolish it themselves or an uncertain wait for the Israelis to do it for them – the latter being the best of a bad choice.

When the time comes no prior notice is given. The demolition crew typically arrive before 5am – backed-up by around 50 police officers despite knowing there will be minimum resistance.

The police surround the house, holding hands in a ring. The owners are given exactly 15 minutes to grab what they can and leave forcing them to leave most of their possessions behind.

To add insult to injury, the house owners are sent the bill for the bulldozer – 5,000 shekels (£1,000).

Israel demolishes about 200 homes in Area C each year.


Indy cartoonist Tim Sanders gets sketching on first day in Palestine

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by Tim Sanders

Our chair, Sybil Cock, local residents Mary Brodin and Ruby Hirsch, actor Doug Holton and cartoonist Tim Sanders, arrived in Palestine this weekend and will be joining The Freedom Theatre’s Freedom Ride across the West Bank from tomorrow.

The last few days they took a look around Jerusalem before travelling up to Jenin to stay with an old friend.

The man in the picture (right) had his family home in Jerusalem Old City stolen by settlers a few years back while his family were attending a wedding. This man only managed to save part of the extensive family home because he didn’t go to the wedding. He now lives in the tiny white building attached to the lovely old building.

A little later the Israeli settler family who had moved in to the ground floor attacked his two sons. The sons were arrested and spent two years in prison. In 3 weeks time he is going to court for the 3rd time to stop his total eviction.

The top floor remains empty, protected by surveillance cameras and a neighbouring security force. The plaques inside the front door show that 2 New York families have funded this terrible policy of Palestinian evictions from the Old City of Jerusalem, alongside the Israeli flag decorating the entrance of what was once a Palestinian home.

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Tim drew this picture of the apartheid wall from the bus we took from Ramallah to Jenin. We’ll see a lot more of this!
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by Tim Sanders

The man in the picture (right) is a volunteer manager at the Al Bustan community Centre in Silwan, just outside Jerusalem old city.  Silwan has long been a target for settlers and many houses, including this centre are threatened with demolition.

His son has been arrested 21 times in 9 years, the first time he was 9 years old. He talked about ‘existing to resist’.  He feels that the rest of the world has abandoned Palestine, but gets on with organising children’s activities, such as dancing, drawing, painting and music.

He asked for us to pressure our decision makers to fix the bad decisions of the past, like Balfour.  He lives in fear, has no power, but he is strong because we have the right to be here.  The trees are older than the Occupation.

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by Tim Sanders: We spent Monday in Jenin, our twin city, with Yousef Awad, who visited us in Tower Hamlets last autumn. This gives a view from the balcony of the Jenin Cinema Guest house.