The Truth about Home Demolitions and Caterpillar

Eugene Korn, director of Jewish Affairs at the American Jewish Congress and adjunct professor of Jewish thought at Seton Hall University writes:

On Wednesday, Caterpillar Inc. will hold its stockholder meeting in Chicago. Some have proposed a resolution for Caterpillar to stop selling its products to Israel, part of a wider campaign by some churches to weaken Israel by pressing for selective divestment of companies selling products to the Jewish state. People of moral character take stands based on their moral principles. But such moral stands must be both credible and sound, and the divestment initiatives are neither. When Israelis and Palestinians are moving toward peace through direct discussion and increased understanding, outside parties should not interfere via partisan pressure. Do Christians really want to be seen as obstructive outsiders obstructing peace and healing?

Based on previous calls for a boycott of the US-based Caterpillar Inc. “human rights” NGOs have joined with a number of extreme political groups in a “Day of Action” scheduled for 13 April 2005. The program and pretexts for this activity continue the previous practice used by groups such as HRW and Amnesty, in which the context of terrorism against Israelis and the ongoing conflict has been entirely erased. The result is a distorted indictment of Israel, which again exploits the language of universal human rights to promote the “South Africa strategy” designed to brand Israel as an “apartheid state”.

The Stop Caterpillar group lists the organizations contributing to the campaign, and HRW has acknowledged that the organization “will participate in the press conference in Chicago on the day of action against Caterpillar.”

Also involved are blatantly pro-Palestinian groups such as the International Solidarity Movement and Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. In addition, a number of church groups are listed including the Presbyterian Church, which has been at the forefront of efforts to promote divestment from Israel amongst Christian groups.

Folks, one of the hallmarks of journalism is to independently verify info before printing a “fact.” Otherwise, readers are only being treated to rumors, accusations and even propaganda.

But, folks, here’s the truth behind home demolitions:

In the absence of regulated planning, building activity in eastern Jerusalem was permitted under provision 78 of the Planning and Construction Law. This is a provision that was intended to allow for the ad hoc solution of problems, for a limited time, until orderly plans were drawn up. In effect, the use of this provision was wholesale, with almost no limitations. Arab construction developed at random, unregulated building without any neighborhood planning; a few stone houses of one or two stories scattered over a steep topography; a few winding, unpaved access roads and cesspools serving many households instead of an orderly sewer and drainage system. Only in the mid-1980s did the procedures for authorizing master plans for the Arab neighborhoods go into high gear. This happened when illegal construction by Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem was in full swing and only after Israeli policy makers understood that they had the short end of the stick.

Illegal construction spread over large areas, blocked the routes of planned roads and prevented the possibility of orderly planning both for the Jews and for the Arabs.

When the “intifada” broke out, illegal Arab construction in Jerusalem turned from building that was done out of distress because of the housing shortage to building that was done out defiance against Israeli rule. With the decision to build the Jewish neighborhood at Har Homa, illegal Arab construction expanded to a magnitude unknown, with the backing of the Palestinian Authority. Feisal al Husseini spoke about this almost openly: “The most important Palestinian activity at this time is building, even without permits,” said the leader most identified with the Arabs of eastern Jerusalem. Husseini’s words were an understatement.

At first, the work was carried out on Saturdays, when the municipal inspectors were not on duty, and at nighttime, illuminated by spotlights behind jute screens, for fear of Israeli law enforcement. But when it became clear that in effect there was no Israeli law in eastern Jerusalem, and in particular no planning and construction laws, building activity began to proceed in the light of day. This was systematic, organized and very rapid construction, intended to close off open spaces; it was construction for generations, and the most irreversible fait accompli on the part of the Palestinians.

Al Zaim and Anata sprawl rapidly toward one another, and the aim is to block off the E-1 area, which was designated to connect Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem. In the East Gate area, land that is slated for appropriation, the Palestinians are building at a dizzying rate, and here too the intention is clear: to link Shuafat with the narrow corridor, hundreds of meters long, that still remains vacant near the French Hill junction.

In Beit Hanina and in Shuafat, within the Jerusalem municipal boundaries, thousands of housing units have gone up. Along Highway One North, which goes to East Pisgat Ze’ev, the Palestinian residents of Beit Hanina are also building at an accelerated pace.

Today, when there are at long last master plans for most of the neighborhoods of easternJerusalem, the Jerusalem municipality is finding that it is impotent. The Arabs of eastern Jerusalem have ceased almost entirely to apply for building permits. The municipality, for its part, is issuing few demolition orders and is largely refraining from carrying out the court orders that have been issued at its request, principally because of restraints at the national government level. This was the case during the era of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and it is the case today.

Folks, more than 20,000 building violations have been documented in eastern Jerusalem since the Six Day War. Taking into account that the vast majority of building violations in eastern Jerusalem involve the
construction of new buildings or the addition of stories, this means that about two-thirds of all the existing construction in eastern Jerusalem was undertaken without permits and illegally.

And here are some additional thought-provoking figures: During the years 1994-1998, when Ehud Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem, nearly 4,000 illegal buildings and stories went up in eastern Jerusalem, but the mayor signed only 205 demolition orders.

The greatest irony is that today, when parts of eastern Jerusalem are already planned and it would in theory be possible to issue building permits there, illegal Arab construction is breaking new records every month. The municipality says that it is possible to issue and implement nearly 14,000 building permits in eastern Jerusalem, but the Arabs are no longer applying for them. In 1998, for example, nearly 1,500 new buildings or stories went up in eastern Jerusalem without permits. During the course of that year only 320 people from eastern Jerusalem applied to the municipality for building permits. Of these requests, 254 were granted, and nearly all of these were carried out. The 38 demolition orders that were signed in 1998 were not carried out, apart from two.

The Interior Ministry has also almost entirely ceased to demolish. In 1998, the ministry issued 201 administrative demolition orders for illegal buildings that went up in eastern Jerusalem, but only 5 percent of them were carried out. The Interior Ministry demolished only nine buildings.

The illegal Arab construction sprawls not only over areas in eastern Jerusalem which now, after many long years, have been formally slated by the municipality for residential construction and where the municipality does not even send inspectors, but also over areas designated for public use, roads, green spaces, agricultural lands and even antiquities sites in the area of the historical City of David in Silwan.

So, folks, you’re going to blame Caterpillar? Uh-unh. Blame the Arabs. They are the ones building illegal buildings without proper plumbing. They’re creating their own cesspools. No one else is to blame; not Caterpillar, not the Jews, but instead the Jew-hating Arab population.

Stopping Sale of Products to Israel Isn’t Path to Peace

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *