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OPT: LAW challenges Israel's RJ/5 and S/15

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Israel's Orwellian 'Civil Administration,' which deals with zoning and planning laws in Area C, covering 73% of the West Bank, tends to sit side-by-side with the municipal borders of Palestinian villages and cities. Neighborhoods that have grown outside of strictly defined Israeli municipal boundaries often lie in Area C.
For these areas, Israel uses zoning laws and outlines based on a 1942 British Mandate scheme, called RJ/5 (the regional plan for Jerusalem and the south of the West Bank), and S/15 (the regional plan for the northern area of the West Bank). Areas in RJ/5 and S/15 are considered agricultural zones. Residential building is forbidden, unless the Israeli civil administration changes the nature of the zone.

LAW's lawyer Mr. Azem Bishara notes, "Since 1967, only several cases have occurred where agricultural zones have been changed to allow for residential building." Thousands of Palestinians are thus living in technically unlicensed homes, which may be demolished at any time.

"These plans have rarely been replaced by updated ones in areas where Palestinians live, and in areas naturally intended for building to satisfy Palestinian population growth. They are used by the Israelis' as a pretext to justify their policies of restriction on Palestinian development and house demolition. Moreover, in the case of illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank in Israeli civil administration have presented new plans to replace or amend RJ/5 and S/15, enabling the building and expansion of settlements."

One case, which LAW has now taken on, clearly reflects Israel's intention to use these zoning laws (RJ/5 and S/15 respectively) as a standard argument to deny all building in Area C, where many Palestinian homes are threatened with demolition.

Marwan Ghait in Hebron built a stable for cows around three years ago. Twenty-five people live from his farming business.

On October 14, 2001, Marwan received an order to demolish the building. On May 8, 2002, Marwan received a short hearing in a military tribunal established under the Israeli 'civil administration.' The State argued that the cow shed was illegally built on an area designated for agricultural use.

Marwan argued that clearly, a cowshed is a building specifically for agricultural use, and there is no need to demolish it.

The military tribunal decided to demolish the cowshed, as it was built in an area zoned for agricultural use, according to RJ/5.

An interim injunction was put forward to prevent demolition. LAW's lawyer, Azem Bishara, representing Marwan will take the issue to the Israeli High Court.