Home demolitions in East Jerusalem have risen dramatically since the election of US President Donald Trump, according to a report in Haaretz. A source in the Jerusalem municipal government confirmed to the newspaper that since the change of administration in the US, restrictions have been lifted and the city government has been allowed to demolish many more structures than during the term of former President Barack Obama. Since the start of 2017, the municipality has demolished over 40 housing units in East Jerusalem, according to data collated by the Ir Amim organization, which studies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the city. In 2016, a total of 203 structures, including 123 housing units, were demolished in the predominantly Arab part of the city. A total of 22 structures were demolished by their owners in order to avoid the fine imposed by the municipality for the demolition.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has announced repeatedly that he intends to advance the preparation of an overall master plan for East Jerusalem neighborhoods to allow legal construction. But such plans have been stalled for years. A new report jointly issued by Ir Amim and another nonprofit studying the situation, Bimkom, documents how proposed plans—including two prepared by the residents themselves—were rejected or indefinitely shelved by municipal authorities. One plan for expanding the area for new homes was rejected to accommodate the planned Mount Scopus Hillside national park, which many Palestinian residents reject as a land-grab.
"The Israeli government does not permit significant legal building plans in Palestinian neighborhoods and presents the Palestinian residents with a cruel choice: To be expelled from their city or to build without a permit and take the risk of demolition and a monetary fine," said Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher for Ir Amim.
Jews versus Jews at Temple Mount
The latest conflict over East Jerusalem's Temple Mount this time actually pitted Jews against each other. A bat mitzvah taking place at the Western Wall bat mitzvah on Feb. 27 was interrupted by whistling protesters who sought to disrupt the coming-of-age ceremony. Young Noa Brenner celebrated her bat mitzvah at the monthly prayer service held by Women of the Wall, a feminist group advocating for egalitarian prayer at the holy site.
According to news reports, more than a thousand female yeshiva students were bussed in by Liba, an Orthodox Jewish group that opposes government plans to open a mixed-gender prayer space at the Wall. Some of the girls, who had been pulled out of school for the protest, heckled the prayer service, with one calling the worshippers "animals," according to Haaretz. Others prayed silently.
Susan Silverman, a Women of the Wall board member and the sister of American comedian Sarah Silverman, was reportedly kicked in the shin by one of the protesters.
It has been over a year since the Israeli government promised to create the mixed-gender site at the Wall, which has stalled due to ultra-Orthodox opposition. (The Forward, Feb. 27)
If these Liba protesters weren't Jews, they'd be (rightly) accused of anti-Semitism.