Prof. Raquel Rolnik, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, has concluded this morning (Sunday, February 12th 2012) of a two week visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Speaking in Jerusalem this afternoon Prof. Rolink said: “From the Galilee and the Negev to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities promote a territorial development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities, particularly affecting Palestinian communities.” The Rapporteur also added that “Throughout my visit I received repeated complaints regarding lack of housing, threats of demolitions and evictions, overcrowding, the disproportional number of demolitions affecting Palestinian communities side by side with the accelerated development of predominantly Jewish settlements.”
The UN Special Rapporteur was briefed comprehensively by ICAHD Co-Director Itay Epshtain during her two week country visit. Accompanied by ICAHD staff, Prof. Rolnik visited demolished Anata homes including the Beit Arabiya Peace Center (Palestinian Homes Demolished – What Can You Do?). Rolink also visited East Jerusalem neighborhoods, Bedouin communities the like of Khan al-Ahmar in the Jerusalem periphery, and the expense of the Jordan Valley.
According to Prof. Rolnik, in East Jerusalem she witnessed the inadequate housing conditions and deficiencies in basic infrastructure faced by Palestinian neighbourhoods and villages. “The policies adopted by Israeli authorities severely restrict Palestinians from building legally through various means. Among others, Israel has not provided Palestinians with the necessary planning framework to ensure that their basic housing and infrastructure needs are met.” she said. Moreover, the number of permits issued is grossly inadequate to housing needs leading many Palestinians to build without obtaining a permit. As a result, numerous Palestinians homes or extensions to these are considered illegal so that the inhabitants are subjected to eviction orders and the demolition of their houses. “Currently tens of thousands of Palestinians are estimated to be at risk of their homes being demolished due to unregulated building. The mere threat of demolition has a profound impact on families and particularly on children, psychological and otherwise.” explained the Rapporteur.
In the West Bank the territorial fragmentation and the severe deterioration of Palestinian standards of living are furthered by decades of accelerated expansion of Israeli settlement units that expropriate land and natural resources. “To a certain extent, these territorial and demographic changes promoted in the West Bank, mirror changes occurred within the Israeli territory after 1948, where Palestinian presence was progressively limited in parallel to a disproportional support to the expansion of Jewish communities.” said Rolnik.Following a visit to the Arab al-Jahalin Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, UN Special Rapporteur Rolink said: “This community, among others in the area of “Greater Jerusalem”, has been informed by the Civil Administration that a master plan has been approved which would lead to their expulsion from the area where they currently live for the expansion of the Ma’ale Adumin settlement. The only school in the area, which was built by the community, is under a demolition order. The community is in great uncertainty regarding its future.”
Prof. Rolnik concluded that after the Oslo agreements, Israel retained official temporary control over the vast majority of the occupied West Bank (Area C). At present, more than half a million Israeli-Jews, have settled in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem. “Throughout my visit, I was able to witness a land development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities in Israel which is being replicated in the occupied territory, affecting Palestinian communities. The Bedouins in the Negev – inside Israel – as well as the new Jewish settlements in area C of the West Bank and inside Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem – are the new frontiers of dispossession of the traditional inhabitants, and the implementation of a strategy of Judaization and control of the territory.”
Prof. Rolnik is an independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. During her visit she met with officials and representatives of
the Government of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, international agencies as well as non-governmental organizations both in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. A report detailing all findings of her mission will be presented to the Human Rights Council in 2013.