East Jerusalem Demolitionsi
Between the period of the 13th of September 1993 (when the Oslo Agreement was signed) and the 31st of December 2022: Israel demolished 2787 structures in East Jerusalem including 213 donor-funded structures, and it displaced 5093 persons including 2582 children. These included homes; Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) facilities; and agricultural structures.
44% of the demolitions, amounting to 1213 structures, happened during the last five years (2018 – 2022). The scale of demolitions skyrocketed following the implementation of Amendment 116 to the Planning and Building Law as of 2018, also known as the Kaminitz Law that increased severity of penalties for “building violations.” The law failed to consider the decades of systematic discrimination in state planning and allocation against Palestinians under Israeli jurisdiction including in occupied East Jerusalem. Pursuant to the Law, a directive was issued to the various Government entities, at the political and professional levels, to act in various ways, inter alia, by amending legislation for "stronger enforcement of the planning and construction laws and dealing with breaches and intrusions on public land," particularly in the Arab towns and villages. Israel continues to take aim at Palestinians in East Jerusalem through this law, that does not apply evenhandedly to Israelis.
Palestinians are not granted the construction permits needed for natural growth and development, and when they build without permits they open themselves to demolitions. According to the Jerusalem Municipality’s “2020 Plan,” a meager 12% of the East Jerusalem land is allocated to Palestinian construction, while 42% is allocated to settlement construction.
Overall, no less than 20,000 structuresii in East Jerusalem have demolition orders, but the exact number is impossible to ascertain because demolition orders are often challenged and are either upheld or frozen in court before implementation. In Silwan, for example, 60% of the structures have demolition orders to make way for a settlement and an archaeological park, but the community is challenging it through 6000 court cases where the outcome is unlikely to be in favor of Palestinians.
East Jerusalem demolitions, and the discriminatory and restrictive planning regime, are elements of a coercive environment created by Israeli policies meant to pressure Palestinians out of the city. Israel’s actions violate the Fourth Geneva convention against the destruction of personal property, and are done as a punitive collective punishment. Israel has illegally annexed East Jerusalem and handles the demolitions as an internal administrative matter carried out by the municipality.
The number of demolitions during each of the last five years were broken down as follows:
The 5-year numbers included 320 self-demolitions imposed on the Palestinians, and were broken down as follows:
2022 East Jerusalem Demolitions Compared to the Rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories
959 structures were demolished and 1021 persons including 500 children were displaced in the occupied Palestinian territories during 2022, out of which 246 structures were in East Jerusalem and whereby 411 persons were displaced including 203 children.
Overall during 2022, East Jerusalem amounted to 25% of the demolitions and 40% of the displacement. Moreover, East Jerusalem children amounted to 40% of the displacement in the occupied Palestinian territories.
140 donor-funded structures were demolished in the occupied Palestinian territories, of those 13 were in East Jerusalem and amounted to 9% of the demolitions.
First Quarter of 2023 Compared to Previous Period
During the first quarter of 2023 (1 January – 28 March 2023), 95 structures were demolished and 149 persons displaced in East Jerusalem including 88 children. During the first quarter of 2022, 52 structures were demolished and 98 persons displaced including 50 children. The first quarter of 2023 in East Jerusalem, compared to the first quarter of 2022 saw a 55% increase in demolitions, 66% increase in the number of displaced persons, and 56% increase in the number of displaced children.
Local Voices Collected by the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI)
- “Home demolitions are the outcome of extreme discrimination in Israeli urban planning laws. Lack of zoning plans (which leads to an inability to obtain permits, meaning unauthorized construction and subsequent demolitions) is an intentional policy to further the demographic aims of Israeli decision-making since the annexation of East Jerusalem. Essentially, if Palestinians have no opportunity for legal construction, then they will run out of space and leave the city. The humanitarian impact on families, children, and neighbors, and the community as a whole is immense. Israel must halt these measures of dispossession and to secure a sustainable solution which will safeguard the families' rights to their homes, communities, and city.” - Rachel Schwartz, Ir Amim Coordinator of International Public Outreach. 27 March 2023.
- “They destroyed my home and the dreams of my children.” - Woman from Sur Baher whose home was demolished. 14 March 2023.
- “Where are human rights? Where is the United Nations? Where is Europe and the United States? Our homes and trees are being destroyed. They want to kick us out.” - Man from Wadi El Joz whose home was demolished. 12 March 2023.
- “My wedding was happiness mixed with pain. I had ambitions and beautiful plans—to leave my parent’s home just like every normal bride does.” – Bride from Silwan whose home was demolished shortly before the wedding. 16 November 2022.
Call for Action
Churches worldwide, international NGOs, the UN, and world governments call upon the government of Israel to:
- Give Palestinians in East Jerusalem the needed permits to develop their neighborhoods and communities as done in West Jerusalem.
- Stop the policy of demolition of Palestinian homes and structures in East Jerusalem.
- Pass fair, sustainable, and equitable urban planning regulations in East Jerusalem.
iAnalysis obtained from the UN OCHA Demolitions Database
iiInformation obtained from Ahmad Ruwaidi, Human Rights and Demolitions Lawyer