On Tuesday, May 8th, 2007, the Israeli government demolished 30 structures in an “unrecognized” village of the Negev, and two buildings in East Jerusalem – a building in Wadi Joz that served as a center for disabled children and a private house in Al Isawiya. The latter belonged to Daud and Hussein Nasser and was the home of 16 people. The house was inside the limits of the new master plan that Bimkom, a non-governmental organization working to change planning processes and practices, is preparing for Al Isawiya. Furthermore, the process of obtaining a building permit for the Nasser home was underway.
According to ICAHD’s field coordinator, Meir Margalit, due to the negotiations between Bimkom and the municipality of Jerusalem, there was an extra-official agreement that the municipality would not demolish houses inside this area as long as no more illegal building occurred. However, despite this agreement, the municipality unexpectedly demolished the Nasser home.
Since the zoning of almost all open land in Palestinian East Jerusalem by the Israeli Government as “open green space” after the 1967 war (and since Palestinians would not be allowed to live in Jewish West Jerusalem), there is little space at all for the Palestinians. The reasons are political, not urban. Air Cheshin, Mayor Teddy Kollek’s Advisor on Arab Affairs and one of the architects of the post-1967 policy, describes the intention in detail in his book Separate and Unequal: The Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999, pp. 31-32):
“[In 1967], Israel’s leaders adopted two basic principles in their rule of East Jerusalem. The first was to rapidly increase the Jewish population in East Jerusalem. The second was to hinder the growth of the Arab population and to force Arab residents to make their homes elsewhere. It is a policy that has translated into a miserable life for the majority of East Jerusalem Arabs….Israel turned urban planning into a tool of the government, to be used to help prevent the expansion of the city’s non-Jewish population. It was a ruthless policy, if only for the fact that the needs (to say nothing of the rights) of Palestinian residents were ignored. Israel saw the adoption of strict zoning plans as a way of limiting the number of new homes built in Arab neighborhoods, and thereby ensuring that the Arab percentage of the city’s population – 28.8% in 1967 – did not grow beyond this level. Allowing “too many” new homes in Arab neighborhoods would means mean “too many” Arab residents in the city. The idea was to move as many Jews as possible into East Jerusalem, and move as many Arabs as possible out of the city entirely. Israeli housing policy in East Jerusalem was all about this number game.
When drawing the zoning boundaries for the Arab neighborhoods, planners with the city engineer’s office limited them to already built-up areas. Adjoining open areas were either zoned “green,” to signify they were off-limits to development, or left unzoned until they were needed for the construction of Jewish housing projects. The 1970 Kollek plan contains the principles upon which Israeli housing policy is based to this day – expropriation of Arab-owned land, development of large Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, and limitations on development in Arab neighborhoods.”
Destroying Palestinian homes and communities has become an obsession with Israel; proceeding without pause. These actions contravene not only the spirit, but also the letter of the moribund Road Map, which demands in Phase 1 already that, “the Government of Israel ends actions undermining trust, including attacks in civilian areas and confiscation/demolition of Palestinian homes/property…as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction.”