500 Palestinian families in Jerusalem are about to have their homes destroyed

Action is needed to protect them and tens of thousands more who risk losing their homes under Israel’s devastating home demolition policies.

Mike Merryman-Lotze, American Friends Service Committee, Apr 19, 2019

Israeli’s home demolition policy has led to the destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes (like this one in Hebron in the West Bank) and the forced displacement of thousands of Palestinians.

Tears streaming down her face, the little girl in front of me crawled over the ruins of her home looking for toys and school books that could be salvaged from among the rubble and destruction. The night before, the Israeli army had evacuated her family from their house, set explosives, and destroyed their home.

It was 2001, and it was the first time I witnessed the devastation wrought by Israel’s decades-old home demolition policy. During the nearly two decades since then, I’ve talked with hundreds of Palestinians who have been forced out of their homes by the Israeli government. Their stories are all unique, but the result of Israel’s home demolition policy is always the same – destruction and suffering within families and communities.

Just last week, the Israeli High Court ruled that the government can move forward with the demolition of 60 buildings in Jerusalem that are home to over 500 Palestinian families. Demolitions have already begun, and thousands of Palestinians will be left without homes if this move is not stopped.

The remains of homes demolished in Nablus in the West Bank. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSCThe remains of homes demolished in Nablus in the West Bank. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSC

The Israeli government justifies these demolitions by claiming that the homes in question were built illegally without permits from the city. But for decades, the city has refused to approve zoning plans for Palestinian areas of Jerusalem, making it impossible for Palestinian residents to obtain permits and leaving them no choice but to build without permission. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, there are now over 20,000 housing units built without permits in East Jerusalem, all of which are at risk of demolition.

At the same time, the Jerusalem municipality is moving to retroactively approve construction carried out by the settler group Elad in the same neighborhood from which these 500 Palestinian families will soon be displaced.

This forced displacement will not just traumatize families, it will destroy a whole community. During the seven years I lived and worked in the West Bank, I saw this happen over and over – and I documented the harmful impacts. In 2008, I received an update from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that a home was being demolished in East Jerusalem, near the office where I worked. I traveled to the scene of the demolition and saw devastated family members break down as they watched the walls of their home fall.

At the time I was managing a program to assist Palestinian families whose homes were destroyed by Israel. Through our interviews with families, it became clear that the demolitions had deep, long-term negative impacts on family structures – increasing poverty and unemployment, raising levels of domestic violence, disrupting education, and leading to severe trauma for all those impacted.

A resident digs out belongings from the ruins of his destroyed home in Jenin. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSCA resident digs out belongings from the ruins of his destroyed home in Jenin. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSC

The demolition of 60 buildings in Jerusalem that was recently approved is unusual in its scale, but it is not unique. In the West Bank, tens of communities – including Umm Al-Khair, Susiya, and Khan al-Ahmar – remain under threat of complete destruction.

Destruction in communities also is not limited to the West Bank. After years of resistance, the Bedouin community of Umm Al-Hiran inside Israel will soon be destroyed and replaced with a new community designed for Jewish Israelis.

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‘No to Apartheid’

Palestinians block Israel’s new ‘Apartheid Road’

Yumna Patel, Mondoweiss, January 23, 2019

Over a dozen Palestinian activists, along with Israeli and international supporters, blockaded the entrance to Israel’s new ‘Apartheid Road’ in the central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem on Wednesday morning.

The group of activists closed the gates to the newly opened road and formed a human chain, raising banners in Arabic, English, and Hebrew saying “No to Apartheid” and “No to Annexation.”

Israeli forces approach activists at the entrance to the ‘Apartheid Road’ on January 23, 2019 (Photo, PSCC Facebook)

Israeli forces arrived to the scene, which is located adjacent to an Israeli military base, shortly after the activists closed the road and attempted to forcibly remove them.

Two protesters were arrested and at least four others were injured. One of the detained protesters was identified as Ibrahim Musalem, from the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Palestinian activist Ibrahim Musalem was arrested by Israeli forces (Photo: Munther Amira, Facebook)

Palestinian activist Munther Amira, who participated in the protest, said “any shame the [Israeli] Occupation may have had of its apartheid policies is now completely gone with this road. We must not and will not allow for their plan of ethnic cleansing in the outskirts of Jerusalem.”

Israeli authorities opened the ‘Apartheid Road’ or ‘Eastern Ring Road’ earlier this month to widespread Palestinian and international criticisms.

The four-lane highway features two separate road divided by a concrete wall – one for Israeli settlers and the other for Palestinians.

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Statement on the attack on Palestinians of Jerusalem

Friends of Sabeel North America

On Sunday, February 25, church leaders from the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian Apostolic churches in Jerusalem shut down the Church of the Holy Sepulcher until further notice. They did so in protest of a new municipal law demanding that church leaders pay over $190 million to the state of Israel in back taxes on church properties that were formerly tax exempt.

