House Demolition in Jerusalem, a Crime Against Humanity or An Election Strategy??

House Demolition in Jerusalem, a Crime Against Humanity or An Election Strategy??


The Israeli Jerusalem Municipality is still continuing its colonization policy in East Jerusalem in the form of demolishing Palestinian homes under the pretext of building without a permit. Obtaining such a permit is close to impossible as it is forbidden for the Palestinian resident while it is easily obtained by the Israeli colonist. Israeli occupation authorities make their utmost to create hurdles and obstacles to make life impossible for Palestinian Jerusalemites. The goal is to attain its overall goal and objective of making Jerusalem without any Palestinian presence in it and making it purely Jewish. The situation is expected to get even worse after the winning of the racist Nir Barakat in the recent municipal elections. He ran on the promise to build a new colonial neighborhood between the French Hill and Anata under the pretext of “solving the housing crunch for Jewish university students and the newly-wed.” He also made it clear that he was proud of the backing of MK Avigdor Liberman who is known of his anti-Palestinian stances and his continued campaign to ethnically clines everything that is Arab. 

As part of the municipal campaign, Israeli occupation bulldozers carried out, without any prior warning, a vicious demolition campaign against Palestinian building in East Jerusalem as four houses and a wedding hall were demolished leaving at least 26 Palestinians homeless. These demolitions raised the number of Palestinian structures demolished in Jerusalem since January 2008 until the end of October 2008 to 65 Palestinian homes. The total number of demolished rooms is 183 rooms while its total area reached 7,170 m2. More than 392 Palestinians have become homeless including 234 children whose only guilt was that they are Palestinians who were denied permits by a municipality that cannot resist devouring Palestinian lands in Jerusalem.


Case 1: The Demolition of a Home Inhabited by a Widow and Her Five Daughters, Al Bustan Neighborhood – Silwan

On November 4th, 2008 a large group of occupation forces accompanied by bulldozers demolished the house of Mr. Mohammad Hasan Siyam in Al Bustan Neighborhood in Silwan. The house consisted of two stories. In the year 2004 Israeli bulldozers demolished the second story. On the said day the 70-m2 first floor was demolished. The house is one of the 88 houses of Silwan that are under the threat of being razed completely by Israeli forces.


About 10 days before the demolition took place Mr. Siyam rented the house out to Mrs. Manal Zaytoun, a widow and a mother of 5 daughters. After she moved her furniture into the house, she was served the demolition order. In moments, she found herself homeless in the street along with her 5 daughters.  




Pic.1+2: The debris of the house of Mr. Siyam after it was demolished by the occupation municipality in Silwan.

Mrs. Manal expressed the following to Land Research Center (LRC)’s field researcher: 'My daughters were at school while I was visiting my father’s house. Suddenly, I received a phone call from the people of the neighborhood informing me that my house is being surrounded by Israeli bulldozers in an attempt to demolish it. I ran to my home as to try to remove my belongings and my daughters’ book. Yet, I wasn’t able to do that despite the fact that I reached it before the demolition have taken place. '


One of her daughters, the 12-year-old Hayat, had a heart surgery a few months earlier and she takes special medications on regular basis. Mrs. Manal continued her testimony by saying: 'I pleaded with them to allow me to enter the house to get the medical reports out. I kept crying and begging them on the hope that they will allow me to enter. In the end, one of the officers told me to get away from the house and to look for the reports later. '


Photo 3: Part of Mrs. Manal’s furniture that was saved in the
last minute before the demolition took place.


The house and its 3 small rooms, kitchen and bathroom was demolished atop most of its furniture. Only a small portion of the furniture was removed by the occupation forces while preventing the residents of the neighborhood from removing the larger portion of furniture.


As for the home owner, Mr. Mohammad Siyam, he indicated the following: ' They did not provide me with the chance to appeal against the demolition order or to even call my lawyer at the time of the demolition. When I tried to interfere to stop the demolition, I received two punches to my left shoulder. As you can see, I am an old man of 66 years old and I could not stand in front of all of those forces.'


He continued by saying: 'The Municipality gave me a demolition order on October 7th, 2008. The Municipality officer told me: take care of me and I will take care of you. He wanted me to bribe him as he knew that I own a number of commercial shops. I refused his cheap offer. '


Mr. Siyam hired the lawyer Salah Abu Tayha who was not able to stop the demolition. To that, Mr. Siyam said: 'To whom would you complain if your enemy is the judge??'


The demolition started at 10:00 AM and was over with at 2:00 PM. At that point in time, Mr. Kayler Kronmeir, a Political Attaché at the American General Consulate, came in and expressed his sorrow for demolishing my home and offered his assistance. Mr. Siyam indicated:


What assistance is he talking about?? He gave me his card and his contact information. Yet, can he rebuild my house? Is he able to pay my fines and the cost of the demolition???


The demolition of Mr. Siyam’s house was only one event in a one-day demolition campaign that included the demolition of 4 houses and a wedding hall. It also came at the eve of the municipal elections as part of the electoral media campaign during which Israeli extreme right parties show its dedication to Judaization East Jerusalem.


