The video above is from the new series produced by UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) called Peace Starts Here. UNRWA is the UN agency established in December, 1949 to work with Palestinian refugee communities in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory.
The Peace Starts Here series will eventually tell the story of 15 different refugee families from the communities that UNRWA works with. Here is the text that accompanies the video entitled “Home”:
How does it feel to lose your home? Home is a first-hand account of a family of refugees whose house was demolished before their eyes.
Like many Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem, Ala’a and his family faced insurmountable obstacles when trying to obtain an Israeli building permit to build their home. They were left with practically no choice but to build without a permit, rather than not at all. In 2001 the family moved to their new home in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem. They were fined 70,000 shekels for not having a permit.
Three months after they paid the last installment of this fine, the family received a demolition order for their home. Shortly after that, they watched as their home – and with it their entire life savings – was demolished.
Unfortunately Ala’a’s story is far from unique. Palestinians make up about 30 per cent of Jerusalem’s population but can only apply for permission to build on 13 per cent of the land in the eastern half of the city, much of which is already built-up.
In addition, the number of permits granted to Palestinians each year does not meet demand for housing. The gap – around 1,100 houses each year – has caused a serious housing shortage.
The UN estimates that between 28 and 46 per cent of Palestinian homes could be at risk of demolition.
In 2009, 300 Palestinians, including 149 children, were displaced by house demolitions in East Jerusalem. A third are refugees registered with UNRWA, who now must cope with further displacement and dispossession.
UNRWA seeks to protect refugees against infringements of their human rights, such as eviction, displacement, or restriction of movement. UNRWA monitors violations of international law, including human rights and international humanitarian law, and advocates for the protection of Palestine refugees’ rights. It also provides emergency assistance to victims of house demolitions, evictions, and refugees whose property is damaged as a result of the conflict.