Greenwashing the occupation: Palestinian homes demolished in Jerusalem for Israeli park
The Israeli-run Jerusalem municipality has carried out yet another demolition of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem.
A structure used to house workers at an open site that sells construction materials in Wadi el-Joz in occupied East Jerusalem was demolished on Monday to make way for a "park," read a sign left at the site.
Several signs were placed near the location of the demolition, notifying the public that the area is "owned" by the Jerusalem municipality and that the Nature and Parks Authority is conducting work to "develop it for the benefit of the public."
Earlier in the month, municipal crews demolished three homes in the same area in Wadi el-Joz belonging to Palestinians for lack of a building permit. Palestinian residents and rights groups say the Israeli authorities' direction is evident: Clear as many homes from the area as possible and deny residential development to Palestinians.
At least 64 structures have been demolished so far this year in East Jerusalem alone.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Jerusalem municipality plan to turn substantial swathes of land outside the Old City walls in occupied East Jerusalem into "National Park land."
The plan targets the slopes of the Mount of Olives, Silwan, Wadi El-Joz and other neighbourhoods, all in occupied East Jerusalem. The recent moves by the Jerusalem municipality and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority rely on old plans made after Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and later modified to include even larger areas.
"These are various mechanisms used by Israel in East Jerusalem to entrench its sovereignty, to marginalize non-Jewish presence and to prevent much-needed development of Palestinian neighborhoods thereby increasing the pressure to push them out of the Old City basin," several Israeli rights groups warned in a joint report.
The Franciscan, Greek and Armenian Orthodox Churches own some of the land allocated for the national park. About 20 Christian sites are either in the area set for the National Park, enveloped by it or adjacent to it on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. In addition, the National Park includes a Catholic cemetery in the Kidron Valley and the Papal Garden.
Interestingly, however, a Jewish cemetery in the same area was excluded from the plan because religious authorities managing the cemetery opposed it and prevented its inclusion.
Nour Edin Amro, a visually impaired man in his sixties, lives with his family in Wadi el-Joz. His home is mere steps away from the Tota'ah's homes, which were demolished in the first week of March.
Nour Edin's troubles with the Israeli authorities started in 2015. That year, the Nature and Parks Authority partially demolished his home, claiming that the area was designated for a park. Then in May 2022, as work on a new road adjacent to his home began, the Jerusalem municipality sent the Amro family a demolition notice.
However, Nour Edin showed that his house was built before 1967, and the demolition notice is now on hold.
"Municipal contractors began harassing us and telling us that this building is not suited to be a home," Nour Edin told The New Arab.
As roadworks were in progress, a municipal contractor stored building materials on Nurredin's property and dug deep holes in front of his home to install industrial-sized garbage containers on his property.
Nouredin says the Jerusalem Municipality wants to make his home unlivable, so he'll abandon it.
Following the recent demolitions in the area, Nour Edin feels it's only a matter of time before the Jerusalem municipality and the Israel nature and parks authority return.
"An employee of the nature and parks authority told residents of this neighbourhood in a threatening manner that this area is designated since the 1970s to be a biblical park... they don't want to see houses here," Nour Edin said.