Case 2: The Jerusalem Municipality Demolishes a Wedding Hall, Dhahiyat Al Barid Intersection

At 5:00 AM on Wednesday November 5th, 2008 a force of Israeli Border Police and Special Forces in more than 15 military jeeps and vehicles accompanied by D9 bulldozers arrived at the Al Hada’eq Al Mu’alaqa wedding hall in Beit Hanina. The forces began demolishing the wedding wall, which was located at the Dhahiyat Al Barid intersection, without showing a demolition order either from the Municipality or from an Israeli court. The owner of the hall, Eng. Sameer Qarrash, demanded to see the demolition order, yet the Municipality official present at the location refused to do that and insisted on his decision. Eng. Qarrash does not know the reason behind the demolition. His insistence to see the order led the commander of the force to remove him from the site of the demolition by force. Two giant D9 bulldozers began demolishing the 400 m2 hall that had electronic and electrical equipment worth $100,000 in it. The bulldozers left at 6:30 AM after destroying the 2-year old modern wedding hall.  



Photo 4: The destroyed wedding hall in Dhahiyat Al Barid



Case 3: The Jerusalem Municipality Demolishes the House of Mr. Mohammad Bader Al Shweiki Al Ashqariya Neighborhood – Beit Hanina

For the second time in two years the Jerusalem Municipality demolished the house of the 37-year old Mr. Mohammad Bader Al Shweiki in Al Ashqariya neighborhood in Beit Hanina.


On the morning of Wednesday November 5th, 2008 two Caterpillar bulldozers entered Al Ashqariya Neighborhood accompanied by a big force of Israeli regular Police and Border Police. The soldiers began removing the furniture of the house themselves causing a great damage to it. Within half an hour, the 60-m2 house was reduced to rubble. Mr. Al Shweiki indicated the following: ' I live here with my wife and my 3-month old son. This is not the first time that the Israelis demolish my house; about two years ago the Municipality demolished my first 140-m2 house. I insisted on building the new house instead of it. I am a married man and it is my right to have my own house. '


The house was built of bricks and zinco. When it was built two years ago it cost NIS 70,000. Now, Mr. Sweiki finds himself and his family once again homeless and he is currently living with his father. He was informed of the demolition order only 4 months ago. He tried since then to stop the demolition through the lawyer Husein Ghanayem, yet to no avail. As such, the house was demolished with the rest of the houses that laid victim to the Municipality election campaign.


Photo 5: All what was left of the furniture of Mr. Mohammad Al Shweiki



Case 4: The Jerusalem Municipality Demolishes the House of Mr. Saeed Abu Sanad Al Bustan Neighborhood – Silwa

On the same day of the other demolitions, the Municipality also demolished the house of Mr. Saeed Abu Sanad under the pretext of building it without a permit. The small house (area = 72-m2) was located in Al Bustan Neighborhood in Silwan.


For the past seven years Israeli occupation authorities have declared that Al Bustan Neighborhood “must be completely erased”. These authorities do not hide their intentions of replacing the 88 houses (110 households) in the neighborhood with “David’s Park” as an advanced step in Judaization the city.


The 69-year old Mr. Saeed Abu Sanad built the house 14 months ago on a piece of land he bought from a Palestinian Jerusalemites in the yester years. Abu Sanad expressed the following for LRC: 'This land is Arabic. I bought it from a man from Silwan who inherited it from his father and his grandfather throughout hundreds of years. It is registered at the official authorities and we pay its due taxes.'     


When the bulldozers reached Abu Sanad’s residence, it had already devoured 3 other houses in Beit Hanina, Shu’fat and Silwan. A daughter, her husband and two kids were living in Abu Sanad’s house. They have found themselves without a home due to the Israeli bulldozers which demolished their home atop its furniture. Mr. Abu Sanad added: ' Due to the fact that there was a resistance from the people of the neighborhood and a number of attempts to prevent the bulldozers from demolishing our home, Israeli occupation soldiers have beaten us, destroyed our cars and demolished the house without allowing us the chance to removed its furniture.'


A month before the demolition took place Abu Sanad received the administrative demolition order. Since then he tried his best to be issued a freezing order to prevent the demolition. Yet, the judge refused to even consider his case: ' The judge simply told me that I am impeding the implementation of justice. He told me that the demolition will not be stopped and that all of my attempts to stop will fail. It is my right to go to trial over this issue. It is my right to defend my right to housing. It is conceivable that the judge would prevent me from such right???!!!!! '


During the demolition, the people of Al Bustan Neighborhood protested against it. The most powerful protesters were Mr. Abu Sanad and his in-law Mr. Samer Abu Sanad who was beaten very severely. Yet, rather than transporting him to the hospital, he was arrested and transported to the Police Station in Al Maskobiya. Also, his relative, Mr. Sultan Abu Sanad, suffered broken ribs while Mr. Mohammad Oudah had his nose broken. An additional 7 more people were transported to the hospital, some due to the intense physical beating while others suffered breathing problems due to the teargas used by the occupation soldiers to disperse the protesters.   


