A Palestinian family residing in United Nations trailers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina following the demolition of their home will once again be homeless. The Israeli government has ordered the demolition of their emergency shelter. Nir Hasson reports in Haaretz the Jerusalem municipality intends to evict the Salma family from the two structures provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), despite no apparent violations to Israel’s slanted housing codes:
OCHA officials said the trailers, in the Beit Hanina neighborhood, do not require a license from the municipality because they are not hooked up to city utilities or attached to foundations and they are a stopgap, emergency solution only for the homeless families in each one.
But the municipality and the Foreign Ministry dismissed OCHA’s explanations, saying the move constitutes a ratcheting up of intervention in Jerusalem by an international agency.
‘Israel is not a banana republic, but a state of law and order,’ the municipality said in a statement. ‘The UN can help to advance the residents’ quality of life in keeping with the law and we hope the construction violation at the site is not in accordance with the UN.’
The trailers bear OCHA’s emblem as well as the flags of HRF’s donor countries: Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Spain, The Netherlands and Ireland. Municipal officials said the flags were a ploy to embroil Israel in embarrassing pictures of destroying trailer homes donated by friendly states.
The Salma’s first lost their home when their two residential units were demolished in December 2011 and January 2012. The land where they live is not coded for residential use, meaning the family can either stay in temporary structures without access to the city’s mainframe of services, or move off their land. Then in May 2012 OCHA stepped in with a creative solution for Palestinians in faced with the dilemma of owning property on sites where Israel refuses building permits. Taking an assertive role, the UN agency donated two trailers, enabling the family to remain on their land and use electricity.
The Israeli authorities say the UN is overstepping their mandate. But both Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post attribute the demolition orders in part to Israeli anger over an OCHA employee who Tweeted a 2006 picture of a Palestinian girl killed by Israeli blasts in Gaza.
Tensions have grown in the past year between OCHA and the government, particularly after an OCHA information officer, Kuhlood Badawi, in March tweeted a picture of a Palestinian child covered in blood.
The Israeli newspaper then reasserted the hasbara-ite narrative over the image:
The picture, it emerged, was published in 2006 by Reuters and was of a Palestinian girl who died in an accident unrelated to Israel.
However, the original Reuters article from 2006 does indicate the child was killed due to Israeli fire:
The head of the Palestinian ambulance service, Muawiyah Hassanein, said the girl fell from a swing at her home near the scene of the attack that killed two gunmen. He believed the girl had fallen because of the sound of the blast.
In March 2012 Khulood Badawi circulated the image of Raja Abu Shaban who died after Israeli rockets knocked her off of playground equipment. Badawi’s Tweet included the caption: “Palestine is bleeding. Another child killed by #Israel. Another father carrying his child to a grave in #Gaza,” and did not stipulate the image was from 2006, not 2012. Immediately, hasbara-ites and Israel’s military mouthpieces called for her dismal, claiming Badawi was an “extremist” and a liar, even though Badawi’s Tweet contained no inaccuracies.
Still the demolition orders are most alarming not because of the whispers of retribution against the UN agency, but due to the lack of violations to housing codes. When the Planning and Building Act of 1965 was passed it included the pre-approval of home demolitions, homeowner jail time, and fines for houses without permits. At the time the laws were tilted to affect Palestinian stone and concrete houses, and therefore emergency shelters like the OCHA trailers, or in some cases tents, skate under the radar of the law. But now, with the orders against the trailers, even the last type of legal housing options for Palestinians is being criminalized.