Israeli city chiefs in Jerusalem are forcing Palestinians to demolish their own homes or pay at least $25,000 for municipal contractors to do the job.
The latest victim was Faraj Abu Ramoz, who was ordered on Wednesday to bulldoze the house in the Ras Al-Amoud neighborhood of Silwan where he has lived for seven years.
Abu Ramoz conceded defeat after Jerusalem municipality crews and Israeli police stormed the family home and threatened to demolish it themselves and make him pay for the work.
Activists say the demolitions are part of an orchestrated Israeli plan to remove the Palestinian presence from annexed East Jerusalem. Palestinians who want to build homes face high costs and obstructive bureaucracy, leaving them two options: either lose the right to live in their own city, or build without a permit and face eventual eviction.
More than 120,000 Palestinians have left Jerusalem and now live outside the Israeli “security wall,” and Ziad Hammouri, director of the activist group Jerusalem for Economic and Social Rights, said more than 20,000 demolition orders for homes in the city were “on the table of the occupation courts.” He said: “They can be implemented at any time, according to the vision of the occupation and its approval for implementation.”
Between 2004 and 2019, Israel demolished 968 homes and displaced 3,177 people, including 1,704 children. That figure does not include the punitive demolition of homes belonging to Palestinians who Israel accuses of “terrorism.”
Activists say Israel prefers Palestinians to demolish their own homes because of the embarrassing publicity when the destruction is carried out by Jerusalem municipality contractors backed by Israeli security forces.
Ekrima Sabri, the imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque, urged Palestinians in Jerusalem to refuse to demolish their homes. “Let the occupation carry out the crime with their own hands,” he said.