'W. Bank housing policy is a 'Judaization strategy''

UN investigator in J'lem accuses Israel of imposing strategy in W.Bank, east J'lem, areas within pre-67 lines.

Palestinian homes demolished 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Palestinian homes demolished 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
A UN investigator on Sunday accused Israel of imposing a “strategy of Judaization” in its housing policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, as well as in areas of the country within the pre-1967 lines.
Israeli activity against Negev Beduin and Palestinians in both east Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank “are the new frontiers of dispossession of the traditional inhabitants and the implementation of a strategy of Judaization and control of the territory,” said Raquel Rolnik, a special UN rapporteur on adequate housing.
She spoke at a Jerusalem press conference as she wrapped up a two-week visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Rolnik plans to submit a full report on Israel’s housing policies to the UN Human Rights Council, which will debate the issue in March 2013.
But her initial findings, she said, already indicates “that the Israeli planning, development and land system now violates the right to adequate housing.”
This was true, Rolnik said, both for Palestinians, minority groups and all low-income individuals, who are finding it increasingly hard to find affordable housing.
The state owns 93 percent of the land in Israel, she said, so the government could have policies that allow for adequate affordable housing.
Israel had an “impressive” housing record in the past, Rolnik said, but it changed its policies on affordable housing over the last two decades. Since then, the situation has deteriorated, she said.
State land is now tendered for the highest price to maximize profitability, Rolnik said.
In addition, the Beduin and Palestinians suffer from discriminatory practices, including land expropriation, she said.
In east Jerusalem, Palestinians can apply for building permits on only 13% of the area, Rolnik said.
“The number of permits issued is grossly inadequate to housing needs, leading many Palestinians to build without obtaining a permit,” she said.
As a result, tens of thousands of Palestinians’ homes are at risk of being demolished, she added.
More than 70% of the demolitions in Jerusalem are carried out against Palestinian residents, even though they make up only 20% of the infractions, Rolnik said.
In the West Bank, security and administrative measures result in the demolition of Palestinian homes, she said, and also limit Palestinian growth and access to livelihood and services.
Rolnik said she was concerned by plans to forcibly relocate the Jahalin Beduin who live in the area near Ma’aleh Adumim.
Last year, Israel demolished 622 Palestinian structures, including 222 that were family homes, she said, and 1,094 people were displaced. “This is almost double the number from 2010,” she said.
The largest number of demolitions occurred in the Jordan Valley, she said.
She also took issue with plans by Palestinians to construct a new city in the West Bank, called Rawabi, because it will not provide affordable housing to “numerous communities living in inadequate conditions.”
Overall, Israeli housing policy in the West Bank had been shaped by security concerns, Rolnik said.
“But certainly the nondemocratic and discriminatory elements in Israeli spatial planning and urban strategies appear to contribute to deepening of the conflict instead of promoting peace,” she said.
The Foreign Ministry, which assisted Rolnik during her visit, took issue with her comments.
Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said her statements “manifest such a profound misunderstanding of basic realities that one really feels obliged to request the honorable rapporteur to go back to square one and do her homework properly.”