For those who are not familiar with the subject, the issue of building a residence in Jersualem is often shrouded in a mist of Palestinian ‘blue smoke and mirrors’. Fortunately for us, there is a new book that apparently cuts through the haze of ”not all is what it seems”, giving ME watchers something tangible to refer to.
Human rights lawyer Justus Reid Weiner, a scholar-in-residence at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has just completed the first systematic study of illegal construction in Jerusalem. Based on scores of interviews from across the political spectrum – from Mayor Olmert to Sari Nusseibeh, original documents, and on-site inspections, Weiner’s heavily illustrated new book discredits the conventional wisdom about the causes and effects of illegal building, and documents a pattern of politically-motivated behavior and criminal profiteering that characterizes much of the construction in the Arab sector of the Holy City.
In the Jewish neighborhoods, illegal construction typically takes the form of additions to existing legal structures – such as closing a balcony or hollowing out under a building to create an extra room. In the Arab sector, however, illegal construction often takes the form of entire multi-floor buildings with 4 to 25 living units, built with the financial assistance of the Palestinian Authority on land that is not owned by the builder.
Illegal Palestinian building built on basketball court prevents the expansion of a school. KGS