by Felix Quigley
23 July, 2009
Human rights lawyer Justus Reid Weiner, a scholar-in-residence at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has just completed the first systematic study of illegal construction in Jerusalem. Based on scores of interviews from across the political spectrum – from Mayor Olmert to Sari Nusseibeh, original documents, and on-site inspections, Weiner’s heavily illustrated new book discredits the conventional wisdom about the causes and effects of illegal building, and documents a pattern of politically-motivated behavior and criminal profiteering that characterizes much of the construction in the Arab sector of the Holy City.
In the Jewish neighborhoods, illegal construction typically takes the form of additions to existing legal structures – such as closing a balcony or hollowing out under a building to create an extra room. In the Arab sector, however, illegal construction often takes the form of entire multi-floor buildings with 4 to 25 living units, built with the financial assistance of the Palestinian Authority on land that is not owned by the builder.
- Illegal construction has reached epidemic proportions. A senior Palestinian official boasted that they have built 6,000 homes without permits during the last 4 years, of which less than 200 were demolished by the city.
- This frantic pace of illegal construction continues despite the fact that the city has authorized more than 36,000 permits for new housing units in the Arab sector, more than enough to meet the needs of Arab residents through legal construction until 2020.
- Arab residents who wish to build legally may consult urban plans translated into Arabic for their convenience and receive individual assistance from Arabic-speaking city employees.
- Both Arabs and Jews typically wait 4-6 weeks for permit approval, enjoy a similar rate of application approvals, and pay an identical fee ($3,600) for water and sewage hook-ups on the same size living unit.
- The same procedures for administrative demolition orders apply to both Jews and Arabs in all parts of the city, as a final backstop to remove structures built illegally on roadbeds or land designated for schools, clinics, and the like.
- The Palestinian Authority and Arab governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in an intentional campaign to subsidize and encourage massive illegal construction in the Arab sector, seeing this as part of their “demographic war” against Israel.
- Many large, multi-story, luxury structures have been built by criminals on land they do not own, frequently land belonging to Palestinian Christians living abroad.
- This epidemic of illegal construction is similar to illegal building that troubles cities in scores of countries worldwide and where the authorities utilize the law to demolish the structures.
- More than any single factor, the 35-year-long boycott of municipal politics by the Palestinian leadership has resulted in the continued imbalance in municipal services in Arab neighborhoods vis-a-vis Jewish neighborhoods.
- Despite frequent accusations that the city’s planning policy seeks to “Judaize” Jerusalem, the Arab population of the city has increased since 1967 from 27% to 32%. Moreover, since 1967 new Arab construction has outpaced Jewish construction.
Illegal Construction in Jerusalem (172 pp. including a fold-out map, charts, tables, documents, and aerial photographs) is available from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 02-561-9281, for $50 + postage ($10 airmail to North America; $6 airmail to Europe; $2 surface mail in Israel).
THERE IS ALSO A GRAPH WHICH SHOWS THAT THE GREAT MAJORITY OF ILLEGAL STRUCTURES DEMOLISHED ARE JEWISH
AND ON TOP OF THAT THERE IS A BOOKLET RINTED BY THE MUNICIALITY OF JERUSALEM SHOWING ARABS HOW TO APPLY FOR A BUILDING PERMIT
Look up the full report on
(In truth, this simplistic view ignores the fact that the eastern part of Jerusalem only became Jew-free when the thousands of Jewish inhabitants were ‘ethnically cleansed’ from the old city in 1948, scores of synagogues destroyed and cemeteries desecrated during 19 years of Jordanian occupation)
The above important claim is made in a current article on Israpundit
Here it is:
Tangled web of Jewish ownership in ‘Arab’ areas
The stench of hypocrisy is rising from the current furore surrounding US objections to the redevelopment by a Jewish owner of the Shepherd hotel in the ‘Arab’ Sheikh Jarrah district of Jerusalem.
Jewish construction is seen as an obstacle to peace; burgeoning Arab construction in Jerusalem (much of it illegal) is not. You only have to read Justus Reid Weiner’s research exposing the construction boom in thousands of Arab units in Jerusalem, much of it lavishly funded by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and the Palestinian Authority, to understand that peace is not the issue. On the contrary, over the last several years, the Arabs have been engaged in a political and demographic race for control of Jerusalem.
To the US government and the European Union, everything is black-and-white: in their eyes west Jerusalem is ‘Jewish’, and east Jerusalem, where Israeli sovereignty is not recognised under international law, remains ‘Arab’. In truth, this simplistic view ignores the fact that the eastern part of Jerusalem only became Jew-free when the thousands of Jewish inhabitants were ‘ethnically cleansed’ from the old city in 1948, scores of synagogues destroyed and cemeteries desecrated during 19 years of Jordanian occupation. The city was reunited when the eastern side of the city was recaptured and annexed in 1967 by Israel.
The issue of land ownership in Jerusalem is far more complex than the Obama administration and the EU would have us believe. Mount Scopus – the original site of the Hebrew university campus and the Hadassah hospital – remained a Jewish enclave in Jordanian-controlled territory. It is also a little known fact that hundreds of thousands of Arab squatters in ‘Arab east Jerusalem’ live on land still owned by the Jewish National Fund. The JNF purchased hundreds of individual parcels of land in and around Jerusalem during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Some ended up under Jordanian control. In 1948, on one of these parcels the UN built the Kalandia refugee camp, seizing the land without permission from the owners, the JNF. As Gil Zohar explained in his 2007 Jerusalem Post piece other parcels of land in ‘Arab’ east Jerusalem were cut off from their Iraqi and Iranian Jewish owners after they came under Jordanian rule. In total 145,976 dunams* of Jewish land is said to have come under Jordanian control. ((Jewish property claims against Arab countries by Michael Fischbach, p 85).
Another 16,684.421 dunams of Jewish land in the rural West Bank – including the Gush Etzion settlements, land between Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm, and in Bethlehem and Hebron – were seized by the Jordanians after 1948.
The Golan Heights are almost universally considered ‘Syrian’ territory and yet the JNF lays claim to 73,974 dunams in southern Syria (op cit, p36). The earliest purchase was made in the 1880s.
On the macro-level, it is estimated that Jews living in Arab countries owned some 100,000 sq km of deeded property, equivalent to four or five times the size of Israel. Many cities in the ‘Arab’ Middle East and North Africa had large Jewish populations. Baghdad was a quarter Jewish. When over 90 per cent of Iraq’s Jews left for Israel in 1950 – 51, property seized by the Iraqi government included three hospitals, 19 Jewish schools, 31 synagogues and two cemeteries.
In Egypt mansions belonging to wealthy Jewish families became embassies, residences and public institutions. Jihan Sadat still lives in a mansion once owned by the Castro family, and president Mubarak reputedly has the use of a villa owned by the Smouha family.
The international community gets into a huff when Jerusalem property once owned by Arabs is legally bought by Jews. Across the Arab world, Jewish property has been abandoned, sequestered or sold well below market value as Jews left in haste or were driven out. The West is sanctioning the principle that the Arab world must be Jew-free (Arab states have almost succeeded in this task, having banished 97 percent of their Jewish population) . The takeover of millions of dollars’ worth of Jewish homes, shops, offices and communal property by Arabs has never been considered provocative or an ‘obstacle to peace’.
Double standard, anyone?
* 1 dunam= 1,000 sq. metres