The Jerusalem Municipality took another terrible step on Sunday towards its plan to confiscate land parcels belonging to Arab residents of East Jerusalem and use them in furtherance of its own agenda. As was first reported by Moshe Steinmatz of nrg.co.il, the Finance Committee of the Jerusalem Municipality approved plans to temporarily confiscate two parcels in the Bustan area of Silwan, seen below, to build a parking lot. According to the municipality, it’s to serve the Palestinians, according to the Palestinians it’s for the service of the nearby archeological site.
It is important to note that a year and three months ago (on November 5th, 2008), the municipality demolished a Palestinian house that was built without a permit, which stood on the same parcels.
Why is it wrong? Try the following two reasons:
A. The city is abusing the confiscation law and acting against the law’s true purpose
The Municipality is using an article in the law which allows a municipality to make use of private lands in cases where the owners refuse to build or develop it, resulting in an empty lot in the middle of the city without any use. In such cases of deliberate owner neglect or inaction, the municipality is then allowed to temporarily confiscate the land and build a parking lot on it.
The Jerusalem municipality has already tried to use this law in Silwan, two years ago, when it declared 5 private lots as parking lots. The owners of the lands appealed to the court and said that it was against the original purpose of the law, and that had there been a legal possibility, they would have made use of the lands – for housing, playgrounds or other uses desperately needed in Silwan. But the owners could not use their lands because the city plan in the area of Silwan does not allow any construction at all.
The court agreed with the owners that the city could not legally confiscate their lands after preventing them from using them, and canceled the city’s confiscation orders. The municipality appealed to the district court, and the case is still pending.
In this case in the Bustan, the city plan in the area does not allow for any construction, so even if the owners want to build – they can’t. As further proof that the owners do intend to make use of their land (and have not deliberately abandoned or neglected it, as is required for city confiscation) in this case the owners did build, but the municipality demolished the house because it was built illegally. Now the municipality is taking advantage of the fact the land cannot legally be used by its owners and confiscating it to build a parking lot.
B. It’s in “the Bustan” area, which is designated for an “Archeological Park”
According the Jerusalem municipality, the area of “The Bustan” is supposed to serve as an archeological park. Because of its historical and archeological importance the municipality intends to demolish some 88 homes which were built illegally in the Bustan by Palestinians. Suddenly today, the archeological importance is not any more the first priority, and the municipality wants to make it a parking lot. It seems to me that if the land is good enough for parking it might as well be good enough for housing. Either they weren’t honest when demolished the house because of the archeological significance or are they being dishonest now by taking the land for parking.
This is not the first time in Jerusalem that the law is being abused to serve settlers’ interests to the detriment of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents. I will write more soon about the disputed case of Bet Yonatan in the same neighborhood — this is an illegally built home constructed by Jewish settlers that the City of Jerusalem refuses to demolish despite a direct order from the Israeli Supreme Court to do so.