Human Rights in the Occupied Territories 2011

Human Rights in the Occupied Territories 2011
09. Stifling Growth
  • .1

    Increased demolitions lead to increased homelessness

    According to B'Tselem documentation, in 2011, the Civil Administration demolished 176 housing units built without a permit in Area C of the West Bank, leaving 1,138 Palestinians homeless, including 532 minors. This is an increase over the previous year, when the Civil Administration demolished 108 housing units, leaving 663 Palestinians (among them 317 minors) homeless. Almost half of the demolitions in the past two years were carried out in Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley.

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  • .2

    Lawbreakers against their will

    A resident of a-Za’ayem in the al-Quds district after her home was demolished by the Civil Administration. Photo: Anne Paq,, 29 November 2011

    Since 1967, Israel’s policy has been to limit as much construction as possible in Palestinian communities in the West Bank, ignoring people's needs and the natural growth of the Palestinian population. As part of this policy, Israel has done almost nothing to prepare outline plans for Palestinian communities and has not allocated land for Palestinian building and development. Instead, the planning bodies – which are administered solely by Israelis – have relied on British Mandate outline plans drafted almost 70 years ago that classify most West Bank land as agricultural, on which building is forbidden. This policy applies throughout Area C, which constitutes 60 percent of the West Bank and contains most of the land reserves for development of Palestinian towns and villages.

    This planning regime offers no planning channel for Palestinian communities, whose residents are left with no option other than building without a permit. The Palestinian Authority has planning authority in Areas A and B of the West Bank, where most of the Palestinian population lives. However, the land reserves in Areas A and B are very limited, thus creating a grave housing shortage. Israel’s planning policy is especially flagrant given the extensive planning and investment in expansion of settlements and development of industrial and employment areas located there.

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  • .3

    Demolition of homes in al Hadidiya, Jordan Valley

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  • .4

    East Jerusalem

    Ruins of the Burqan family’s house, Silwan, demolished on 5 Dec. 2012 by the Jerusalem Municipality. Nine family members resided in the house, six of them children. Photo: ‘Amer ‘Aruri, B’Tselem, 5 December 2011

    The Jerusalem Municipality also carries out a planning policy that severely violates the right to housing of residents of the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. One-third of the 70 square kilometers annexed to the city in 1967 were expropriated from Palestinians in order to build 12 settlements in which, according to the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies at the end of 2009, almost 187,000 Jews lived.

    At the same time, Israeli governments and the Jerusalem Municipality have made concerted efforts to limit Palestinian construction. They do this through a variety of mechanisms: in part by not drawing up outline plans for the Palestinian neighborhoods; by classifying broad expanses of land as “green spaces,” in which construction is forbidden; by setting very low building percentages in Palestinian communities compared to adjacent Jewish settlements in the city; and by imposing conditions for beginning the planning process, which greatly increase the cost. These restrictions do not exist in plans for Jewish neighborhoods in East or West Jerusalem. Lacking any real possibility to build lawfully, many Palestinians have built without a permit.

    Israel’s policy exacerbates overcrowding. In Israeli neighborhoods in Jerusalem, housing density is one person per room. In Palestinian neighborhoods it is almost twice as high: 1.9 persons per room.

    In 2011, the Jerusalem Municipality demolished 20 housing units in East Jerusalem, in which 132 Palestinians (among them 72 minors) lived. By comparison, in 2010, the municipality demolished 22 housing units, in which 191 (94 minors) lived.

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  • .5

    Plan to expel tens of thousands of Palestinians from Area C

    School in a Bedouin community that is scheduled for demolition, Khan al-Ahmar, near which the Ma’ale Adumim settlement was built. Photo: Anne Paq,, 4 September 2011

    The Civil Administration has plans to expel some 27,000 persons living in Bedouin communities in Area C of the West Bank. The first phase of the plan, which may take place during the coming year, intends to forcibly relocate some 2,300 Bedouin living in the area of the Ma’ale Adummim settlement to a site near the Abu Dis refuse dump, east of Jerusalem. In the second phase, which is planned to take place within three to six years, Bedouin communities will be expelled from the Jordan Valley. The Civil Administration did not offer the Bedouins an opportunity to take part in drafting the plan, and ignored the anticipated harm to their way of life and their health if they are indeed transferred to a site next to the dump.

    Half of the communities that are expected to be expelled in the first phase live in or near E-1, the massive expansion plan of the Ma’ale Adummim settlement. Israel has already drafted plans for construction in E-1 of 3,910 apartments and a metropolitan employment and business center that will serve both Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adummim. Located northwest of the built-up area of the existing settlement, the E-1 plan will create territorial contiguity between the settlement and Jerusalem, exacerbate East Jerusalem’s detachment from the rest of the West Bank, and sever the territorial contiguity between the northern and southern sections of the West Bank. Other Bedouin communities also live between Ma’ale Adummim and the Qedar settlement. The Ma’ale Adummim Municipality seeks to annex Qedar and the entire area between the two settlements, on which it wants to build 6,000 apartments.

    The Civil Administration justifies expulsion of the Bedouin communities by claiming that they live in structures that were built without permit and on land to which they have no rights. However, they ignore the fact that the communities have been living and working these lands for decades, since before Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. Despite this history, Israel does not recognize these communities and does not enable their residents to build there lawfully. The Civil Administration has in the past issued orders to demolish structures in these communities: tin structures, tents, and a school. In Wadi Abu Hindi (350 residents) and Muntar (300 residents), demolition orders have been issued against all structures in the community.

    Some eighty percent of the Palestinians who are to be expelled in the first phase of the plan are refugees who once lived in the Negev. Two-thirds of them are under age 18. None of the communities are connected to the power grid, and only half have running water. They do not receive educational, health, and other vital services.

    Although the residents live a traditional life based on raising sheep and goats, they are allowed limited access to grazing land and markets. According to figures of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), most of the residents suffer from food insecurity.

    In the early 1990s, in order to expand the Ma’ale Adummim settlement, Israel moved members of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe to the site next to the Abu Dis dump. The Abu Dis dump is Jerusalem’s principal waste disposal site and is scheduled to be closed in mid-2012. The dump is a health hazard for persons living nearby, and will continue to be a hazard long after it is closed. The Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection warned that, because of the lack of a system for pumping the gasses created by disintegration of the waste dumped there, the site is “a focal point for environmental pollution, risk of fires and even explosions.” Due to a financial dispute between the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ma’ale Adummim, no plan has been approved for rehabilitating the dump.

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  • .6

    Video: Bedouins near Ma'ale Adumim settlement face expulsion

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  • .7

    Israel’s duty to allow construction for Palestinians

    Demolition of the Ka’abneh family’s home in Beit Hanina al-Balad, north of Jerusalem. Photo: Iyad Haddad, B’Tselem, 24 November 2011

    Israel must provide a suitable response to the planning needs of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and enable them to build according to their needs. Ensuring minimal living conditions, and principally the right to housing, is an obligation of the occupying power. Israel’s policy contradicts this obligation and turns Palestinians into lawbreakers by default. Furthermore, the plan to expel the Bedouin communities from Area C flagrantly breaches international humanitarian law, which prohibits the forced transfer of protected persons unless the transfer is necessary for their safety or to meet an imperative military need, and even then, only temporarily.

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