Israel Is Forcing Palestinians in East Jerusalem to Demolish Their Own Homes
In the Shu’Fat neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Palestinian Iyad Al-Shaer stood inside the gutted interior of a modest breeze block structure. The building, an addition to Iyad’s own home, was set to be a new residence for his brother Baser and his fiancé. But the fully furnished home, complete with a heart-covered bedroom that Baser had designed for his future child, now had three gaping holes punctured in its roof.
Just days after completing construction, the Israeli-controlled municipality issued Iyad a demolition order for his “illegally” constructed home, built without one of the expensive permits issued by the same set of authorities. Unable to afford the protracted and costly legal battle, he chose to destroy the structure himself.
Self-demolitions like this began a few years ago and have continued—albeit somewhat under the mainstream media’s radar—ever since, with Palestinians compelled to destroy their own homes in order to avoid the steadily increasing fines leveled by the municipality.
The demolished roof of Iyad’s brother’s home
While the Palestinian population in the city has quadrupled to over 300,000 since 1967, municipal authorities have only zoned nine percent of East Jerusalem land for Palestinian construction. Even with this space being set aside, permits are rarely granted, and the result is widespread “illegal” Palestinian construction—which, of course, Israeli authorities can then order to be demolished.
Tens of thousands of Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents now live under the constant threat of having their homes demolished by Israeli authorities, part of a policy of displacement that has been taking place in Jerusalem with a startling degree of public support for more than four decades.
“We know that there are some 20,000 ‘illegal’ Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem,” Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) told us. “[That’s] about a third of the Palestinian housing stock.”
“They don’t consider us citizens, so they push. It’s not a personal thing—I am one of many,” says Iyad. “They push us to go outside of Jerusalem. I call it a soft transfer.”