Request to Cancel Demolition Orders in the Ras Khamis Neighborhood

The Municipality has not engaged in proper planning to address the serious housing shortage in East Jerusalem, particularly in the neighborhood of Ras Khamis.

5 March 2009

Mayor Nir Barkat
Jerusalem Municipality

Re: Request to cancel demolition orders in the Ras Khamis neighborhood of East Jerusalem

Dear Mayor Barkat:

1. Since your election as Jerusalem mayor, we have followed with concern the measures taken by the municipal planning authorities with regard to the enforcement and implementation of demolition orders in East Jerusalem. Although you have held the office of mayor for only a brief time, the implementation of demolition orders in East Jerusalem has significantly increased during this period. This is particularly salient in the Silwan area, where 96 homes are currently slated for demolition – an action that, if carried out, would mark the most massive uprooting of Palestinians from East Jerusalem since its conquest in 1967. This is a discriminatory enforcement policy, lacking impartiality and integrity, and motivated by extraneous considerations, as will be described below.

2. Two days ago, the Residents Committee of Ras Khamis reported to us that demolition orders had been posted on 55 neighborhood structures. These orders informed the residents that they had 72 hours to evacuate the homes in which they live to allow for their demolition.

3. It should be noted at the outset that providing so little advance notice before evacuating a home and devastating the residents’ lives is inhumane and contravenes the most basic principles of justice. Except in cases of natural disaster or force majeure, there is no justification for immediate evacuation as demanded by the Municipality. The Municipality is obliged to allow residents to make their claims in court when faced with such a grave threat to their rights.

4. Residents of Ras Khamis have borne a double portion of suffering at the hands of the Jerusalem Municipality: First, they are neglected, their municipal services not provided, and their rights ignored; and, second, they are given recognition only for their obligations – payment of municipal taxes, enforcement of planning and construction laws, and physical separation from Jerusalem by the Separation Barrier.

5. The Jerusalem Municipality has disregarded its obligations to the residents of Ras Khamis. The Separation Barrier isolated the neighborhood, compelling the residents to pass through a checkpoint every time they wish to enter Jerusalem. And because the neighborhood is beyond the Separation Barrier, some municipal services – health, emergency, sanitation – are almost entirely lacking, as the area is defined as a security risk, meaning that the Border Patrol must escort all service providers into the neighborhood. Although the Municipality does not provide the services it delivers to other Jerusalem neighborhoods, it continues to enforce the collection of property tax, municipal taxes and other obligations on the residents.

6. Furthermore, the Municipality has not engaged in proper planning to address the serious housing shortage in East Jerusalem, particularly in the neighborhood of Ras Khamis. And yet the vacuum left by the city planning authorities does not stop them from bringing the full weight of the law to bear on residents who built homes for their families. For enforcement of the law to demolish structures, the Municipality found ample resources and personnel to engage in a public display of destroying the homes of Palestinian Jerusalemites and making an example of them. Such actions undermine the rule of law, which mandates that the Municipality discharge its legal obligations to provide proper planning and other services to the neighborhood; hence these actions are patently illegal.

7. Implementing demolition orders in Ras Khamis in the name of law and order is particularly damaging because of the high percentage of disabled people who live in this neighborhood. The Municipality sins twice here: once by ignoring its obligation to provide suitable frameworks for people with special needs, and again by denying them the most basic rights to shelter, property and dignity. Executing these orders would harm helpless people and wreak havoc on those with disabled family members who are left homeless.

8. We have just been informed that 32 more homes in Abu Tor were served with demolition orders. This neighborhood, too, has experienced ongoing neglect of municipal services, including the lack of detailed planning, which would enable residents to obtain building permits.

9. In light of the above, we urge you to cancel the demolition orders in the Ras Khamis and Abu Tor neighborhoods and ensure that these orders are not executed.

Yours very truly,
Nasrat Dakwar

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Categories: East Jerusalem, Housing Rights, The Occupied Territories, The Right to Property, Use of Force

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