The residents of the Al-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem have been campaigning against the demolition of Palestinian homes in the area for nearly three years. As part of the struggle, the residents set up a protest tent, which the Jerusalem Municipality is now looking to dismantle.
The tent, which is adorned with signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English, has become a symbol of the residents' struggle and is visited by people from all over the world. It was set up on the grounds of a community center which is slated for destruction in June 2011, in accordance with a court order.
The Jerusalem Municipality asked the court for authorization to raze the structure sooner, claiming it has become a hotbed of violent and dangerous conduct.
"They want to destroy our homes, and they won't even allow us to protest," said Attorney Ziad Kawar, who represents the residents. "This is an evil attempt by the City to silence the residents and trample on their human rights.
"This sort of conduct is redolent of dark regimes such as the one in Tehran," he said, "It's a shame that the authorities have decided to help the cause of radical right-wing groups that are pushing the State and region into an abyss."
"It seems as though the City of Jerusalem is looking for a third intidafa," said Fahri Abu-Dihab, whose house is also under the threat of demolition. "This tent is a symbol of legitimate protest against the destruction of homes in east Jerusalem. The municipality has declared war against us and it trying to stop our legal struggle to get us to react violently.
"The mayor (Nir Barkat) himself is pouring fuel on the fire," he said.
The Jerusalem Municipality said in response that a destruction order for the community center had been issued because it was built illegally and without the proper permits. The court ruled that the order is to be implemented in June 2011, and the City has already appealed this decision because the owners of the structure took advantage of the extension to illegally set up a huge tent on the roof.
"The structure serves as a breeding ground for violence, incitement, riots and stone-throwing," according to the municipality.
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