A Jewish-only Jerusalem?

June 17, 2013

Patrick O. Strickland reports on Israel's ongoing destruction of Palestinian homes.

BADWAN AL-SALAYMEH'S Jerusalem home was demolished by Israeli occupation forces on May 29. Two bulldozers brought down the walls between which he and his 13-member family lived for over a decade, reducing the two-story building to an ugly pile of mangled steel and jagged concrete ruins.

Heavily armed police forces misted the neighborhood, Beit Hanina, with tear gas and fired sound bombs at bystanders. At least two minors were arrested, one of whom was 12 years old, according to witnesses.

Although Al-Salaymeh had been paying monthly fines for the last two years, his home was leveled without prior notice. He was later informed that he will have to foot the bill of the demolition. "They want to kick all Palestinians out of Jerusalem," he said in an interview. "They want to make it a Jewish-only city, and to make us all move to the West Bank."

"They wanted to demolish that also," Al-Salaymeh said, pointing to a small wooden shack in the corner of the yard, the sole standing edifice. "But I told them they had to bring it down on my head."

An earlier victim of home demolition stands on the remains of his house in east Jerusalem
An earlier victim of home demolition stands on the remains of his house in east Jerusalem (ISM)

According to the Jerusalemites Campaign, it was the ninth demolition in East Jerusalem in a two-week period. Less than a week after the destruction of Al-Salaymeh's home, the Israeli-controlled municipality delivered demolition orders in several Palestinian villages in Jerusalem: Beit Hanina, Abu Dis, Al-Issawiya and Silwan.

In Abu Dis, where students from the nearby Al-Quds University threw rocks at armored military jeeps, Israeli soldiers raised clouds of tear gas after posting demolition orders on homes.

While delivering demolition orders, "Israeli police stormed the Beer Ayyub, Wadi Hilweh, and al-Bustan neighborhoods...taking several pictures," reports Ma'an News Agency. "Police and municipality staff also broke into a house belonging to [the] Rweidi family to check for any work carried out without a building permit, which are notoriously difficult for Palestinians in East Jerusalem to obtain."

Topping off the week, Israeli forces then delivered demolition orders to another home in Beit Hanina, not far from the pile of destruction that used to be Badwan Al-Salaymeh's home. "Jerusalem municipality staff left a demolition order on the property of Hussein al-Kaswani," Ma'an read. "The 300-square-meter house was built 10 years ago and is home to 20 people."

AS THE world marks the 46th anniversary of the June 1967 War, during which Israel occupied the remaining Palestinian territories and others, life in East Jerusalem has become grim for Palestinians. In order to "Judaize" the city--a euphemism for ethnic cleansing, of course--Israeli policy aims to push Palestinians out of the city by targeting them for arbitrary arrests, home demolitions, revoking their residency and imposing excessive fines, among other measures.

This happens despite the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voicing landslide recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state in November 2012. The UNGA voted for a state of Palestine that includes East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But when Palestinians woke up the next morning, checkpoints, tanks, soldiers and illegal settlements still dotted the map.

Home demolitions also continued without pause. Since 2004, Israeli human rights group B'Tselem estimates, 442 Palestinian buildings have been destroyed in East Jerusalem, displacing at least 1,746 people (945 of whom were minors).

The Al-Quds daily newspaper reported on May 28 that "450 Palestinian homes in the occupied city are currently awaiting demolition." The United Nations found that over 90,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites are presently at risk of displacement because 33 percent of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack permits. Israeli NGO Bimkom reports that 95 percent of all Palestinians who apply for permits are denied.

"Any increase in [Israel's] ethnic cleansing tactics is inevitably tied into an implicit compliance from the international community, most prominently through the continuation of relations with Israel on an unconditional basis with regard to its human rights violations," Rima Awwad of the Jersualemites Campaign said in an interview.

The ongoing assault on Palestinians in Jerusalem is part of Israel's larger hegemonic designs. As of June, almost 5,000 Palestinians were in Israeli prisons, more than 500,000 Israeli settlers were in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and right-wing Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue settlement activity.

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