Of the 187 orders to remove new structures issued by Israel in the West Bank in the past two years, 159 were issued to Palestinians and only 28 to settlers.
This emerged from Civil Administration data released in response to a freedom of information request submitted by Qamar Mashriqi-Assad of Haqel: In Defense of Human Rights, and Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights.
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This is a new type of order that went into effect in 2019 and is considered especially draconian because it cannot be appealed.
This new order requires residents to show a building permit within 96 hours, after which Civil Administration inspectors are permitted to demolish the structure without a hearing. This short timeframe for implementing these orders came under sharp criticism from both Palestinians and settlers.
As a result, it was decided to conduct a trial period under which the order would be limited to use in specific circumstances, like building in a firing zone, near security installations or near major roads, Israeli construction on private Palestinian land or Palestinian construction on Israeli land, as well as structures that affect security or public order. The order can be issued on unfinished construction or within six months from the date of its completion, and well as against a structure that was occupied for less than 30 days.
Nearly a third of the orders issued to settlers and a quarter of those issued to Palestinians were never carried out. Two structures belonging to the Eretz Hashemesh outpost in the Jordan Valley were not evacuated on “orders of the political echelon.” Deputy Attorney General for Civil Law Erez Kaminitz has written to the Prime Minister’s Office saying that intervention by politicians to stop the evacuation of outposts is a recurring phenomenon, raising concerns of “the development of a very problematic trend that undermines the rule of law.”
Orders issued against Palestinians sometimes resulted in the owners taking down the structures themselves; in other cases the evacuations were postponed for operational reasons or the orders were converted into orders to be enforced under regular planning regulations.
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The data showed a sharp rise in the use of these orders; in 2020 there were 134 such orders issued against Palestinian structures in 2020, compared to only 19 in 2019. Some orders did not have a year noted on them. Most of the orders targeted Palestinian structures in the Hebron district and in the area around Jerusalem. While far fewer removal orders were issued to settlers, they also showed an uptrend: 21 orders in 2020, compared to only six in 2019. Most of the settler structures targeted were erected in the Ramallah and Nablus areas.
Palestinians in Area C – territories that under the Oslo Accords are under full Israeli control – have great difficulty getting building permits. Most Palestinian communities do not have master plans, while others cannot get expansion plans approved. In the settlements, by contrast, master and expansion plans are advanced. In the past Haaretz has reported that in the years 2016-2018 Palestinians submitted 1,485 applications for building permits in Area C, but only 21 of them were approved – a mere 1.4 percent.
The freedom of information request also gathered data on the use of a warrant requiring individuals to obtain a license to move mobile structures to a new location. The warrant is intended to prevent the establishment of outposts using caravans, and allows the Civil Administration to confiscate mobile structures.
The data revealed a spike in the number of orders issued against Palestinians - from four orders in 2013 to 144 in 2019. In contrast, the peak number of orders against settlers was 53 in 2017.
Architect Alon Cohen Lipshitz, who coordinates Bimkom’s activity in Area C, said that Israel “is failing in its job to provide protection to protected communities and residents, and undermines basic human rights, like the right to a roof over one’s head. Tens of thousands of demolition orders and thousands of demolitions aren’t enough for the regime; it chooses to circumvent the law by creating new orders that allow homes to be demolished within a few days, without allowing for the defense of rights. This selective enforcement does deep and broad harm almost exclusively to the most sensitive Palestinian population – the shepherding community.”