‘Tens of thousands of Palestinian families at risk of home demolitions’ – says UN Special Rapporteur

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‘Israel is implementing a strategy of Judaisation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,’ Professor Raquel Rolnik, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, has concluded.

She was speaking in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon at the end of a two week visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Professor Rolnik said: ‘From the Galilee and the Negev to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities promote a territorial development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities, particularly affecting Palestinian communities.’

The Rapporteur also added: ‘Throughout my visit I received repeated complaints regarding lack of housing, threats of demolitions and evictions, overcrowding, the disproportional number of demolitions affecting Palestinian communities side by side with the accelerated development of predominantly Jewish settlements.’

The UN Special Rapporteur was briefed comprehensively by ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) Co-Director Itay Epshtain during her two week country visit.

Accompanied by ICAHD staff, Professor Rolnik visited demolished Anata homes including the Beit Arabiya Peace Centre.

Professor Rolnik also visited East Jerusalem neighbourhoods, Bedouin communities the like of Khan al-Ahmar in the Jerusalem periphery, and the expanse of the Jordan Valley.

According to Professor Rolnik, in East Jerusalem she witnessed the inadequate housing conditions and deficiencies in basic infrastructure faced by Palestinian neighbourhoods and villages.

‘The policies adopted by Israeli authorities severely restrict Palestinians from building legally through various means.

‘Among others, Israel has not provided Palestinians with the necessary planning framework to ensure that their basic housing and infrastructure needs are met,’ she said.

Moreover, the number of permits issued is grossly inadequate to housing needs leading many Palestinians to build without obtaining a permit.

As a result, numerous Palestinians’ homes or extensions to these are considered illegal so that the inhabitants are subjected to eviction orders and the demolition of their houses.

‘Currently tens of thousands of Palestinians are estimated to be at risk of their homes being demolished due to unregulated building.

‘The mere threat of demolition has a profound impact on families and particularly on children, psychological and otherwise,’ explained the Rapporteur.

In the West Bank the territorial fragmentation and the severe deterioration of Palestinian standards of living are furthered by decades of accelerated expansion of Israeli settlement units that expropriate land and natural resources.

‘To a certain extent, these territorial and demographic changes promoted in the West Bank, mirror changes occurred within the Israeli territory after 1948, where Palestinian presence was progressively limited in parallel to a disproportional support to the expansion of Jewish communities,’ said Professor Rolnik.

Following a visit to the Arab al-Jahalin Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, UN Special Rapporteur Rolnik said: ‘This community, among others in the area of “Greater Jerusalem”, has been informed by the Civil Administration that a master plan has been approved which would lead to their expulsion from the area where they currently live for the expansion of the Maíale Adumin settlement.

‘The only school in the area, which was built by the community, is under a demolition order.

‘The community is in great uncertainty regarding its future.’

Professor Rolnik concluded that after the Oslo agreements, Israel retained official temporary control over the vast majority of the occupied West Bank (Area C).

At present, more than half a million Israeli-Jews, have settled in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem.

‘Throughout my visit, I was able to witness a land development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities in Israel which is being replicated in the occupied territory, affecting Palestinian communities.

‘The Bedouins in the Negev – inside Israel, as well as the new Jewish settlements in area C of the West Bank and inside Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem – are the new frontiers of dispossession of the traditional inhabitants, and the implementation of a strategy of Judaisation and control of the territory.’

Professor Rolnik is an independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context.

During her visit she met with officials and representatives of the Government of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, international agencies as well as non-governmental organisations both in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

A report detailing all findings of her mission will be presented to the Human Rights Council in 2013.

• The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said on Monday that it will not be able to continue cash allowances for impoverished families in the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said a programme providing 40 shekels to each individual in poor families will be cut after April due to a shortage in donor funds.

The financial support is used by families below the poverty line to meet their basic needs, he said.

Despite the financial crisis, UNRWA will continue with its food programmes in the coastal enclave, and to highlight to the international community the issue of impoverished refugee families in Gaza, he added.

Abu Hasna called on the international community and donor countries to save the financial aid programme in Gaza.

UNRWA was founded in 1949 to serve refugees in Gaza, the West Bank and neighbouring Arab countries after hundreds of thousands were displaced from Palestine when Israel was created.

The agency’s most recent mandate extends to June 30, 2014.

• A group of Zionist settlers attacked a Palestinian car near the Hebron settlement of Kiryat Arba on Sunday evening.

They threw stones at the car of Hamza al-Takrory’s car, breaking the windshield.

Hamza passed out during the incident and was taken to a nearby clinic for treatment.

Around 800 Jewish settlers live among 30,000 Palestinians in the parts of the ancient city of Hebron that are under Israeli control.

Reports of physical violence by settlers against Palestinians are common in Hebron, which is a microcosm of the occupied West Bank where Palestinians have limited self-rule over islands of territory surrounded by areas of Israeli control.