ACRI to High Court: Stop village home demolitions

Petition due to be heard July 30 with fate of Palestinian village Khirbat Zanuta in balance.

By
July 22, 2012 20:20
3 minute read.
A demolished Palestinian home [illustrative]

A demolished Palestinian home in east Jerusalem 370 (R). (photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)

 
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The Association for Civil Rights in Israel released a statement on Sunday regarding its petition to stop demolitions of Palestinian residences in the village of Khirbat Zanuta in Area C of the West Bank.

The petition, due to be heard July 30 before the High Court of Justice, was initially filed by ACRI in 2007 on behalf of the village residents. In response, the court then issued a temporary restraining order against demolitions by the state.

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Last year, another NGO called Regavim filed an amicus curiae brief (“friend of the court” or legal brief filed by an outside party to inform a court about possibly overlooked legal issues) in an attempt to move the case forward and execute the demolitions. Shortly thereafter, the state responded to ACRI’s petition, leading to next week’s hearing on the issue.

In April 2012, the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria issued additional demolition orders for new structures in the village.

Another controversy between ACRI and the civil administration is that ACRI argues that the new structures are already protected by the court’s prior order temporarily restraining demolitions in the village.

In contrast, the administration argues that only structures existing at the time of the court order in 2007 were protected by it.

In order to stop or slow the demolition of any new structures, the administration says that ACRI would need to file a new petition and go through all of the court’s procedures from the start of a new case.

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According to ACRI, Khirbat Zanuta is a small Palestinian village in the southern hills of Hebron, whose 39 families earn their living shepherding and have lived in their current location for several generations, long before the Six Day War in 1967.

ACRI contends that the civil administration has put the villagers in a catch-22 by on one hand, rejecting any applications for permits for a master plan to legalize building residences there, and on the other hand, issuing demolition orders because any constructed residences are by definition illegal.

The administration claims that there is no justification for a master plan that would incorporate Zanuta, citing among other things the village’s small size, the existence of archeological ruins on the premises and the relatively long distance between the village and the town of Dahariya.

In general, Israeli policy toward Area C of the West Bank is strongest in its opposition to Palestinian building of new structures, since Area C has not been handed over to Palestinian Authority security or political control like Areas A and B – and also because the parts of the West Bank that Israel will likely to seek to hold onto in a final borders agreement are part of Area C.

According to Regavim, since early 2008 the High Court has issued 162 interim orders against demolition of illegally constructed Palestinian buildings in the West Bank. It notes that once the court issues an interim order against demolition, in practice the state often indefinitely defers challenging the temporary orders and pushing through the demolitions.

Regavim accused the State Attorney’s Office of permitting systematic delay, in contradiction of what the NGO characterizes as enforcing “the rule of law and public interest.”

Regavim has gone as far as to imply, without presenting more than general evidence, that the state purposely creates delays in order to ultimately prevent the demolition orders from begin carried out.

Upon noting what it refers to as the state’s “phenomenon” of delay, Regavim filed a series of legal briefs covering 162 cases that it defined as delayed demolition cases which need to move forward.

In the particular case of Zanuta, Regavim complains that new construction is damaging antiquities in the area.

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