Denying permission, Palestinians occupy their homes in Jerusalem


Palestinian al-Burqan preferred to tear down his own house in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem after a court ruled it was built’ illegally and must be demolished.

Denying permission, Palestinians occupy their homes in Jerusalem


The 35-year-old was given’ two options: destroy his four-bedroom home in the Jabbal Makabir neighborhood on his own or let the city council do it and then send him a bill.

Israeli authorities regularly raid Palestinian-built homes in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank on their own territory if they lack an Israeli building permit.

The grip is that such permits are "practically impossible" and result in a prolonged housing shortage, according to a UN study.

"I applied to City Hall for a building permit, but without success," Burqan told AFP.

"I spent about 75,000 shekels (22,000, 18,700 euros) on legal fees and a land survey," he said.

Ben Avrahami an adviser to city officials in East Jerusalem, said every issue is dealt with’ strictly in accordance with the law.

"The demolition is being carried out under an Israeli court order and is subject to careful legal scrutiny," he said.

Burqan, the father of four, however, said that when he hired a bulldozer, he was afraid to tear down his house right in front of his eyes.

He said he invested all his savings in the building, borrowed 800,000 shekels and worked for four years.

The court, which ruled the structure illegal because it was built’ without permission, imposed a fine of 60,000 shekels for the crime.

He now lives with his family in a house he rents out for 2,800 shekels a month.

Standing in the rubble of his former home, he described "how difficult it is to demolish (the house) with your own hands."

- 'Psychological effects' -

According to City Hall, 44 houses have been demolished’ in East Jerusalem since the beginning of the year.

Some owners prefer to demolish their own homes to avoid paying the city's demolition staff thousands of shekels at times.

Since the six-day war in 1967, there have been about 300,000 Palestinians and 200,000 Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.

Palestinians allege that the real purpose of the authoritarian government is to evacuate its Palestinian inhabitants.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report in April 2019 that a "restrictive plan by Israel to obtain building permits for Palestinians in East Jerusalem is practical." Makes it impossible. "

He added: "At least one-third of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem do not have a building permit issued by Israel, leaving more than 100,000 residents at risk of being displaced.

The OCHA says only 13 percent of East Jerusalem has been designated for Palestinian construction, most of which has already been built, while 35 percent has been earmarked for Israeli settlements, in accordance with international law. Are illegal.

According to Ziad Hamouri, director of the Jerusalem Center for Economic and Social Rights, suicides are "humiliating" in addition to the heavy financial costs and have a "significant psychological impact" on their families.

But many Palestinians still prefer to demolish their property for fear of arrest if they cannot pay the city's demolition bill or fine.

- Lack of housing.

On July 2, the Shalida family also demolished their home, a two-bed apartment in A-Tur.

"It's very difficult, a dream has been ruined," lamented Sarah Shalalda, a mother of six.

"We were going to move on. We didn't have to pay any more rent."

According to the OCHA, 65 children were displaced’ by suicide in East Jerusalem in the first six months of the year and 85 others were affected’ in various ways.

Mahmoud Zhaik of the Jerusalem Housing Union said Palestinians were short of 30,000 to 40,000 housing units, rents were high and building permits were expensive.

"The average rent is $ 800 and a building permit for an apartment can cost 000 50,000," he added.

"Only 20% get a residence permit, and the process can take up to five years."

Avrahami says the city issues about 250 building permits to Palestinians each year.

Burqan had hoped to be among the lucky ones, but his hopes were, dashed.

"They don't want us to stop," he said, referring to Israel.

"But we are not moving."

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