Freeze on Home Demolitions in Israel
On 16.3.2020, ACRI appealed to the deputy attorney general following reports of three home demolitions in Kfar Qasim. ACRI Attorney Sana Ibn Bari noted that the policy of demolishing homes is unbearable on an average day, let alone when the world is combatting a pandemic and one’s home is their sole refuge, especially since access to courts and local authorities is so restricted. As such, we requested that enforcement authorities be instructed to freeze both the execution of existing demolition orders on inhabited structures, and the issuance of new orders.
As we continued to receive reports on more demolition orders and notices issued for various structures in the field, including inhabited homes, we appealed to the deputy attorney general yet again. We emphasized that ongoing routine enforcement of this policy, disregarding the current situation in which many have lost their financial security and are homebound, constitutes cruel conduct that serves no public interest and will break up families.
Following our appeals, on 24.3.2020 the Ministry of Justice informed us that a decision was made to adjust enforcement of construction and planning laws in Israel, including East Jerusalem, to the current state of emergency through the following means: issuance of administrative demolition orders will be reduced such that they will solely be granted for cases of new illegal construction; no demolition orders for inhabited structures will be executed; and the distribution of notices will be restricted as much as is possible.
Some months later in June, ACRI received word of continued demolitions. On 25.6.20, ACRI appealed again to the Ministry of Justice recalling their previous commitment to stall demolitions during this period. On 16.7.20, 2020, the Ministry of Justice responded that the previously held demolition policy within Israel, including East Jerusalem, during the state of emergency (reducing
demolitions for newly-built illegal structures, freezing demolition of structures in which people
live, and minimizing notices given for illegal structures) was being walked back in accordance with
the walk back of emergency regulations and the gradual return to daily life. Thus, the Ministry
of Justice stated, the government is gradually returning to the previous demolition policy from
before the state of emergency.
As the rate of COVID-19 infections continued to rise in East Jerusalem, ACRI and Ir-Amim appealed again on 3.9.2020 about the matter. The Ministry of Justice responded on 1.10.20 that they will return to the emergency policy from March 2020, freezing home demolition proceedings in East Jerusalem and Israel, aside from new construction, stating:
“Following your request dated September 3, 2020 regarding the "massive house demolition freeze in East Jerusalem," I would like to inform you that after a re-examination of matters, and given the restrictions imposed by the government recently following the spread of COVID-19, it was decided at this stage to adjust the enforcement policy of the planning and construction offenses to the state of emergency, similar to the policy decided on during March 2020."