It is worthy to note that the entire Al Bustan Neighborhood, located in the heart of Silwan near the Silwan Spring, lies under the threat of demolition. The demolition of the house of Mr. Abu Sanad has nothing to do with the law as claimed by the occupation Municipality. Rather, it has to do with a political decision to wipe out a Palestinian community and to replace with a Jewish one and connecting it with the other “mini colonies” currently present in the heart of Silwan.


Case 5: The Jerusalem Municipality Confiscates the Mobile Caravan  of Mr. Izz Al Din Abu Nijma for the 4th Time

Beit Hanina

A large number of Israeli Border Police and Special Forces surrounded the Wadi Al Dam neighborhood in Beit Hanina on the afternoon of November 5th, 2008. They, then, removed the mobile caravan in which the family of Mr. Izz Al Dien Abdel Hamid Abu Nijma used to live, thus preventing him for the 4th time from living in decent conditions.


Not only did the Israeli occupation authorities confiscated the right of Mr. Abu Nijma to adequate housing, they have come after him on his source of income; they have raided his cafeteria in Al Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and confiscated most of its content under the pretext that he owes NIS 57,000 in taxes. Mr. Abu Nijma expressed the following to LRC’s field researcher: ' They are fighting me in my source of income to stop me from fighting back. They don’t want me to build a house to shelter me and my family. Thankfully, this always pushes me to build a home in their spite. It is hard to find a house to rent at a reasonable price for a family of 12 people. I have purchased a mobile caravan three times just to take away any pretexts used by the Municipality as caravans are not permanent structures. Yet, they have confiscated it as it still insists on preventing us from living on our land. Occupation forces have already thrown us out of our home in Hosh Abu Al Ghuzlan in the Old City in 1967. They didn’t stop since then to try to uproot us from our city.'


Case 6: The Jerusalem Municipality Demolishes the House of Mr. Jamal Abu Isneina, Al Issawiya

The Israeli occupation bulldozers demolished the house of Mr. Jamal Abu Dawood Abu Isneina on the morning of Tuesday November 18th, 2008. The demolition took place under the pretext of building without a permit and the pretext that the house was built atop a planned future street. The 58-year old Abu Isneina is unemployed and suffers from aches in the back and the stomach. He used to live in the destroyed house along with his wife, Najah, and their four children including Tariq (age: 24), Fahed (age: 22), Munir (age: 19) and Duaa (age: 14).  Mr. Abu Isneina built his 165-m2 house two years ago and was able to move into it only a year ago.    


Abu Isneina expressed the following to LRCs field researcher: ' Building the house cost me NIS 400,000. It was the first house that I have owned. I have invested in it all my life savings. Now I see what I have worked for disappear in 5 minutes. What worries me the most is that I still owe NIS 200,000 !!!! What can I do ???? '


The demolition order was given to Mr. Abu Isneina in March 2008, about four months after the house was inhabited by the Abu Isneina family. He tried on a number of occasions to annul or even freeze the demolition order. His appeals reached to the Israeli High Court which issued its final verdict of an imminent demolition on the 11th of November, 2008. The court indicated that the house could be demolished within one month starting from the 16th of November, 2008. Yet, it took the Municipality only two days before it carried out the demolition. According to Abu Isneina, the occupation forces gave him only 3 minutes to vacate the house which was later extended to 10 minutes. The allotted time was not enough to remove most of the furniture.


There is also fear that Mr. Abu Isneina might lose his 400-m2 piece of land after he lost his house. He emphasized the following: ' When I bought the land there was not any plan to construct a street there. Al Issawiya Committee and the Binkom Committee to Develop Al Issawiya Lands, however, listed my land into Al Issawiya Master Plan without informing me and a street was planned to go through my land. I got to know about the proposed street only after the house was almost completed. I am really afraid that I am going to lose my land now that I have lost my house. '


Currently, his family is in disarray; his wife and Duaa are currently living at the wife’s parents in Al Tur while the other children and Mr. Abu Isneina are living at other relatives. ' It is our fate to become homeless, to become without a place to sleep or to live in. Today, I live with my relative, Mohannad Abu Isneina. Next week, only God knows where I will be. We cannot become a burden on others. Look in what conditions we living in currently after our house was destroyed.'


The demolition started at about 10:30 AM when two bulldozers associated with the occupation municipality arrived at the site of the house under heavy Israeli protection, especially by the Mesada Special Unit. This Unit was used in the past to subdue Palestinian political and security prisoners in Israeli jails. This specially-trained Unit used violence against the residents of the house immediately upon arrival as soldiers beat Tariq, his cousin Mohammad Abu Isneina and inhumanely pushed the mother, Najah, to the ground.


All told, the Jerusalem Municipality demolished 65 Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem in the first 10 months of 2008. The demolitions resulted in making 392 Palestinians, of which 234 were children, homeless.  The following table lists the demolitions per month during the said period:


No. of Demolished Houses



























[1] An article in Haaretz on October 23rd, 2008.

[2] An article in Yediot Ahranot on October 2th, 2008.



Prepared by:
The Land Research Center




Categories: Demolition