National park land-grabs from two East Jerusalem neighborhoods

Israel/Palestine
on 9 Comments
parkplan
National park/nature reserves. (Map: Settlement Watch East Jerusalem)

Last week, Israel opened a new checkpoint, ramped up plans to cut the West Bank in half, and stripped up to 70,000 Palestinians of their Jerusalem IDs.  This week, Israel is taking another step in purging East Jerusalem of its Palestinians– with a national park.

The Jerusalem municipality announced plans for Mount Scopus Slopes National Park, land-grabbing 750 dunams (nearly 200 acres) from the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Al-Isawiyyah and Al-Tur. The reserve was approved by the Jerusalem District Planning Committee last April, but only now were the plans made public. 

The land grab can take place in part because both Al-Isawiyyah and Al-Tur are on privately-owned land. And, in general, Palestinians live on private land, while Jewish Israelis live on state land. In this two-tiered system, Palestinians are constantly at risk from Israeli planners. When land is re-zoned to a national park, structures such as homes, and even roads are open for demolition.

The new national park will also create a barrier between Al-Isawiyyah and Al-Tur. As of now, there is open access between the two neighborhoods. The national park, however, will not interfere with transportation to settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank–because the tunnel road to Ma’ale Adumim runs under the Palestinian land.

Bimkom, an Israeli “planning rights” NGO, worked with the residents of Al-Isawiyyah to help expand housing construction in the village. While working with Al-Isawiyyah, Bimkom discovered the Nature and Parks Authority was simultaneously working with the municipality to re-zone a chunk of the Palestinian village. Bimkom architect Efrat Cohen-Bar said:

The Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are crowded and they suffer from neglect and extreme shortage of public infrastructure. The residents are in desperate need of space by means of which they can improve their quality of life, even if slightly. The designation of land as a national park is a powerful and unjustified planning tool that is harmful for the population of East Jerusalem.

Together, Bimkom and Al-Isawiyyah attempted to reach an agreement with the municipality on land use, mitigating the land grab. However, the District Planning Committee rejected the proposal and went ahead with a more substantial land grab. Bimkom notes there are additional advantages to the Jerusalem municipalities:

The first advantage is that the declaration of an area as a national park does not require land expropriation and, as a result, it does not entail compensation of land owners. The second advantage is manifested by the fact that the responsibility for development and enforcement is transferred from the municipal authority to the National Planning Authority (NPA).

Meaning, not only does the land grab narrow the amount of space Palestinians can live on, but the city is also is absolved of obligations to pay for anything, such as road repairs, or the education of any children living on the re-zoned land.  National parks are advantageous on many fronts!

In East Jerusalem there are eight nature reserves in place or planned, totaling about 35% of East Jerusalem. These areas were at one time under Palestinian control; however, Palestinians no longer have the legal right to the land or a direct channel to appeal the confiscation. Local district committees make the decisions to re-designate the land. But once the new permit is issued, grievances can only be addressed to the National Planning Authority. It is nearly impossible to reverse the status of a nature reserve.

ayn hawd
‘Ayn Hawd, re-zoned a nature reserve in 1974. (Photo: New Internationalist)

There is only one case where the Israeli government reversed a decision to re-zone Palestinian land as a nature reserve. In 1974 ‘Ayn Hawd al-Jadidah, a Palestinian village near Haifa (where Palestinians who were forced out of their original village of ‘Ayn Hawd relocated after the Nakba) was re-zoned as a nature reserve.  This change in status rendered the village “unrecognized.” The village was then barred from legal access to water, electricity, and sanitation. Even paved roads inside the village became illegal.  This same status of “unrecognized,” now applies to the homes in Al-Isawiyyah and Al-Tur, situated in the area now zoned for a national park.

In 1994 ‘Ayn Hawd was finally re-zoned back to residential use, although it took until 2007 for electricity to reach the village. As ‘Ayn Hawd is the only “model” for villages reversing a re-zoning order, the prospects for Al-Isawiyyah and Al-Tur are almost non-existent.  What is clear, is that there is no recourse, no appeals process, no way to contest the expropriation– and no way that Palestinians in East Jerusalem, who live in a home they own, are safe from the Judaization process.

9 Responses

  1. eljay
    January 6, 2012, 7:54 pm

    >> Meaning, not only does the land grab narrow the amount of space Palestinians can live on, but the city is also is absolved of obligations to pay for anything, such as road repairs, or the education of any children living on the re-zoned land. National parks are advantageous on many fronts!

    Don’t think of it as a “necessary” wrong – think of it as a “liberation”. Sure, the theme of stopping the rape first has “some merit”, but once “enough Israel” has been achieved and everyone has had their chance to “primarily celebrate”, aggrieved parties will have their day before a color-blind court to discuss whatever nuances may pop into their dirty little Arab heads. Anything else is just so much “academic speculation”.

