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Occupation magazine - Jerusalem

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There is no more money for massive demolitions
By Meir Margalit

The Hebrew original in Haaretz:

I agree with Nadav Shragai on one point everything is politics (`The Wisdom of the compromise at the Outposts`, Ha`aretz, 29.1). The considerations that guide the policies concerning settling, planning, construction and demolition of houses in Judea and Samaria as well as East Jerusalem are mainly political considerations that have not a thing or half a thing to do with professional urban considerations, especially protecting `the rule of law`.

Nevertheless, the claim that the State uses kid gloves towards unlawful Arabs has nothing to base itself on. The Civil Administration demolished during the past five years 1000 structures for administrative reasons and the Municipality of Jerusalem demolished during the same period about 450 structures belonging to families whose only crime was that they built a shelter for their families on their own land, and this after they have realized that there is no chance to get a permit from the Israeli rulers.

Conversely, except for the dismantling of a handful of pseudo-outposts that was carried out primarily to deceive the Americans, the Illegal construction of the settlers is growing by leaps and bounds. Tens of thousands of houses were built and are being built without permits across Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem, on stolen land, with the support and funding of the Civil Administration and various Government Ministries, through the violation of every law and regulation. The State doesn`t only back the settlers, funds their roads and infrastructure, connects them to the electricity and the communication network, takes care of their security etc., but it is also a partner to the big initiative of diverting attention from the problem of the settlement in Judea and Samaria toward the nine houses in a dismal outpost and a few stores in the Hebron market. There is no need to elaborate on this issue it is sufficient to read through the report by Talia Sasson and through the many reports of the Auditor General.

The claim that construction in East Jerusalem is part of the National Struggle, funded by the Palestinian Authority is blind to the fact that most of the Arabs who are involved in the building without permits are simple people, innocent of any political interests, who are building without a permit after they gave up on getting a legal building permit. There are endless numbers of obstacles facing those wishing to build a legal house and thus, they realize they don`t have a chance of building legally.

The array of obstacles that the State of Israel piles in front of Arabs wishing to build a house is designed to motivate the Arab residents of Jerusalem to leave the city `voluntarily`, and this because of the fear of the demographic demon and because of the intention of `Jewefying` the east side of the City in order to block any future territorial compromise.

The fact that the State does not demolish just any structure doesn`t stem from a willingness to launder building infractions, as Shragai is claiming, but rather from the banal fact that it does not have money for massive demolition. The city and Ministry of the Interior operatives do not lack motivation, it is budget that they are lacking and therefore there are houses that escapedemolition, `for now`, because building infractions do not ever get outdated and the threat of demolition is hanging over them for ever. Only two months ago a house in East Jerusalem was demolished on the basis of a demolition order that was issued 15 years ago.

The City Hall is not willing to consider `laundering` houses even though a nice profit would have accrued to the city`s coffers from taxes and surcharges that could have been collected during this process. Such laundering did not occur since the issue is political, and the policy designed to make Arabs life miserable in the hope that one day they will leave the city still reigns supreme.

The contention that the State does not consider the `fabric of Jewish life` in the same way that it considers the `fabric of Arab life` is incorrect. The fabric of Jewish life in the territories is paved with money. The Arabs, compare to that, suffer from restrictions, prohibitions closures, isolations, curfews and checkpoints that prevent them from reaching their lands, their work places, seeking medical treatment, visiting families and praying at the mosques on Temple Mount.

Whoever is wailing about positive discrimination for the Arabs should try to trade places with them if only for a few days, and experience the treatment they get in the territories. It appears that there are quite a few Arabs who would have been willing to swap places wholeheartedly. It is also ridiculous to argue that the settlers suffer discrimination because of the fact that the Head of the Civil Administration is authorized to cancel demolition orders for Arabs because of humanitarian considerations ; Will anyone of them remain without a roof over their heads if their caravan will be demolished? Are there among them, lonely elderly, penniless widows and hungry orphans where the demolition of their homes will leave them totally homeless and bereft as it happens in the Arab population?

Dr. Margalit is active in the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and is an ex-Councilor in the Jerusalem Municipality for Meretz.
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