Despite two months still left in the year, 2020 has surpassed previous years with a record total number of Israeli home demolitions in east Jerusalem, Ir Amim, an Israeli activist group, said in a report released recently.
“This week, Israeli authorities [carried out] several demolitions in east Jerusalem bringing the total number of housing units demolished since the beginning of the year to 125. Thus, with still two months left in the year, 2020 is the worst year in terms of demolition of housing units. Previously, 2016 was the year with the highest number of housing units demolished in East Jerusalem at 123.”
“Along with the 125 housing units, 64 other units (shops, storerooms etc.) have also been demolished,” the Israeli organization noted.
According to its report, “this record number of home demolitions was reached despite the fact that Israeli authorities froze demolitions for three months earlier during 2020. The freeze only happened after persistent demands from human rights organizations pointing to the significant risk that displaced families face during the COVID19 crisis.”
“The freeze on demolitions took place during the two periods of lockdown in Israel: From March 24 to May 25 and from September 18 to October 18. Still, the record number of demolitions demonstrates that the Israeli authorities chose not to take the necessary steps in order to prevent families from losing their homes during the pandemic.”
“The main reason for the spike in demolitions is the full enactment of Amendment 116 to the Planning and Building Law which resulted in an unprecedented number of 84 housing units (and 30 other units), out of the 125, being self-demolished by the families who owned them.”
“Amendment 116 increases enforcement and penalties against unpermitted construction and also limits the court’s ability to intervene on behalf of families who try to legalize their homes. The amendment came into full effect at the very end of 2018. And indeed, 2019 saw a sharp rise to a yearly total of 40 self-demolitions of housing units in comparison to 10-15 housing units in previous years. Now, in less than a year since January 2020, this record number has more than doubled.”
Ir Amim also accused Israel of discriminating against the Palestinians in east Jerusalem regarding building plans and permits for long decades.
“Israel’s long term policy of refusing to initiate or approve new detailed outline plans for Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem lies at the root of unpermitted construction. Last year, for example, out of over 21,000 housing units advanced in detailed outline plans in Jerusalem less than 8 percent were for Palestinian neighborhoods of the city (Palestinians comprise 38 percent of Jerusalem’s population),” Ir Amim said.
“The combined impact of discrimination in planning and increased home demolitions has been described and analyzed in ‘Ir Amim’s report on home demolitions in east Jerusalem during 2019,’” its report pointed out.
Ir Amim is an Israeli NGO whose activities include “monitoring” and “exposing” the Israeli government’s Judaization practices in east Jerusalem.