Israel Escalates Demolitions of Palestinians’ Homes in Occupied East Jerusalem

Israeli authorities recently bulldozed the home of a prominent Palestinian human rights activist and elected spokesperson of the Silwan district

Under the cover of the Israeli genocide and ethnic cleansing campaign against the Gaza Strip, which has killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians including more than 12,000 children, Tel Aviv is drastically ramping up home demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem.

According to Al Jazeera, in the eastern side of the city, the Jerusalem municipality has been escalating home demolitions since the brutal Israeli onslaught in Gaza began last year. East Jerusalem, where 362,000 Palestinians live, has been illegally occupied by the Israeli military for almost sixty years along with the rest of the West Bank.

Tel Aviv’s pseudo justification for their organized destruction of Palestinian homes is the claim that these residences are built without permits, which the municipality usually only issues to exclusively Jewish neighborhoods. Therefore, Palestinians are left without options and must build their homes in the absence of these permits, making 28% of their East Jerusalem homes “illegal.” Municipal elections will be held at the end of the month, in a bid to appeal to their Jewish constituencies, activists fear candidates are demanding more Palestinian homes be bulldozed.

The far-right deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Arieh King, is running for mayor and calling to prevent Palestinians from building homes in order to maintain Jewish demographic dominance over the indigenous population. King has previously referred to Palestinians as “subhuman.”

“If King becomes the next mayor in the coming elections, the situation will become quite difficult. He has openly threatened to demolish Palestinian homes and kill Palestinians,” says Fakhri Abu Diab, a prominent Palestinian human rights activist and elected spokesperson of the Silwan district.

Abu Diab’s home was recently bulldozed after 20 or 30 officers stormed his house. He is now homeless along with his children and grandchildren. To have a place to sleep, they are currently relying on friends and relatives.

Moreover, Abu Diab may not be able to afford the cost of his home’s demolition which Israel forces Palestinians to finance in addition to the salaries of the officers who take part in the destruction and evictions. Abu Diab expects to be charged at least $20,000 or $30,000.

Already, most of the Palestinian homes in the area have been ordered to be destroyed. “Before the war, there were roughly 20,000 outstanding demolition orders and those orders never expire,” Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer specializing in these concerns, told Al Jazeera.

Home demolitions are illegal under international law unless deemed necessary for military operations. Israel has imposed a legal structure which allows the systemic abuse to be carried out against the occupied Palestinians.

“There are different mechanisms (to enforce demolitions), each of which ultimately furthers the same objective of forcing Palestinians off their land and maximizing land for Jewish Israelis,” Omar Shakir, the Israel-Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, told the outlet. Shakir highlights the increasing paranoia Palestinians are suffering as demolitions pile up, “the tense atmosphere at the moment is causing [Palestinians to think that] if they have a demolition order, then their home could be [destroyed] next.”

Per Ir Amim, a local non-profit which focuses on the destruction of Palestinian homes, East Jerusalem has seen 87 residences belonging to Palestinians destroyed by Israeli authorities since the October 7 Hamas attack, compared with 97 home demolitions during the first nine months of 2023.

As Amy Cohen, the director of international relations and advocacy for Ir Amim, explains “These [demolitions] are done under the guise of law enforcement – as if it is a bureaucratic measure – but it is actually a form of state violence and it serves as a mechanism of Palestinian displacement to drive them from the city.”

The White House recently reversed course on Israel’s Jewish-only colonies in the West Bank, which are a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and several UN Security Council resolutions.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the exclusivist colonies as “inconsistent with international law,” as Israeli authorities are reportedly planning vast settlement expansions. In 2019, Mike Pompeo, Blinken’s predecessor, had proclaimed the settlements do not violate international law.

Roughly 700,000 settlers are illegally residing in the West Bank including East Jerusalem, local media suggests 3,000 new homes will be built in the occupied territories. Last year, the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set records for settlement construction.

Concurrently, violence is surging in the West Bank as Israel systematically annihilates the Gaza Strip, almost 400 Palestinians have been killed including over 100 children. UNICEF issued a report describing last year as the deadliest year for Palestinian children in the West Bank, all signs are that the ruthless Israeli military raids and settler led pogroms will persist.

Last week, in the occupied West Bank village of Burqa, settlers attacked Palestinian homes with Molotov cocktails and destroyed vehicles while enjoying protection provided by the Israeli occupation forces.

Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on the Conflicts of Interest podcast. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as, Counterpunch, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96.