  2. Annie Robbins
    January 7, 2012, 11:02 am

    it’s articles like this that make me feel defeated. but we’re not. it will just strengthen our resolve to end the ethnic cleansing of palestine.

    i wonder if the usual gang of apartheid defenders will avoid this comment section altogether or if they will come and try to whitewash this like they do everything else.

    on the bright side, great reporting allison.

    • eee
      January 7, 2012, 12:20 pm

      Annie,

      No need to whitewash anything. Israel has said over and over again that it views the area of Jerusalem as part of Israel in any border settlement. Just as the Palestinians do not want to negotiate while Israel eats the pizza, Israel will not wait for the pizza to get cold while the Palestinians decided when they are willing to negotiate. The parts of the pizza that Israel believes will belong to it, will be exploited.

      • eljay
        January 7, 2012, 5:30 pm

        >> Just as the Palestinians do not want to negotiate while Israel eats the pizza, Israel will not wait for the pizza to get cold while the Palestinians decided when they are willing to negotiate.

        Leave it to a hateful and immoral Zio-supremacist like eee to gloss over the fact that Israel remains unwilling to enter into sincere negotiations for a just and mutually-beneficial peace, while reducing Israel’s 60+ years, ON-GOING and offensive (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder to unilaterally-justified pizza eating.

        >> The parts of the pizza that Israel believes will belong to it, will be exploited.

        And since Israel believes that the entire “Promised Pizza” belongs to it, “enough Israel” means no pizza for the Palestinians.

      • justicewillprevail
        January 7, 2012, 10:16 pm

        eeeeeeeee, how long are you going to hang on to your utterly feeble excuses which you make without any evidence. The palestinians have offered concession after concession. Israel is not remotely interested in negotiation, nor does it have any right to annex Jerusalem, which is home to Palestinians. Forget your stupid pizza analogy, and maybe read many of the excellent reports on this site. Otherwise, give up your pathetic old cliches. You are uninterested in anything except your own self-aggrandisement – no surprise there.

      • MLE
        January 7, 2012, 11:16 pm

        eee,

        Then just give up, announce Israel and Palestine are one state and then you can show the rest of the world what a real democracy you are.

        I really hope you see the day when your nieghborhood fills up with Arab families raising lots of kids in it. When you get tired of that, you could always move to Arizona… The people there seem to share a lot of your world views.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 8, 2012, 1:02 pm

        Just as the Palestinians do not want to negotiate while Israel eats the pizza, Israel will not wait for the pizza to get cold while the Palestinians decided when they are willing to negotiate.

        that’s hysterical eee. where do you come up w/this crap? is this the new hasbara? claiming palestinians won’t negotiate? negotiate what exactly? israel won’t even make a proposal.

        the palestine papers pretty much put the nail in the coffin of the ‘no partner for peace’ hasbara bs. and what’s this about a cold pizza. do you think the land of palestine is going to freeze over if you don’t build settlements fast enough?

    • Carllarc
      January 7, 2012, 5:41 pm

      I totally agree with Annie. Israel is inventing new and improved ways of screwing the Palestinian people — preferably all under the radar. This zoning method seems particularly insidious; pure, unadulterated slime.

      I find myself wondering what the ultimate thinking may be about what will be done with those ‘pesky’ Palestinians. is the plan to put them on small patch reservations on particularly useless land and then expect a ‘thank you’; this will only be for the ‘good’ Palestinians, but only as resident aliens. The ungrateful, ‘bad’ Palestinians will have to go somewhere else, who cares where; but their land stays with Israel.

      eee, your full of ….. .

  3. Allison Deger
    Allison Deger
    January 7, 2012, 5:01 pm

    eee, on Israel viewing Jerusalem as part of Israel: Yes this is true, but the process of land confiscation through the use of national parks/nature reserves is not specific to E. Jerusalem. There are over 60 national parks in Israel, and four in the West Bank: link to parks.org.il

    The process of re-zoning is a mechanism that is used in expropriation of land, which is then nationalized by the state. Palestinians are driven off, and either need to find new places to live in over crowded villages, or they continue to live in an “unrecognized” status. There are over 150 unrecognized villages in Israel, most are in the Negev and from the get-go (1948), were not officially “recognized” by the state. But many in the north, Wadi Ara and the Galilee, became “unrecognized” through this process that is currently taking place in East Jerusalem.

    Back to the Israeli national parks in the West Bank: In terms of land code, which means who can live where, and how land is used, Israel does not recognize difference between the WB and “Israel proper.” There is an Israeli district of Judea and Samaria, just like there is a Haifa district that approves the nature reserves.

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