B’selem report: A pick number of house demolitions in East Jerusalem in 2019

Two reports, from OCHA and B’tselem, shed light on the fact that the number of house demolitions significantly increased in East Jerusalem. The B’tselem report shows that the number of house demolitions in 2019 was significantly higher than in any other years in the last 15 years. According to the report, the number of residential demolished by Israeli authorities since the beginning of 2019 was 140, in comparison to an average of 40 per year since 2004. These demolitions left 269 persons homeless in 2019, including 149 minors.

These numbers are worrying and yet part of the bleak reality of the occupation under which the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are living. To understand the scope of the house demolitions pattern, here are a few numbers that speak for themselves:

  • In 1967, there were 69,000 Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem, living in 12,600 housing units.
  • Today, there are more than 342,000 Palestinian inhabitants in East Jerusalem, living in 55,000 housing units.
  • Since 1967, the Jerusalem municipality issued approximately  5,500 construction permits, which, roughly estimated, covers about 17,000 housing units.
  • Consequently, more than 50% of the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem lives under constant threat of seeing their lives/homes destroyed with little notice and less resource (to better understand the issue, see our Layman’s Guide to Jerusalem Home Demolitions). B’tselem report is an important reminder of that reality and sounds an alarm bell that the current political trend provides more space for the Israeli authorities to increase the scope of demolitions.
  • There are tens of thousands of outstanding demolition orders of houses in East Jerusalem, and they never expire. While the lives of 140 families were shattered this year as a result of their homes being demolished, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live in constant fear that the same could happen to them, and without warning.

Part of the explanation of the rise in the number of demolitions may be attributed to amendments to the 1965 Planning and Building Law that entered into effect in October, and which enable local authorities to expedite demolitions orders. These amendments, enacted two years ago, limit access to legal recourse and enlarge  the power of building inspectors. That said, we have never been able to identify reasons why any given house is demolished, as opposed to the other tens of thousands which are not.