UN: Israel’s land development model based on racial discrimination
Prof. Raquel Rolnik, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, has concluded this morning (Sunday, February 12th 2012) a two week visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Speaking in Jerusalem this afternoon Prof. Rolink said: “From the Galilee and the Negev to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities promote a territorial development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities, particularly affecting Palestinian communities.” The Rapporteur also added that “Throughout my visit I received repeated complaints regarding lack of housing, threats of demolitions and evictions, overcrowding, the disproportional number of demolitions affecting Palestinian communities side by side with the accelerated development of predominantly Jewish settlements.”
The UN Special Rapporteur was briefed comprehensively by ICAHD Co-Director Itay Epshtain during her two week country visit. Accompanied by ICAHD staff, Prof. Rolnik visited demolished Anata homes including the Beit Arabiya Peace Center (Palestinian Homes Demolished – What Can You Do?). Rolink also visited East Jerusalem neighborhoods, Bedouin communities the like of Khan al-Ahmar in the Jerusalem periphery, and the expense of the Jordan Valley.
According to Prof. Rolnik, in East Jerusalem she witnessed the inadequate housing conditions and deficiencies in basic infrastructure faced by Palestinian neighbourhoods and villages. “The policies adopted by Israeli authorities severely restrict Palestinians from building legally through various means. Among others, Israel has not provided Palestinians with the necessary planning framework to ensure that their basic housing and infrastructure needs are met.” she said. Moreover, the number of permits issued is grossly inadequate to housing needs leading many Palestinians to build without obtaining a permit. As a result, numerous Palestinians homes or extensions to these are considered illegal so that the inhabitants are subjected to eviction orders and the demolition of their houses. “Currently tens of thousands of Palestinians are estimated to be at risk of their homes being demolished due to unregulated building. The mere threat of demolition has a profound impact on families and particularly on children, psychological and otherwise.” explained the Rapporteur.
In the West Bank the territorial fragmentation and the severe deterioration of Palestinian standards of living are furthered by decades of accelerated expansion of Israeli settlement units that expropriate land and natural resources. “To a certain extent, these territorial and demographic changes promoted in the West Bank, mirror changes occurred within the Israeli territory after 1948, where Palestinian presence was progressively limited in parallel to a disproportional support to the expansion of Jewish communities.” said Rolnik.Following a visit to the Arab al-Jahalin Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, UN Special Rapporteur Rolink said: “This community, among others in the area of “Greater Jerusalem”, has been informed by the Civil Administration that a master plan has been approved which would lead to their expulsion from the area where they currently live for the expansion of the Ma’ale Adumin settlement. The only school in the area, which was built by the community, is under a demolition order. The community is in great uncertainty regarding its future.”
Prof. Rolnik concluded that after the Oslo agreements, Israel retained official temporary control over the vast majority of the occupied West Bank (Area C). At present, more than half a million Israeli-Jews, have settled in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem. “Throughout my visit, I was able to witness a land development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities in Israel which is being replicated in the occupied territory, affecting Palestinian communities. The Bedouins in the Negev – inside Israel – as well as the new Jewish settlements in area C of the West Bank and inside Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem – are the new frontiers of dispossession of the traditional inhabitants, and the implementation of a strategy of Judaization and control of the territory.”
What it means
email from Helena Cobban to Adam Horowitz, Mondoweiss
What is really interesting is this UN official moving from a laws-of-war (IHL) context for her judgments to using a generalized anti-discrimination frame that extends seamlessly over the (once and former) Green Line.
From one perspective this is very concerning. Under IHL Israel, as the occupying power in East Jerusalem, has no right to move any of its civilian population into OEJ, period. And that would apply whether it implanted a robust mix of Palestinian-Israeli citizens and Jewish-Israeli citizens into OEJ and the rest of the occupied West Bank, or not. (Which of course, it doesn’t.)
From another perspective, this shift from an IHL optic to a general human-rights optic erases the increasingly fictional notion of the Green Line. It focuses an international spotlight on issues of gross housing and land-use discrimination inside as well as outside 1948 Israel… and it opens the way for a much more robust discussion of Palestinian *rights*, as such, and how they may be restored…
Mrs. Raquel Rolnik is an architect and an urban planner, with over 30 years of experience in planning and urban land management. She has a large experience in the implementation and evaluation of housing and urban policies.
Based in Sao Paulo, she is a professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of Sao Paolo and is the author of several books and articles on the urban issue.
In her career, she has held various government positions including Director of the Department of Planning of the city of São Paulo (1989-1992) and National Secretary for Urban Programs of the Brazilian Ministry of Cities (2003-2007) as well as NGO activities, such as Urbanism Coordinator of the Polis Institute (1997-2002). She has advised national and local governments on policy reform and institutional development as well as on planning and management of housing and local development programs.
She was appointed at the 7th session of the Human Rights Council as the second United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. She has taken her functions of Special Rapporteur since 1 May 2008.