Housing rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem are not being respected

IsraelEconomic, social and cultural rightsNews

Brussels, 7 June 2011 – The violation of housing rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem by Israeli authorities affects directly the lives of Palestinian families and is a breach of international law, concludes a report commissioned by ASF. The report presented on 31 May 2011 in Brussels is the result of a fact-finding mission done by a delegation of English lawyers in Sheikh Jarrah, an area located in East Jerusalem.

Since the start of the Israeli occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 until today, the Palestinian refugee families in Sheikh Jarrah have been the target of eviction proceedings. Some 60 people have been recently evicted from their home; 500 others are at risk of eviction and forced displacement. This is against the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits any measure by the occupying powers to either deport people or transfer parts of its own population into the territory it occupies. “With regard to East Jerusalem, such measures have been taken by the Israeli government”, states the report presented during a seminar organised by ASF.  The situation in Sheikh Jarrah illustrates the fact that Israel is not complying with its obligations under international law and is “an integral part of Israel’s illegal settlement policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)”.

Another dimension highlighted by the report is the way in which the evictions are taking place. In particular, the Israeli police have attended evictions and demolitions of houses owned by Palestinians in disproportionate numbers, closing off roads, and removing affected families with unnecessary force. “When they [Israeli Defense Forces] came to evict us, it looked like a war zone”, told a Palestinian woman to the delegation. “It was four o’clock in the morning. Within the hour, the settlers were occupying our house and using our belongings”, she said. As a result, people become homeless and no assistance is being provided by the Israeli occupying authorities to the affected families.

In Sheikh Jarrah, “there is a persistent violation of the rights to peoples’ determination which is the cornerstone of international law”, says a practicing lawyer at the European Court of Human Rights and member of the delegation.  The report concludes that underlying the Israeli processes of zoning and planning control in East Jerusalem are political motivations to engineer the demographic balance between Jewish and Palestinian occupants; this is resulting in a housing crisis for the latter.

Today, some 190,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements inside East Jerusalem.

The ASF program in Israel and the OPT is aimed at promoting respect for and enforcement of international law through thestrengthening of the capacities of human rights lawyers and civil society organisations. The report follows a request from local lawyers and NGOs received ASF and includes the conclusions of a fact-finding mission done in December 2010. To access the report and its recommendations: Enforcing housing rights: the case of Sheikh Jarrah (pdf).

See also related story: ”East Jerusalem is not downtown Tel-Aviv”