ETHNIC TRANSFER IN OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM: THE CASE OF AL-BUSTAN NEIGHBORHOOD

From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)

Angela Godfrey, ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) | June 2005

MINISTRY OF STATE FOR JERUSALEM AFFAIRS PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY FACT SHEET Israel’s intention to demolish an entire Palestinian neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem is part of its on-going strategy of transferring Christians and Muslims from Jerusalem while making room for more Israeli Jewish colonies. The demolition orders, which have not been cancelled, not only violate the Fourth Geneva Convention but also (i) Phase 1 of the Road Map which requires Israel to end “actions undermining trust, including . . .confiscation/demolition of Palestinian homes/property . . .” and (ii) President Bush’s May 26, 2005 statement that “Israel should not undertake any activity that … prejudices final status negotiations with regard to … Jerusalem.” BACKGROUND * November 2004: Israeli Engineer Uri Shitreet writes a letter to Ofir May, head of Jerusalem’s Department of Building Permits, stating that the Al-Bustan neighborhood of the Palestinian village of Silwan (located in Occupied East Jerusalem near the Old City’s Al Aqsa Mosque) is an important cultural and historical site for Israel because it allegedly stands on the site where King David established his kingdom. The letter ordered the “removal” of Palestinian homes in Al-Bustan. * Cleansing the neighborhood of Al-Bustan is part of Israel’s plans to encircle Jerusalem’s Old City with Israeli colonies. New Israeli colonies have been or will be established in the Palestinian villages of Tur (Bet Orot colony), Silwan, Ras al Amud (Ma’ale Zeitim colony) and Jebel Mukabir, and the string of colonies extends to Mt. Scopus, Wadi Joz and Sheikh Jarrah. * The Al-Bustan homes were built after the occupation began on land owned by Palestinians. Despite the legal ownership, Israel declared these lands at the beginning of the occupation “open green space” forbidden to Palestinian construction. * March 2005: The first home demolition orders are delivered to Al-Bustan residents. Currently, 64 homes are subject to the demolition orders. A total of 88 homes, housing approximately 1,000 Palestinians, are slated for destruction. * Israeli settlers have taken over more than 50 houses in the village of Silwan and built a seven-story building in the village. No Jewish owned properties have been served with a demolition order. * May 31, 2005: Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz quotes Shitreet as saying with respect to the residents of Silwan: “If we can’t destroy their homes, we will find ways to evict them.” * June 7, 2005: The Mayor of West Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski, issues a press release claiming that the Jerusalem Municipality does not intend to issue demolition orders against the residents of Al-Bustan and that the Mayor has ordered the planning team to check the “possibility” of cooperation with the residents living there. However, the statement does not rescind any of the existing demolition orders. Furthermore, the statement confirms Israeli plans to cleanse the area by stating “The municipality will work with the authorities to locate alternative land.” There is speculation that such alternative land will be East Jerusalem “absentee property” – land owned by Palestinians in the West Bank (or elsewhere) who are unable to access their Jerusalem property. * June 9, 2005: The Defense Committee for the Land and Real Estaet of Silwan issues a press statement clarifying that “no official meeting with any official or legal party representing the residents of Al-Bustan has been held” with occupation authorities despite the Mayor of West Jerusalem’s claim that such meetings had been held. The Palestinian Authority Ministry of State for Jerusalem Affairs calls on each signatory to the Fourth Geneva Convention, including the United States, to publicly declare its opposition to the pending home demolitions in Al-Bustan and elsewhere in Occupied East Jerusalem and to take measures to ensure: 1. An unequivocal Isareli cancellation of all outstanding demolition orders with respect to Al-Bustan specifically and an end to all home demolitions in Occupied Palestinian Territory in general. 2. A legally binding Israeli recognition of the legality of all Palestinian homes built in Al-Bustan on privately owned land.