Misled by Bimkom, Reuters Must Correct on Shuafat Building

Last week we noted the shortcomings with the underlying thesis of Noah Browning’s Dec. 20 Reuters article (“In bleak Arab hinterland, hints of Jerusalem’s partition“) in which he argues that the security barrier has heightened partition, discrimination and neglect of eastern Jerusalem.
 
We noted, in part, Browning’s factual error, in which he claims:
Palestinians in and around Shuafat have lacked officially approved residential plans for over 45 years, according to the Israeli building rights group Bimkom – meaning any construction since then is illegal and subject to possible demolition.
CAMERA wrote:
CAMERA checked this claim with Israel Kimhi, of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, a former municipal planner and foremost expert on Jerusalem. He said that he himself has seen the documents for hundreds of permits in Shuafat and nearby Beit Hanina, and noted that many illegally built homes are retroactively legalized. He also said that in recent years, Arab residents have increasingly requested permits before they build, choosing to stave off potential legal problems down the road.
After the publication of our analysis, we received a detailed response from Ariela

Smilensky-Deri, the spokeswoman for the municipality’s engineering department, regarding building plans for Shuafat in which have enabled the construction of hundreds of residential units in Shuafat in recent years. She wrote (emphases added; CAMERA’s translation from the original Hebrew):
Hundreds of legal residential units which received permits were built in the neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina in recent years, in addition to schools and other new public institutions. 

There is no restriction or limit preventing residents from submitting requests for building permits.

It should be noted that the the extent of building violations in these neighborhoods is relatively low in comparison to the rest of the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and in recent years permits were given for dozens of new building plans in these neighborhoods.

Historic background:
Beit Hanina and Shuafat are among the most active areas in the city in terms of new building plans. Between 1996 and 1999, three large plans were approved which had been advanced by the Jerusalem municipality (plans 3456a, 3457a and 3458a).
These plans apply to the entire area of Beit Hanina and Shuafat and they established the planning policies for the whole area. The plans found that 50 developments require an additional plan for division or partition and the rest of the area was authorized for building permits.

After the approval of these plans, the Jerusalem municipality began to advance the detailed plans for the 50 developments, in order to enable the issuing of permits.

In recent years, it was decided to legalize most of the cases and a small number are still being decided, primarily due to opposition on the part of the land owners within the area.

According to the zoning plan for Jerusalem, these neighborhoods were categorized as urban residential area allowing land owners to submit specific building plans in order to significantly increase the percentage of building, the number of residential units and the number of floors.

In addition, in recent years a new policy specific to these neighborhoods was implemented by the engineering branch of the city and approved by the regional committee in light of hundreds of plans which were submitted.

78 plans were approved in Beit Hanina from 2008 until today and 32 additional plans are currently in the process of being approved.

48 plans were approved in Shuafat from 2008 until today and 16 plans are in the process of being approved. [CAMERA note: Each plan could be for a residential building containing multiple units.] In addition, numerous plans are added and opened every month in this area.

It should be noted that a tender for the preparation of a master plan was published for the neighborhoods of Beit Hanina and Shuafat, and the planning team was selected and approved. In the near future, the municipality will being the preparation of a master plan for the neighborhoods, together with the neighborhood administration.

 

CAMERA has contacted
Reuters editors to request a correction. Readers may also submit correction requests here. Stay tuned for an update.
 
See also “Reuters, Garbage and Shuafat” (Snapshots, Jan. 5, 2014)