More information on the new law

The new law is part of an ongoing campaign to target and push out Palestinians in the holy city of Jerusalem. We stand with these church leaders in their boycott of this gross injustice, which is meant to make it more difficult if not impossible for Palestinian Christians to continue to live in Jerusalem. Sacred lands are never for sale. We raise outcry over the mass displacement of all Palestinians, whether Muslim or Christian, from Jerusalem. We support the leadership of the churches in boycotting injustice, and we call on church leaders around the world to follow their lead, heeding international calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions on Israel until it complies with basic standards of international law and ends its decades long campaign to wipe out the indigenous Palestinian population.


Statements From Church Leaders in Jerusalem

FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. POLITICAL PERSECUTION LEADS TO THE CLOSURE OF CHRISTIANITY’S HOLIEST SITE

The leaders of Jerusalem’s churches have today announced the unprecedented decision to close the Church of the Holy Sepulchre until further notice, in protest at persistent moves to intimidate Christians and discriminate against churches in the Holy Land. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which dates back to the fourth century, is considered to contain the sites of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, making it the holiest site in the world for Christians.

The decision to close the Holy Sepulchre comes in response to recent actions by the Jerusalem Municipality and by members of the Israeli Knesset. The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, is attempting to enforce a punitive and retroactive tax on church properties in the Holy City. Furthermore, Knesset member, Rachel Azaria (“Kulanu” party)  is seeking to advance the “Bill of Church Lands”, which would give the Israeli government the power to confiscate church property. These actions contravene the long held Status Quo which is foundational to the guarantee of the churches’ rights and privileges in the Holy Land; and critically undermines the ability of churches to carry out their pastoral mission of housing the community, feeding the poor, caring for refugees, running schools for local children and maintaining the holy sites. Above all, they imperil the continuation of the Christian presence in Jerusalem. 

The closure was announced on Sunday by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Catholic Custos of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarch. Their joint statement argues that ‘the systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land’ has ‘reached an unprecedented level as the Jerusalem municipality issued scandalous collection notices and orders of seizure of Church assets, properties and bank accounts for alleged debts of punitive municipal taxes.’  The statement also highlights the ‘discriminatory and racist bill that targets solely the properties of the Christian community in the Holy Land.’ 

Both developments come in a period when Christians are suffering an escalating campaign of intimidation from radical settler groups. Churches face daily desecration and vandalism and Christians are regularly subjected to violent assault as they travel to pray. These groups have long used intimidation, bribery and extreme anti-social behaviour in an attempt to force Christians and other non-Jews out of the Holy City. While their actions clearly contravene Israeli law their crimes go largely unchecked.

Statement on Municipal threats and the discriminatory “Church Lands Bill” 25.02.2018

We, the heads of Churches in charge of the Holy Sepulcher and the Status Quo governing the various Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem – the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Custody of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarchate – are following with great concern the systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land, in flagrant violation of the existing Status Quo.

Recently, this systematic and offensive campaign has reached an unprecedented level as the Jerusalem municipality issued scandalous collection notices and orders of seizure of Church assets, properties and bank accounts for alleged debts of punitive municipal taxes. A step that is contrary to the historic position of the Churches within the Holy City of Jerusalem and their relationship with the civil authorities. These actions breach existing agreements and international obligations which guarantee the rights and the privileges of the Churches, in what seems as an attempt to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem. The greatest victims in this are those impoverished families who will go without food and housing, as well as the children who will be unable to attend school.

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NPR: Israel Bans Activities In Jerusalem Connected To Palestinian Authority Government

You might want to write NPR thanking them and encouraging more coverage that includes Palestinian voices in their stories. NPR has been pro-Israel since the Second Intifada, when their attempt at evenhanded coverage incensed Zionists who threatened a national campaign to withhold donations. — Barbara Olson


All Things Considered, January 19, 2018

Palestinians still have aspirations for a capital in part Jerusalem. National political institutions could strengthen Palestinian claims in the city, but for decades Israel has worked to limit those.

TRANSCRIPT

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

President Trump has recognized Jerusalem as the capital Israel, but that doesn’t change Palestinian aspirations for a capital in part of the city. One thing that could strengthen these Palestinian claims would be national political institutions. NPR’s Daniel Estrin looks at how Israel has worked for decades to limit those institutions, whether they’re offices for leadership or even performances in theaters.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: This used to be the Palestinian headquarters in Jerusalem – an old, stone mansion called the Orient House. Foreign diplomats were received here. The Palestinian flag used to fly. But Israel closed it in 2001 during a wave of Palestinian bombings. Israeli authorities deliver a new closure order every six months. It’s on the door for everyone to see.

And they just…

ISHAQ BUDEIRI: Yes.

ESTRIN: …Put it right here on the door.

BUDEIRI: Put it right here and go.

ESTRIN: Ishaq Budeiri heads the Arab Studies Society, which was based in the same building. His library of historical archives is locked inside. He has no access. I give the dusty windows a spit shine and peer in.

Oh, I see some books on the shelf.

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