Supreme Court Okays Demolition of 60 Palestinian Buildings in East Jerusalem

Court rejects families’ appeal that Jerusalem Municipality left them no choice but to build illegally

Residents of the Wadi Yetzol section of East Jerusalem’s Silwan whose homes were built without  a permit, Israel, April 13, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Palestinians from the Wadi Yetzol section of East Jerusalem’s Silwan, allowing the demolition of 60 structures built without permits without delay.

Justice Yosef Elron ruled that the criminal process is not the place to discuss whether or not the Jerusalem municipality discriminated against the residents and avoided planning the neighborhood, which prevented them from getting building permits for their homes.

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Wadi Yetzol was built 30 years ago by Palestinians living between Silvan and Abu Tor. They built homes without permits on land that they owned but that was zoned as green areas. They said it’s impossible to get a building permit in East Jerusalem, so they were forced to build against the law.

Sixty buildings, home to 500 families, were built. Two weeks ago the Jerusalem District Court rejected an appeal by three families against demolition orders. The judge ruled that residents were preparing a housing plan that would be approved in a few years and that therefore she couldn’t delay the process. Judge Chana Miriam Lomp wrote she was aware the decision would affect the fates of hundreds of families. Attorney Ziyad Qawar appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which in turn rejected it.

Elron agreed with the lower court that there was no “planning horizon” and therefore the appeal could not be accepted. He rejected Qawar’s argument that the municipality had neglected the area, pushing people to build illegally.

“I believe that the appellants’ claims that the defendant discriminates against local residents, and avoided advancing any zoning plan, are irrelevant to a discussion in the context of criminal wrongdoing,” he wrote. “From the request in front of me I see that the residents are seeking a zoning plan for their needs and that should be welcome. But these efforts cannot retroactively legitimize so much illegal construction or justify any delay in carrying out demolition orders.”

The Jerusalem Municipality said two days ago it “sees great importance in carrying out city zoning plans, alongside law enforcement against illegal construction.” It said the construction in Wadi Yetzol had been carried out without a permit.