Law at the service of a vicious apartheid regime
Israel denies Palestinians their right to education and existence on their land based on a myriad of laws and military orders. These discriminatory laws and orders, which are the scaffold of Israel’s apartheid regime have legitimized, in the eyes of the colonizer, the demolition of Palestinian schools and property at large; as well as the use of violence against them since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967.
Immediately after the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel issued Military Order No. 59 on July, 1967. This order, based on the manipulation of the Ottoman, Mandatory and Jordanian interpretation of the Land Law used to be enforced in Palestine, is concerned with the classification of lands as state property. While the Jordanian Land Law, which is an amendment of the Ottoman Land Code of 1858 and Mandatory Land Law prohibits the confiscation of Palestinian private lands even if they are unregistered, Israel has manipulatively implemented this law to confiscate Palestinian unregistered lands.
A large number of land confiscation and de facto annexation cases in the Jordan Valley and other parts of area ‘C’ have taken place by implementing Military Order No. 95. According to this order, the Israeli occupying power has criminalized and delegitimized the presence of Palestinians in areas designated as a state property. The demolition of Palestinians’ structures there is, accordingly, legalized.
Within the framework of this military order, Israel has been issuing other orders to facilitate the demolition of Palestinians’ structures in areas de facto annexed. Most remarkable of which is Military Order No. 1797 issued by the Israeli occupation authorities on April 17th, 2018.
When entered into force, this law gave the ICA inspectors in Area ‘C’ the green light to issue orders to demolish any building built ‘illegally’ by Palestinians within 96 hours. If the Palestinian owner of the building does not submit a permit application within 96 hours, which is impossible as it is a complex process in the ICA, the Israeli occupation authorities demolish the building. This includes buildings under construction as well as buildings that have already been erected.
Military Law No. 1797 abolishes Palestinians’ right to object on the demolition orders in the Israeli courts.
The No-Permit system
The Israeli occupation considers any building for Palestinians ‘illegal’ either when it is built in a ‘military zone’ or built without a construction permit to be issued by the ICA. As the ICA rarely accepts to issue permits to Palestinians, most of the Palestinians’ structures in Area ‘C’ are regarded illegal by Israeli law; thus, subject to demolition at any moment.
Military Order No. 1797 has allowed Israel to demolish 16 large buildings built without a permit and inhabited by hundreds of Palestinians in Wadi al-Hummus, East Jerusalem in 2019. Israel continues to use this law to demolish structures Palestinians built adjacent to Jewish-only settlements and bypass roads across the West Bank.
In the Jordan Valley, the Israeli occupation claims the illegality of Palestinian buildings mostly by considering them built in closed ‘military zones’ for the training of the Israeli army. The Israeli occupation demolished and forcibly displaced the community of Khirbet Humsa last July along such lines. The same justification was used to demolish seven structures belonging to Palestinians in Ras al Auja Bedouin community, southern Jordan Valley on Dec. 8th, 2020.
Real Estate vs Movable Property
Israel categorizes the property of targeted communities in Area ‘C’, including the Jordan Valley as real estate or movable property. In the latter, the ICA is obliged to give Palestinians a notice of demolition in advance. Yet, in many cases the ICA do not provide demolition notices to Palestinians before demolition as what happened in Khirbet Humsa al-Fawqa.
As regards to moveable property like the community of Ras Al-Auja, under Military Order no. 1651, the ICA is not legally bound to provide a formal notice before demolishing the structures. The Israeli occupation bulldozers can come at any moment and raze them to the ground.
Providing Palestinians whose structures are classified as real estates with demolition notices does not guarantee that they have an additional opportunity to object to demolition in Israeli Supreme Court (ISC).
On the one hand, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with repetitive lockdowns last year, either imposed by Israel or the Palestinian Authority, have slowed down the legal process of defending Palestinians in Israeli courts. On the other hand, since last year, the ISC has started the rejection of more appeals by Palestinians in large scales; making it useless for Palestinians who try to desperately protect their buildings to object to demolition in the ISC.
Archaeology at the service of oppression
Last year, the Israeli occupation authorities have increasingly enforced an old law that allows them to demolish any Palestinian property built in areas classified by the Israeli authorities as archaeological sites. They justify this by claiming that building in these sites destroys the archaeological remnants in these areas; a law that only applies to Palestinians but never to illegal Israeli settlers.