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311_Silwan houses.(Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem)
Five east J'lem Arab homes get illegal building notices
By MELANIE LIDMAN
10/25/2010
Municipality says the notifications "are completely standard administrative duties," not demolition orders.
The Jerusalem Municipality posted court notices on five apartments in the Al- Bustan neighborhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon.

According to a city spokesman, these are not demolition orders, but a notification to residents that they will be summoned to a court hearing about illegal construction in their homes.

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“These are completely standard, day-to-day administrative court orders of the municipality,” said Elie Isaacson, a spokesman for Mayor Nir Barkat.

He said that the municipality’s Building Supervision Department posts 270 notices per week on apartments all over Jerusalem, or around 14,000 per year.

“Every time someone puts up something without planning permission they can get one,” Isaacson explained.

Most of the notices have to do with illegal additions.

The mayor sent a letter to the prime minister two weeks ago asking that all house demolitions be suspended in Silwan until the Interior Ministry’s District Planning Committee decides on the mayor’s rezoning plan for the neighborhood.

It was the first time the mayor publicly called for demolitions to be halted in the area.

The mayor’s controversial Gan Hamelech plan calls for a retroactive legalization of 66 of the 88 residential buildings in Al-Bustan. The remaining 22 buildings will be moved to other locations in the neighborhood, according to the plan.

Some were skeptical about the notices being standard operating procedure.

“The municipality doesn’t send orders to invite people for a friendly chat,” said Orly Noy, spokeswoman for the Ir Amim NGO.

“Court proceedings in Al- Bustan all have to do with demolition orders, because all houses have demolition orders against them anyhow,” she said.

Some of the demolition orders may need to be renewed from time to time to keep them from expiring, she explained.

“The whole issue of the socalled illegal construction in east Jerusalem is strictly a political one and should be dealt with in the political arena,” Noy said.

“We are hoping that Mayor Barkat does not intend to take advantage of the Lindenstrauss report about Silwan in order to promote or dictate his own plan for the neighborhood.”

The State Comptroller’s Report, released on October 12, found that the explosion of illegal building in the Silwan neighborhood was largely due to lax enforcement by the municipality.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said in the report that illegal buildings in the Al-Bustan neighborhood increased from 13 before 1967 to 130 a few years ago.

The municipality denied the notices were linked to the report.

“[The notices have] absolutely no connection to political events,” Isaacson said.
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