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The Racism Index

Although 84 percent of illegal construction takes place in West Jerusalem, only 7 structures there were demolished by the Municipality in the passing year, and 68 in the East

Eyal Hareuveni, Kol Ha'ir

8 Feb. 2002

The city continues investing hundreds of thousands of Shekels demolishing homes in East Jerusalem, belonging to Palestinians, but shows no such vigor in treating illegal construction by Jews in West Jerusalem, where 84 percent of the construction law violations occur. Since January 1st, the Municipality has demolished 18 residential houses, all of them in the Eastern part of the city [still, although Olmert does his best to end this, inhabited by Palestinians - oznik-news]. The demolition rate this year is five times faster than it was in 2001.

Last Monday the Municipality demolished two new houses that were not yet moved into in the village of Issawiyeh, and on Wednesday it demolished three more structures in Bayt Hanina, that were still in the foundation laying stage. Officially, the demolitions were carried out because the building sites were zoned "green." This reasoning is odd, since in the very same areas dozens of residential homes where people live and which the Municipality does not intend to demolish. Nor does the city invest in developing these green-zoned areas.

The municipality does plan to demolish an additional four not-lived-in structures in Issawiyeh, but is forced to wait for the district court to rule on the owners' appeal against demolition orders. The owners of seven more buildings in Bayt Hanina managed on Tuesday to get a restricting order from the Local court. The Bassem family says its home in Bayt Hanina was demolished in defiance of a restricting court order.

Mayor Ehud Olmert has presented Council member Meir Margalit data according to which 6,051 planning and construction law violations were discovered in the year 2001 in W. Jerusalem, and only 1,117 such violations were discovered in E. Jerusalem. Out of 76 demolition orders issued by the Municipality in 2002, 68 were against buildings in E. Jerusalem, where 32 buildings were demolished. Only 7 were demolished in the West. According to Olmert, "Planning and construction law in West Jerusalem, and the land status, enables for the retroactive rehabilitation of violations, whereas some of the violations in East Jerusalem cannot be rehabilitated in any way." Olmert cited criteria for issuing administrative demolition orders: when the violation is on public land; when it is blatantly large; when the violator is a known construction delinquent; when the violation is beyond the neighborhood plan; and when a legal order to stop construction is being violated. According to these criteria Olmert could have issued demolition orders fro projects built by the Municipal company Moriyah, whose board of directors he chairs.

15 Ta'ayush activists protested the demolition policy outside City Hall last Thursday during a City Council meeting. The activists attended the meeting, and when Olmert presented his response to Margalit, they stood up, exposing shirts inscribed "Olmert = Discrimination, Racism, Lie," and "Olmert to The Hague," meaning the International War Crime Court. Olmert called a break in the Council meeting and left the room, demanding that the protestors be removed. However, since the protest was quiet and peaceful, security workers could not force the activists to leave. Ziv Ayalon, director of the Emergency and Security Department asked the protestors to leave, and they complied, some twenty minutes later.


Kol Ha'ir Weekly Magazine from the Schoken Local Press Network, is not published on-line, but can be contacted by email.