Middle East Monitor / March 12, 2021
The Israeli-run Jerusalem municipality has cancelled all agreements with the Palestinian residents of Al-Bustan in East Jerusalem and rejected plans it had requested as an alternative to the demolition of their homes, the Silwan Defence Committee has confirmed.
Committee member Fakhri Abu Diab told Wafa news agency that the municipality has objected to the community’s requests to freeze the demolition orders and is moving ahead to authorise them. The municipality does not accept the masterplan prepared by Knesset Member Yousef Jabareen or the previous agreement made with the community. These plans, said Abu Diab, have cost the community over $500,000 since 2011, including legal fees and other costs.
The Jerusalem Municipality has officially changed Al-Bustan’s name to Gan Hamelekh (The King’s Garden), claiming that it was a garden for Israelite kings thousands of years ago. The indigenous residents have had their applications for building permits rejected by the municipality because it is designated as “an open landscape area” under a scheme called “The King’s Valley”.
The Israeli authorities have informed Ziad Kawar, a lawyer representing Al-Bustan’s residents, that 100 homes in the neighbourhood will be demolished in order to make space for the so-called “King’s Garden”. At least 1,550 people will be displaced, mostly women and children.
“This mass demolition, if not stopped, will set a dangerous precedent for changing the municipality’s policies from individual to mass demolition and will be seen by East Jerusalem Palestinians as marking the start of the destruction, displacement and transfer of entire neighbourhoods in Jerusalem in order to empty the city of its Palestinian residents,” said Abu Diab. “It is a blatant challenge to the international community, to international law and to the International Criminal Court, as well as to the new Biden administration in Washington.”
Local residents are apprehensive, he added. “We appeal to the international diplomatic community, to human rights organisations and solidarity activists to prevent the municipality from demolishing our homes and expelling us.”