Palestinian self-home demolitions: 'A new level of depravity'

Facing fines and jail time, East Jerusalem brothers see no other option than to demolish their homes themselves.

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    Wadi Qadoum, occupied East Jerusalem - Murad and Johar Hashimeh spent most of Friday removing all the furniture, clothes and other belongings from a room of their modest home in East Jerusalem's Wadi Qadoum neighbourhood.

    On Saturday, a bulldozer is set to arrive to demolish the room they've lived in for more than 20 years.

    In 1998, the Palestinian brothers built an addition to the small home they grew up in to make it large enough for them and their wives and kids.

    After they built the addition, they split the entire space into two apartments for each of their families.

    Soon after, they received a notification from the Israeli authorities stating that the additional section they built lacked the required building permit and must be demolished.

    "Unfortunately obtaining a permit requires difficult procedures and the costs are too high," 38-year-old Murad told Al Jazeera.

    Murad is a father of four and unemployed. His lungs, he said, work at a 20 percent capacity and he cannot hold a job.

    After exhausting all legal options in June, when the Israeli court ruled that additional floor must be demolished before December 10, Murad and Johar made the difficult decision to demolish the additional apartments themselves.

    Self-demolition is the cheaper option, Murad said, adding that if the room were not demolished before the deadline, the Israeli authorities would do it anyway, as well as impose a fine and jail time for his brother Johar.

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    Saturday's demolition and the moving of furniture will cost the family around about $10,000. If they chose not to demolish the building, they would be fined about $16,000 by Israel.

    "This is going to be a hard reality for us also because it is winter and I have little children, and also we will be all living in one room and with the kids going to school it is going be very difficult," Murad's wife, Oum Taqi, told Al Jazeera.

    She added that her family have made plans to stay with her parents for now.

    The brothers worry about the part of the home spared from the demolition. They said the walls will probably crack from the force of the bulldozer, adding that the original part of their home won't be suitable for living.

    "I, at the moment, will go to my in-laws and I hope that they bear with me until we are able to sort our situation," Johar told Al Jazeera.

    The older brother and his wife have six children. He works part-time in a bakery.

    Home demolitions are common in East Jerusalem.

    According to Israeli human rights organisation B'tselem, Israel has demolished 782 homes in the past several years, leaving more than 2,000 Palestinians homeless. About 103 additional homes, soon to be 104, were destroyed by the owners to avoid fines.

    Restrictive Israeli policies on home construction in East Jerusalem are part of a wider two-tiered discriminatory Israeli plan aimed at solidifying a Jewish majority in Jerusalem, according to Human Rights Watch.

    "Residency revocations are part of a range of policies that include unlawful settlement expansion, home demolitions, and restrictions on building in the city that have shifted the demographics in East Jerusalem," an HRW report said.

    The Hashimeh family has received some support from donors in the United States and elsewhere.

    A crowdfunding campaign has raised just over $2,000 to help the family with the demolition.

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    "It is a whole new level of depravity when an oppressor makes their victims pay for their own oppression, which is what Israel does by sending bills to Palestinians whose homes were demolished," Nora Lester Morad, who helped organise the campaign, told Al Jazeera.

    "But self-demolition goes even further. It forces Palestinians to participate in the violation of their own rights and physically implement their own dispossession. Self-home demolition is one of the many types of injustices that Israel does that are not well-known outside of Palestine," she added.

    Back in Wadi Qadom, Oum Taqi's hope now is that other families won't have to endure the same situation.

    "Of course, I do not wish this situation on anyone," she said. "I hope Allah keeps it away from others."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News