Neglect of Infrastructure and Services in Palestinian Neighborhoods

Published: 
1 Jan 2011

East Jerusalem residents are required to pay taxes like all city residents. However, they do not receive the same services. The Jerusalem Municipality has continuously failed to invest significantly for infrastructure and services (such as roads, sidewalks, water and sewage systems) in Jerusalem's Palestinian neighborhoods. Since the annexation of Jerusalem, the Municipality has built almost no new school, public building, or medical clinic for Palestinians. The lion's share of investment has been dedicated to the city's Jewish areas.

Less than 10 percent of the Municipality's development budget for 1999 was allocated for Palestinian neighborhoods, although the population there represents a third of the city's residents. The lack of investment has left infrastructure in East Jerusalem in a deteriorated state:

  • Entire Palestinian neighborhoods are not connected to a sewage system and do not have paved roads or sidewalks;
  • Almost 90 percent of the sewage pipes, roads, and sidewalks are found in West Jerusalem;
  • West Jerusalem has 1,000 public parks, East Jerusalem has 45;
  • West Jerusalem has 34 swimming pools, East Jerusalem has three;
  • West Jerusalem has 26 libraries, East Jerusalem has two;
  • West Jerusalem has 531 sports facilities, East Jerusalem has 33.

Israel's treatment of Palestinian residents is shameful and violates their dignity. Such is the case at the East Jerusalem office of the Ministry of the Interior. The caseload is large, and processing takes months. The number of personnel receiving applicants is insufficient. Residents have to wait in line from the middle of the night until morning to enter the office, and many have to leave in the afternoon without having gained entry. On more than one occasion, persons who entered the office were sent home without being attended to.

The residents wait on the street, in front of the gate, with no protection against sun or rain. They wait in cramped conditions between two iron poles. Most of the time, the line is long and residents have to wait on the sidewalk or in the road. Guards open the gate two or three times in the morning to allow a few dozen people to enter. More than once, complaints have been made against the guards for degrading and arrogant treatment, for violent behavior, and for punishing those in line by closing the office in response to complaints by the residents.

These phenomena do not appear in the office in West Jerusalem where individuals can directly enter the reception hall which contains sufficient seating and where numbers are given, allowing people to leave for an hour or so before their number is called.

Treatment of the applicants is also different, as the following shows:

  • The forms in the East Jerusalem office are written only in Hebrew, although the population is Arabic-speaking. Consequently, the many applicants who do not read Hebrew depend on the good will of the clerks to explain what documents have to be brought, or they have to leave the office and pay for a translation of the document, and then wait again in line.
  • In the West Jerusalem office, the public can wait in comfort in the hall and even use the cafeteria in the building and drink from the water coolers, while in East Jerusalem, persons wanting to enter have to wait in undignified conditions in long, cramped lines for hours outside the building. There is no elevator or special access for the disabled or for strollers.
  • In West Jerusalem, it is possible to obtain services (for example, to renew passports) by mail. The East Jerusalem office does not offer this option.
  • In West Jerusalem, the office is open in the afternoon, application forms are available at the entrance, clerks are available to provide information, and signs directing the public are situated in the entryway. These amenities are not provided in the East Jerusalem office.

On Monday, 25.9.00, a hearing was held at the High Court of Justice on the petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, concerning the conditions and regulations at the Population Registry Office of the Ministry of the Interior in East Jerusalem.

The HCJ ordered state representatives to meet with representatives of the petitioners and to find a solution to the problems raised in the petition.

Due to pressure exerted by the judges, immediate improvement of a few main problems was agreed upon. However, a solution to all the problems was not agreed upon.

On 6 June 2001, the High Court of Justice dismissed the petition even though the Ministry of the Interior did not meet its commitments and despite the fact that most of the conditions and procedures at the Ministry of the Interior remained unchanged.

In 2003, another petition was filed on this issue. The petition was file by a private individual, Rofa Jabara, who was represented by Attorney Yosef Schwartz. In December 2003, in the framework of the petition, the High Court of Justice ruled that the physical conditions at the East Jerusalem office were extremely unreasonable and that the public had the right to receive services under proper conditions and within a reasonable period of time. The High Court ordered the Ministry of the Interior to move the office to a new structure in the Mamoniya complex by July 2005. The Court also ordered the Ministry to increase the number of clerks in the office from twenty-nine to forty-two, and to extend the hours it is open to the public.