New UN Report urges Israel to tackle Palestinian housing crisis in East Jerusalem
1 May 2009 – The United Nations humanitarian wing has urged Israel to address the housing crisis in East Jerusalem, where current building policies and house demolitions have left Palestinians with a serious housing shortage.
The crisis is due to the failure of Israel to provide Palestinian residents with adequate planning, together with the expropriation of about one third of annexed East Jerusalem lands for the construction of settlements, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says in its latest report regarding the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.
While about 190,000 Israel settlers currently live in East Jerusalem, Palestinians face significant obstacles to building and are confronted with a serious housing shortage, according to the report, entitled “The Planning Crisis in East Jerusalem: Understanding the Phenomenon of ‘Illegal’ Construction.”
Excessive delays, high fees and the uncertainty associated with the application process push many Palestinians to build without permits. According to OCHA’s conservative estimate, as many as 60,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem are now exposed to the risk of house demolition.
The report notes with concern the accelerating pace of demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures in East Jerusalem and their consequences for Palestinian populations.
Families displaced as a result of these demolitions, OCHA says, are left in psychological distress and in situations of increased vulnerability due to the loss of their primary asset, debts, legal fees and heavy fines imposed by the Jerusalem municipality.
The Office underlines that Israel, as the occupying power, must ensure that the basic needs of the Palestinian population of the occupied territory are met.
The report recommends that the Israeli authorities freeze pending demolition orders, as well as undertake planning that will address the Palestinian housing crisis in East Jerusalem.