mayor threatened last week to demolish 200 homes in Palestinian
neighbourhoods of the city in an act even he conceded would probably
bring long-simmering tensions over housing in East Jerusalem to a boil.
uncompromising stance is the latest stage in a protracted legal battle
over a single building towering above the jumble of modest homes of
Silwan, a deprived and overcrowded Palestinian community lying just
outside the Old City walls, in the shadow of the silver-topped al Aqsa
Yehonatan, or Jonathan’s House, is distinctive not only for its height
-- at seven storeys, it is at least three floors taller than its
neighbours -- but also for the Israeli flag draped from the roof to the
settlement outpost, named for Jonathan Pollard, serving a life sentence
in the US for spying on Israel’s behalf in the 1980s, has been home to
eight Jewish families since 2004, when it was built without a licence
by an extremist settler organisation known as Ateret Cohanim.
Yehonatan is one of dozens of settler-occupied homes springing up in
Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem, most of them takeovers of
say the intent of these “outposts”, together with the large settlements
of East Jerusalem built by the state and home to nearly 200,000 Jews,
is to foil any peace agreement that might one day offer the
Palestinians a meaningful state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Known and very popular cialis coupon which gives all the chance to receive a discount for a preparation which has to be available and exactly cialis coupons has been found in the distant room of this big house about which wood-grouses in the houses tell.
exceptionally for the settlers, who are used to a mix of overt and
covert assistance from officials, the inhabitants of Beit Yehonatan are
at risk of being evicted from their home, two years after an “urgent”
enforcement order was issued by the Israeli Supreme Court.
week Nir Barkat, Jerusalem’s mayor, finally agreed “under protest” to
seal Beit Yehonatan amid mounting pressure from an array of legal
officials. Mr Barkat had been fighting strenuously against implementing
the court order, aided by senior members of the parliament, the police,
and even Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, who opposed
his own attorney general’s advice by declaring Beit Yehonatan’s future
“a purely municipal matter”.
the mayor has not simply capitulated. He warned that Beit Yehonatan
would be evacuated only on condition that more than 200 demolition
orders on Palestinian homes, most of them in Silwan, were carried out
at the same time. He argued that he had to avoid any impression that
the law was being enforced in a “discriminatory” manner against Jews.
Jeff Halper, head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, said Mr Barkat’s idea of fairness was “ridiculous”.
the past 15 years there have been more than a thousand Palestinian
homes demolished in East Jerusalem versus absolutely no settler homes,”
he said. “In fact, no settlers have ever lost their home in East
making his announcement, Mr Barkat admitted that the 200 demolitions
would trigger “a strong possibility for conflict”. Palestinians in East
Jerusalem are already seething over decades of planning restrictions
that have forced many of them to build or extend homes illegally
because it is all but impossible to get permits from the Israeli
Halper said the municipality had classified 22,000 Palestinian homes in
East Jerusalem as illegal, even as it also assessed a shortage of
25,000 homes for the city’s 250,000-strong Palestinian population.
homes targeted for demolition include Palestinian houses around Beit
Yehonatan that violate planning restrictions that allow families to
build only two floors; despite the restriction, many houses have four
storeys and owners pay fines.
addition, the city council wants to demolish 88 homes in a small area
called Bustan that the municipality claims is in danger of flooding.
Jaber lives next to Beit Yehonatan in the home she was born in 61 years
ago. The building was declared illegal 20 years ago, after it was
extended to four storeys to accommodate her growing family. Today she
and her six grown-up sons pay monthly fines of more than $1,000 (Dh
3,672) in the hope of warding off destruction.
son Amjad, 32, married with two young sons, said he did not dare miss a
payment. “It’s simple: if you don’t pay, you’ll end up in prison.”
is there for the settlers here?” Mrs Jaber asked. “They are only here
because they want to take this place from us. They won’t be happy till
the opposite slope across the valley from Beit Yehonatan, Mohammed
Jalajil, 48, said he did not doubt that the municipality would demolish
the 200 homes. He, his wife and five children have been crammed into a
room in a relative’s apartment since their own house was demolished
seven years ago.
Jalajil, 48, said: “It was only months after they took our house from
us that I saw the settlers building theirs nearby. My lawyer tells me
that, even though my house is gone, I won’t have paid off my fines for
another 10 years.”
Mr Barkat follows through with his threat, the demolitions will prompt
a rebuke from the international community. Last month, France and the
United States joined the UN in denouncing more than 100 demolitions in
East Jerusalem over the past three months.
mayor’s decision, warned Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem city councillor,
was comparable to the “price tag” policy of the settlers in the West
Bank, who have attacked Palestinian villages in retaliation against
official attempts to dismantle a few of the settlement outposts dotting
the difference here is that the price tag is being levied not by the
settlers themselves but by the municipality and the government on their
behalf,” he said.
the municipality was due to issue a seven-day evacuation notice to the
inhabitants of Beit Yehonatan, but the operation was cancelled at the
last minute when police refused to co-operate.
have been growing in Silwan for several years over the activities of
another settler organisation, Elad, which, with official backing, has
been building an archaeological park known as the City of David in the
midst of the Palestinian neighbourhood. As Palestinians have been
pushed out, at least 80 Jewish families have moved into homes nearby.
Elad entrenches itself in Silwan, Beit Yehonatan has proved more
difficult to secure. “Usually the settlers present a façade of legality
to what they do,” Mr Halper said. “The problem here is that they built
in an overtly illegal manner, without a permit and way over the
building height restrictions.”
Barkat’s resistance to evicting Beit Yehonatan’s inhabitants was
highlighted last month when he tried to stave off legal pressure by
proposing a new planning policy to legalise unlicensed buildings in
Silwan. The mayor proposed that the rules limiting homes to two storeys
be revised to four.
reform would have applied to Beit Yehonatan first, sealing its top
three storeys but allowing the Jewish families to inhabit the rest of
Mr Barkat promised that illegal Palestinian buildings would also be
saved, Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights groups, dismissed the mayor’s
overwhelming majority of Palestinian homes would fail to qualify
because land registry documents are missing for the area and a range of
requirements on car parking, access roads and sewerage connections are
“impossible” to meet, Orly Noy, a spokeswoman, wrote in the Haaretz
newspaper last month.
added that Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem lacked 70km of sewage
pipes and that not a single new road had been paved in their
neighbourhoods since Israel’s occupation in 1967.
planning map of East Jerusalem drawn up recently by the Jerusalem
municipality came to light last month, as Mr Barkat was promising to
legalise buildings, showing that more than 300 homes -- most of them in
Silwan -- were facing imminent demolition.
Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest
books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the
Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing
Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His
website is www.jkcook.net.