Report by ACRI The Association for Civil Rights in Israel 5 November 2013
Ras Khamis January 2013 - Photography: ACRI
Jerusalem Municipality initiates proceedings to demolish apartments of hundreds of families living beyond the separation barrier
Over the past few days, hundreds of families in the Ras Hamis and Ras Shahada neighborhoods received notices that the Jerusalem Municipality has requested the issuance of demolition orders on their homes because they were built without legal permits. The notices, issued under orders from the Jerusalem Local Affairs Court, stated that if no appeal is filed within 30 days, the court will accept the municipality’s request to issue demolition orders.
The neighborhoods of Ras Hamis and Ras Shahada, like the adjoining Shuafat refugee camp, are located within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries but are cut off form the city by the eight meter concrete walls of the separation barrier. Tens of thousands of residents, who carry Israeli identification cards, must pass through the Shuafat checkpoint every day on their way to work, school, medical treatment, etc. In response to a petition to the High Court against the route of the barrier, the State promised that normal life will be maintained in this area – a promise that is broken daily.
Ever since the separation barrier was completed, the neighborhoods have been in limbo. While all of Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods suffer from serious neglect, in the neighborhoods beyond the barrier, the problems are even more egregious. In the absence of viable options to build legally, non-permitted construction has become commonplace, placing unbearable burden on weak infrastructure such as water and sewage systems. There is no police presence in the area since the wall was completed, and standard city services like garbage collection and road maintenance have all but disappeared. Amenities like parks, playgrounds, and parking spaces are nonexistent.
Attorney Keren Tzafrir of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI): “Whoever visits these neighborhoods, which are within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, will be disgusted to discover third world infrastructure – unsafe roads, piles of uncollected trash, a grave shortage of classrooms, huge strains on the water and sewage systems – the list is long. The authorities have refused for years not only to develop the area, but even to undertake basic planning that would allow the tens of thousands of residents of the area to obtain legal building permits. The municipality’s efforts have instead been focused on dragging families though legal proceedings that garner fines of hundreds of thousands of shekels that flow into the city’s coffers, and providing legal sanctioning for the destruction of homes and lives in East Jerusalem. This policy tramples on the most fundamental rights of the residents, who continue to pay municipal taxes and fines – but receive nothing from the authorities.”
Architect Sari Kronish of Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights: “The residents of Ras Hamis and Ras Shahada, like all residents of the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and especially those imprisoned beyond the Separation Barrier, are trapped in a planning deadlock – on one hand, the lack of suitable planning is one of the major reasons why building permits are refused, and on the other hand, people live under the constant threat of home demolitions and constant neglect. This absurd situation must come to an end.”
Related Materials ACRI’s report on life in East Jerusalem – East Jerusalem: By the Numbers.
A report by ACRI and Ir Amim on the Failing Education System in East Jerusalem.