Silwan protests the impending demolition of 92 Palestinian houses
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Silwan protests the impending demolition of 92 Palestinian houses

***image2***Demonstrations have been held daily in Silwan in Jerusalem since it was announced that a total of 92 houses are to be demolished, with around 1,000 Palestinians evicted from their homes. The people of the village recognize that these forthcoming demolitions are part of the Occupation’s wider plan for the Judeaization of Jerusalem and the expansion of Jewish settlements in the city. Four of the houses have already been demolished, with a further 88 facing demolition in the coming months.

A community spokesman from Silwan pledged resistance against the Occupation’s attempts to expel Palestinians from their land and raze an entire neighbourhood: “We will not simply stand by as families who were born here, who have lived here all their lives, are forced from their homes and land.” The villagers have set up a protest tent in the center of community.

It will be one of the largest demolitions of Palestinian homes in the city since Jerusalem was occupied. The 92 houses are in the Al Bustan valley in the center of Silwan, immediately to the southeast of Jerusalem’s Old City. The Occupation is razing the neighbourhood under the pretext of its “archaeological significance” as one of Jerusalem’s most historic areas. In fact the demolitions are designed to establish a channel of continuity between the Old City and the rising number of Jewish settlements in Silwan, and to further hasten the change in the area’s demographic makeup.

In recent years several dozen Palestinian houses in Silwan have been taken over, with Palestinians forced out of their homes and replaced by Jewish settlers. The settlers aim to create “islands” of settlements that disrupt any continuity of Palestinian neighbourhoods and then to expand and gradually take over the entire area. The settlers are now constructing new buildings in the area, yet these of course are not to be demolished. Now, the demolition of this Palestinian neighbourhood will allow further expansion of these Jewish settlements. This expansion, along with the construction of bypass roads in the area, is intended to slice Palestinian communities of Jerusalem into restricted and isolated ghettos, suffocating the crowded areas and diminishing the Palestinian presence in the city.

***image3***The Occupation plans the demolitions in Silwan to occur while any international attention is focused on the so-called “disengagement” from Gaza. The villagers of Silwan denounced the “illegal and immoral act,” and urged the international community to take action against the Occupation and bring justice for Palestinians.

The Occupation has claimed that the houses are built “illegally” without permits, and can therefore be demolished quickly and without any compensation, even though the Palestinian inhabitants own the land itself. Many of the homes were built before 1967 under Jordanian land laws and the families have lived on the land for decades. One of the houses set for demolition is said to be 120 years old. After 1967, as part of the plan to expel Palestinians and Judeaize the city, Palestinians in Jerusalem are rarely approved building permits. The villagers of Silwan own the land but are not ‘allowed’ by the Occupation to build on it and so have no choice but to construct their homes so-called “illegally.” In any case, the Occupation laws state that even when houses are deemed to be illegal they can only be demolished up to seven years after their construction, meaning that demolitions in Silwan are not allowed even under the Occupation’s own racist rules.

The restriction of building permits, the demolition of Palestinian homes and the expansion of Jewish settlements, along with the bypass roads and the Apartheid Wall itself, are all part of the Occupation’s apartheid infrastructure being implemented throughout Jerusalem. Villagers of Silwan are deeply concerned at reports that some of the evicted families are to be offered alternative land in Beit Hanina. This land has been confiscated from other Palestinian families as part of the construction of the Apartheid Wall and serves to further the expulsion of Palestinians from their city.

These demolitions are the latest in Silwan’s long history of displacement and confiscation. In 1967 much of the neighbourhood was located right at the edge of the Old City walls, but it was forcibly pushed back into the valley.