RAMALLAH, March 4 (JMCC) - Tuesday's press conference by the mayor of Jerusalem
laid bare the equation at work in Jerusalem today.
In order to retroactively license one Jewish structure, Israel's leaders are willing to remake long-standing plans to destroy the homes of its Arab neighbors, also said to be constructed without building permits.
Some 88 Palestinian homes are currently threatened with demolition in the Bustan neighborhood of Silwan
. According to the mayor's proposal, 40 of these homes will be demolished and their owners given homes and a stake in the new garden and commercial district that will be constructed in their place. The remaining 48 homes will be allowed to stay.
leader in Jerusalem Hatem Abdel Qader
calls the plan. How can we accept the destruction of our homes by our own bare hands and build again at high cost, all the while there is a conflict over plans to deport Arabs from Jerusalem?
What is being proposed is rejected, and means the end of the quarter and a fight to the death to prevent its demolition.
All of this is for the sake of the settler home of Yonatan House, says Abdel Qader, which was ordered demolished by the Israeli courts, but which the municipality has yet to carry out, nor plans to carry out.
Israel's attorney general has ordered the municipality to comply with the demolition of Beit Yonatan, but the plan of Mayor Nir Barakat will circumvent the settler building's demolition.
They want to cover up their racism, says Abdel Qader, so they are ready to change all their plans to demolish the neighborhood just for one house.
The municipality announced plans to destroy the homes in the area approximately one year ago. Pressure from the United States put the demolitions on hold. In the meantime, the presence of Jewish settlers in Silwan has grown.
Residents submitted an alternative planning map to municipal authorities, seeking a compromise solution to the homes demolitions, which would make 1,500 people homeless. The map was rejected.
According to the municipality, some 20,000 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem are illegally-constructed and could be demolished.
I don't sleep at night, says Fakhri Abu Dhiab, head of the local resident's committee. I keep thinking about the uncertain future, my home and I in the wind.
I will return to the tent - this is more honorable than accepting their swap. I need my home with all its old stones.
Israel says the entire Bustan quarter has been constructed without licenses, while residents say it existed prior to Israel's occupation of eastern Jerusalem in 1967. Israeli officials refuse permits to expand homes for growing families, says Abu Dhiab, and when extensions are built, they destroy the entire home.
The neighborhood has no official date, but residents believe that at least some structures date from 1880. Population figures for the village of Silwan are available from the time that British authorities controlled Jerusalem.
The neighborhood faces the southern side of Jerusalem's Old City and the holy sites located therein.
Israel's plan is to rebuild Silwan as the green facade of the temple that Jews believe was once located on the site of the al-Aqsa mosque, says Abdel Qader, above the City of David, which they claim is buried underneath it.