He occupied East Jerusalem Fakhri Abu Diab didn't have time to pack his issues when Israeli authorities arrived at his door in occupied East Jerusalem on February 14. The police first evicted his household after which ordered a bulldozer to demolish his home.

“All my reminiscences have been in that home,” mentioned Abu Diab, 62, who was born and raised in that home. “I additionally had an image of my mom holding me once I was a child. It was hanging on our wall, however now it's gone.

Within the wake of Israel's devastating struggle in Gaza, the Jerusalem municipality has intensified home demolitions within the east facet of town, which Israel annexed from the occupied West Financial institution in 1967 and the place a lot of the 362,000 Palestinians of Jerusalem lives.

Throughout the first 9 months of 2023, Israel demolished a complete of 97 Palestinian properties. However 87 properties have been destroyed in East Jerusalem since Hamas' lethal assault on Israeli communities and army outposts in southern Israel on October 7 final 12 months, in accordance with Ir Amim, a neighborhood NGO that displays the demolitions. of the homes and the defenders of the Palestinian rights.

The sharp improve in demolitions suggests the Jerusalem municipality is making the most of international consideration on Gaza, the place almost 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, to attempt to uproot extra Palestinians from East Jerusalem, activists and specialists say.

“These [demolitions] are carried out beneath the guise of legislation enforcement – as if it have been a bureaucratic measure – however in actuality it’s a type of state violence and serves as a Palestinian displacement mechanism to take away them from town,” mentioned Amy Cohen, the director of emergency. worldwide relations and the protection of Ir Amim.

Systemic violence

Israel justifies the demolition of Palestinian properties in East Jerusalem by claiming they have been constructed with out permits. The commune often solely permits the bulk Jewish neighborhoods to construct new homes.

Authorized discrimination has compelled Palestinians to construct with out permits, making 28 p.c of Palestinian properties in East Jerusalem “unlawful.”

Israeli authorities have issued orders to demolish most of them, in accordance with Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer who focuses on authorized and public points in East Jerusalem.

“Earlier than the struggle, there have been about 20,000 pending demolition orders and people orders by no means expire,” Seidemann informed Al Jazeera.

Home demolitions are prohibited by worldwide legislation except they’re mandatory for army operations. However Omar Shakir, the Israel-Palestine director of Human Rights Watch, mentioned Israel has created a authorized construction to permit it to demolish Palestinian properties.

“There are totally different mechanisms (to implement demolitions), every of which finally promotes the identical objective of forcing Palestinians off their land and maximizing land for Israeli Jews,” he informed Al Jazeera.

Since October 7, Seidemann mentioned Palestinians in East Jerusalem have change into noticeably extra afraid of dropping their properties. He cited the perceived improve in racist rhetoric and violent harassment that Israeli politicians and safety officers have proven towards Palestinians.

“The tense ambiance in the intervening time is brought on [Palestinians to think that] if they’ve a demolition order, then their home could possibly be [destroyed] later,” he mentioned.

Sending a message

The demolition of Abu Diab's residence added to that concern, specialists and activists say.

Abu Diab, is, himself, a human rights activist and the elected spokesman of Silwan, a district that represents about 60,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Residents depend on him to talk out towards residence demolitions and different types of systemic discrimination Palestinians face by the hands of the Israeli occupation authorities.

“This isn’t the primary time the Israelis have focused him,” mentioned Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, the Israeli co-director with Abu Diab of Jahalin Solidarity, a neighborhood group that tries to forestall the compelled displacement of Palestinians. “He was put in jail on one event and on one other event his son was arrested. The message was 'Inform your father to close up.'

“I requested Abu Diab later [Israel] demolish his home if he stops speaking. He mentioned: “I’ll discuss much more now,” Godfrey-Goldstein informed Al Jazeera.

Fakhri Abou Diab drinks tea and greets friends in al-Aqsa Mosque [Mat Nashed/Al Jazeera]
Fakhri Abu Diab drinks tea and greets buddies within the Al-Aqsa Mosque [Mat Nashed/Al Jazeera]

Palestinian and Israeli activists consider that advocacy to guard Palestinian properties is required now greater than ever. With municipal elections approaching on February 27, Abu Diab believes that candidates could also be intentionally referred to as to demolish extra homes to enchantment to their constituents.

He mentioned he fears that far-right candidate Arieh King, who’s at present Jerusalem's deputy mayor, may change into the subsequent mayor. King has already said that he goals to restrict the development of Palestinian properties to guard the character of Israel as a Jewish state. In December, he posted on X, calling Palestinians “subhuman.”

“If King turns into the subsequent mayor within the subsequent elections, the scenario will change into fairly troublesome. He has overtly threatened to demolish Palestinian properties and kill Palestinians,” mentioned Abu Diab.

“There can be a response”

Abu Diab mentioned he owes his life to Godfrey-Goldstein and different activists for shortly alerting journalists and human rights organizations when police raided his residence. I consider that the police may have significantly injured or killed if that they had not been those that arrived to video the demolition.

“My spouse was sleeping when about 20 or 30 officers burst in. We’re traumatized by what we skilled,” he informed Al Jazeera.

However whereas Abu Diab survived, he and his household — youngsters and grandchildren — are actually homeless. He informed Al Jazeera that he sleeps within the homes of buddies and kinfolk in his group, typically shifting from one residence to a different.

Abu Diab can be frightened that he might not be capable to afford the demolition. Israeli authorities often demand that Palestinian residents pay for the bulldozing of their properties, in addition to the salaries of cops who’re deployed to evict residents and safe the premises.

Abu Diab expects the whole invoice to quantity to $20,000 or $30,000. Nonetheless, his rapid precedence is looking for a brand new residence for his grandchildren, who’re too younger to know why they’re homeless.

His two-year-old granddaughter just lately requested him why the police destroyed his home. He mentioned he had no thought the way to reply.

Though he tries to remain robust for his household, Abu Diab worries in regards to the future, and warned that Palestinians in East Jerusalem will ultimately erupt in anger if Israeli authorities proceed to step up residence demolitions.

“There can be a backlash,” he informed Al Jazeera. “Individuals can't put up with this for lengthy.”

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