Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Arab Home Razed in Jerusalem
Associated Press Writer
April 3, 2008
JERUSALEM — An Israeli wrecking crew knocked down Shadi Hamdan's home in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem in just a couple of hours, reducing the upholsterer's savings to a pile of gray rubble.
The demolition of the home, which Israel claims was illegally built, vividly illustrate the toughest issue facing negotiators in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks: conflicting claims over Jerusalem.
Agreeing on how to divide the ancient city, home to 476,000 Jews and 250,000 Arabs, is on the table but has yet to be resolved in talks launched at a U.S.-hosted Mideast peace conference last November. The Palestinians want to establish a capital in east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War. Israel claims the whole city but has signaled willingness to cede some Arab neighborhoods.
Since 2004, Israel has leveled more than 300 homes in Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods, citing a lack of building permits. However, critics say the permits are virtually impossible to obtain and consider the demolitions part of a decades-old policy to limit Palestinian population growth in the disputed city.
Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights, a group that fights home demolitions, says Israel is violating the human rights of the city's Arab residents by tearing down their homes.
"Were Israelis and Palestinians to have an equal chance to get a building permit ... it wouldn't be a human rights issue," said Ascherman. "It's a human rights issue because it's intentional and purposeful housing discrimination."
Hamdan's case is especially harsh — his home was destroyed once before, though he lives in an outlying area, Anata, that is among those most likely to become part of a future Palestine in the event of a peace deal.
Already, Anata is cut off from the center of Jerusalem by Israel's West Bank separation barrier.
The single-story structure was first knocked down in 2005 but volunteers rebuilt it over two weeks last summer. Former Jerusalem city council member Meir Margalit, one of Hamdan's supporters, said his group won't be deterred and plans to rebuild again.
On Wednesday, a crane-mounted jackhammer tore down Hamdan's home — two apartments on 1,560 square feet, one for him and one for his parents, 60-year-old Naziha and 70-year-old Hassan. The wrecking crew was guarded by Israeli police, and one Israeli activist was briefly detained for trying to block the demolition.
"I felt my heart would explode," Naziha Hamdan said of watching her house being wrecked. Hamdan, a 30-year-old bachelor, said he'd sleep at his workshop from now on, while his parents would move in with his brother. A small truck arrived to cart off the family's belongings, including a sofa, fridge and window frames.
Hamdan's lawyer, Sami Ershied, said the family applied repeatedly for permission to build on its land in Anata, but was always turned town on grounds that Anata doesn't have a master plan, and without one, permits cannot be issued.
Demolition orders are currently pending against several other Anata houses, he said.
Across east Jerusalem, thousands of residents live in fear of demolition, said Margalit, adding that about 1,000 homes are built there without permits every year.
Israel portrays demolitions as a technical matter — saying it's cracking down on illegal construction across Jerusalem, and that it's doing so without differentiating between Arab and Jewish residents. "It's a matter of enforcing municipal law," said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.
(C) Copyright 2008, The Associated Press

========EndArticle on E. Jerusalem Palestinian home demolitions===============

========Begin Article on Bedouin home demolitions========================

Israel Treats Bedouins Unfairly: Report
Associated Press Writer
March 31, 2008
JERUSALEM — Thousands of Bedouin homes in Israel's south are threatened with demolition because they were built on land Israel does not recognize as theirs, a leading human rights group said Monday.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch group said in a report that Israel discriminates against its Bedouin Arab citizens in allocating housing, land and infrastructure in the Negev, a desert that makes up much of Israel's territory, where most of the Bedouins live.
The report touched on a decades-old issue: Israel's refusal to recognize dozens of ramshackle Bedouin villages and encampments in the desert.
Lucy Mair, a consultant to the rights group, said 45,000 homes in unrecognized communities could be issued demolition orders because they were built without permits — which Bedouins cannot obtain in their unrecognized communities. There are 700 current demolition orders against Bedouin homes, she said, quoting information from the Israeli Justice Ministry.
Most of the homes are hastily built shacks, costing around $10,000 to set up, said Hassan Rifai from the regional council, which helps Bedouins rebuild their homes after the authorities knock them down.
In one case, the Israel Land Authority, responsible for managing and allocating land, demolished the homes in one unrecognized village eight times in one year, the report said.
Ortal Tzabar, a spokeswoman for the Land Administration, said it was building 13 new towns and villages, most close to unrecognized villages, and has largely halted home demolitions.
Most of Israel's estimated 160,000 southern Bedouins live in poverty, roughly split between those who live in seven impoverished government-planned towns, and those who live in 35 communities of huts and shacks. Israel recognized six Bedouin communities over the past few years, but so far has not extended services to them, Mair said.
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(C) Copyright 2008, The Associated Press


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The Staff of the Palestine Media Project


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