Municipality ‘hiding’ house demolitions in e. J´lem (JERUSALEM POST) By MELANIE LIDMAN 07/13/12)
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The Jerusalem Municipality has manipulated the statistics of housing
demolitions in east Jerusalem to make it look like fewer are taking
place, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The policy of not including “self-demolitions” – where Arab families
are threatened with staggering fines if they do not demolish their
own houses – in the official count, has allowed Jerusalem to present
a picture of a dramatic decrease in demolitions during Mayor Nir
In 2008, the municipality and the Interior Ministry carried out 102
housing demolitions in east Jerusalem. This decreased to 69 in 2009,
27 in 2010 and just 14 in 2011, according to statistics from the
municipality, the ministry, B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center
for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and the Israeli
Committee Against Housing Demolitions. But these statistics only
account for the number of homes that authorities destroyed.
In 2000, the municipality began a policy of “self-demolitions.”
Since then, the demolition orders can require the owners of the house
to pay exorbitant fines unless they carry out the demolitions
themselves. Some Arab families chose this path, fearful they could
become mired in debt.
A municipal spokesman said the self-demolitions were a result of the
courts placing increasingly higher fines on repeat offenders, and
that some people “preferred to demolish the buildings themselves
rather than accrue additional fines.” He added that the municipality
does not keep track of self-demolitions.
The municipality sees them as a “successful achievement in the
enforcement and collection policy,” the spokesman said.
The number of self-demolitions rose from 18 in 2008 to 49 in 2009 and
70 in 2010, Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem
portfolio. Margalit is one of the founders of the Israeli Committee
Against Housing Demolitions.
The revelation is especially significant ahead of US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Israel next Monday. After a number
of demolitions were announced during her first visit as secretary of
state in March 2009, she publicly called housing demolitions in east
“Clinton said we can’t demolish homes, but she didn’t say anything
about them demolishing their own homes,” Margalit said. “This way, it
doesn’t show up on the statistics.”
“We were playing a joke on the Americans” by manipulating the
statistics, Margalit said. “Someone thinks people are stupid, that
Jews can always pull a fast one on the goyim, and they are causing
huge damage to Israel.”
In response to a query from The Jerusalem Post on Thursday about
Clinton’s stance and the subsequent manipulation of housing
demolition numbers, a State Department official referred to a White
House statement made in 2009.
“Neither party should engage in efforts or actions that could
unilaterally preempt, or appear to preempt, negotiations,” it
read. “We also object to other Israeli practices in Jerusalem related
to housing, including the continuing pattern of evictions and
demolitions of Palestinian homes. Our position is clear: The status
of Jerusalem is a permanent-status issue that must be resolved
through negotiations between the parties.”
The municipal spokesman said the decline in house demolitions was due
to an improvement in ties between the city and Arab residents, as
well as an increase in construction permits given to Arab residents.
The spokesman said the municipality approved 60 construction permits
in east Jerusalem in 2011, up from just two in 2005. But, according
to a recent housing report by left-wing Jerusalem research group Ir
Amim, east Jerusalem Arabs need about 1,500 construction permits a
year to accommodate population growth.
Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report from Washington. (©
1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 07/13/12)
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