Home demolition, Israeli occupation's policy of collective punishment

June 16, 2022

On 1 August 2002, the Israeli occupation government officially adopted a policy of demolishing the houses of families of Palestinians who have carried out, planned, or facilitated attacks against Israeli occupation targets, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In reality, this method has been used since 1967, when the Israeli occupation military fully occupied the Palestinian Territories.

Israeli occupying forces have destroyed thousands of Palestinian-owned houses belonging to family members of those who have allegedly participated in resistance activities against the Israeli occupation. This has left thousands of Palestinian families homeless. The policy escalated during the first Palestinian Intifada (1987-1994), as Israeli occupying forces destroyed hundreds of Palestinian-owned houses for having been involved in resistance activities. 

As for occupied Jerusalem, since the occupation of the entire city in 1967, the Israeli occupation authorities have worked relentlessly to Judaize it, and by all possible means, with the aim of changing its geographical and demographic reality, to prevent any future Palestinian sovereignty over it.

The occupation authorities use a range of methods to achieve their goals, starting with isolating Jerusalem from the West Bank by building several illegal settlements, in addition to the apartheid wall, canceling residency permits for Palestinians residing abroad, economic marginalization, demolishing homes, and dismembering Arab neighborhoods.

20,000 apartments threatened with demolition

The Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Fadi Al-Hadmi, said that there are more than 20,000 apartments threatened by the occupation municipality in Jerusalem with demolition.

Al-Hadmi added that "the occupation authorities demolished nearly 500 residential buildings in Jerusalem during the past two years," explaining that the occupation municipality has increased significantly home self-demolition orders for Palestinians since the beginning of last year.

Al-Hadmi went on, saying that the Israeli occupation authorities are escalating their settlement activities in Jerusalem, by expanding the existing settlements, and linking them through a series of streets, tunnels, and bridges, within a scheme aimed at instilling the idea of the so-called Israeli "Greater Jerusalem".

Geographical and demographic change

The manager of Jerusalem's Center for Social and Economic Rights, Ziad Hammouri, confirmed that the occupation authorities, under the plans they set, are working to demolish as many buildings as possible throughout Jerusalem, in the context of the Judaization of the Holy City and the displacement of its residents to change the geographical and demographic reality in it.

"According to our estimates, the immediate demolition of nearly 25,000 homes is threatened by decisions issued by the occupation courts throughout Jerusalem, a frightening and terrifying number. We are talking about the displacement of nearly 100,000 Jerusalemites in the event of the demolition," Hammouri added.

Hammouri explains that since the beginning of this year, the Israeli occupation has demolished 80 Palestinian-owned homes and structures in Jerusalem, while during the past year it has demolished 140 others.

All the demolition decisions issued by the Israeli occupation courts, confirms Hammouri, come on the pretext of building without an Israeli-municipality-issued license Palestinians cannot possibly obtain. Nonetheless, Jerusalemites pay exorbitant fines to get construction permits, and take them 8 to 10 years to obtain the very expensive license for a building permit costs between 50 and 60 thousand US dollars.

Self-demolition

Al-Hammouri considers self-demolition the most frightening thing for Jerusalemites as the occupation authorities greatly increased the policy of forcing Jerusalemites to self-demolish their homes; self-demolition is one of the worst policies of collective punishments Israeli occupying authorities pursue. 

He added that the Israeli occupation entity came into being in 1948 to demolish our villages and homes, killing and displacing people. In 1967, for example, the Al-Sharaf neighborhood opposite the Al-Buraq Wall was completely wiped out, and part of it was demolished on top of its residents.

land seizure

Hammouri explains that the occupation robbed 87% of the land, allowing Jerusalemites to construct in only 13% of it, noting that the Israeli occupation authorities built on 35% of the stolen lands many settlements, such as Givat Ze'ev, Biskat Ze'ev, Al-Nabi Ya'qub, and the French Hill, and 52% are green lands which are supposed to be playgrounds and gardens for the benefit of Jerusalemites, but most of them were attached to settlements.

He added: "The rest of the lands they now want to tighten their grip on through the land settlement project, by reconsidering the ownership of these lands, as some of their owners live abroad, and thus subject them to the 'Absentees' Property Custodian Law', and the same will apply to residential apartments, which portends the expulsion of the Palestinian Jerusalemite citizens in the coming period.