East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, October 21.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Jerusalem Municipality on Monday denied reports in the Arab media that an illegally built mosque in the flashpoint east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan has been cited for demolition.
Last week, the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan and Ma’an News Agency claimed that demolition orders were delivered by municipal officials on Friday for the three-year-old al-Qaaqaa Mosque, which was built without a permit.
Noting the highly sensitive and volatile geopolitical underpinnings involved in razing a mosque, Arab officials condemned the purported municipal order as a reckless provocation that would result in a conflagration of violence.
However, on Monday a municipal spokesperson said that while the city’s Licensing and Supervision Department left a notice on the mosque’s door requesting that its owner contact the municipality to discuss the illegal structure, no demolition was ordered.
“A notice from the Licensing and Supervision Department asking whoever owns the building to contact the municipality was placed on the door, but no mosque has been ordered to be demolished,” the official said.
Asked to comment about the perception that exponentially more illegally built Arab structures are ordered to be demolished in the eastern portion of the capital compared to the west, the official provided data from the period of 2011 to June of this year stating otherwise.
According to the report issued by the Licensing and Supervision Department, 70 structures in west Jerusalem were demolished in 2011, compared to 10 in east Jerusalem; in 2012, 42 structures were demolished in the west, compared to 22 in the east; in 2013, 54 were demolished in the west, compared to 25 in the east; in 2014, 30 structures were demolished both in the west and east; and from January to June of this year, 26 structures have been demolished in the west, compared to 17 in the east.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has repeatedly stated that no distinction is made by the municipality between illegally built structures anywhere in the capital.
Nonetheless, former east Jerusalem portfolio head and Meretz councilman, Dr. Meir Margalit, contended on Monday that legally obtaining a building permit in east Jerusalem is nearly impossible, which is why so many Palestinians build illegally.
“The main problem is that in east Jerusalem there is no master plan, which they need in order to get licenses,” said Margalit, who recently published a book on the subject. “According to Israeli law, without a master plan it’s almost impossible to get a building permit.”