The Jerusalem Municipality’s gross, prolonged neglect of East Jerusalem has led to the Dahiyeh al-Salam neighborhood becoming a pirate garbage dump. The Municipality has not yet kept its promise to renovate the refuse site.
Dahiyeh al-Salam is one of East Jerusalem’s most neglected areas. The streets in the neighborhood, which lies in the northern part of East Jerusalem, are in complete disrepair and are strewn with piles of refuse, and the Municipality provides almost no services to its residents. This has enabled criminals to turn the neighborhood into a pirate garbage dump.
For years, in 2007 in particular, dozens of privately-owned garbage trucks have come from West Jerusalem and dumped large amounts of construction, medical, and industrial debris in areas adjacent to residents’ homes. The unsupervised and disorderly dumping is done for free, while fees of dozens of shekels a ton are charged at the regulated dumping sites located relatively far from the city.
According to residents of the neighborhood, the garbage dump is run by criminals, who react violently when residents oppose the dumping. The dump is a sanitation hazard: strong odors, dust, flies, and smoke from frequent fires. Also, children playing in the junk are exposed to dangerous refuse and some have complained of shortness of breath.
Last year, residents complained to city officials repeatedly, without success, about the problem. Only after B’Tselem invited officials from the city’s Environmental Quality Department to a meeting at the site, in March 2008, did they promise to renovate it. Shortly after, dumping ceased when residents managed to deny the truck drivers access to the site.
The city has not yet begun to remove the mountains of refuse or renovate the site. However, the Municipality informed B’Tselem that it had recently obtained a budget allocation from the Environmental Protection Ministry to deal with refuse nuisances in East Jerusalem, and that the site in Dahiyeh al-Salam would be handled this year. The budget is also intended to ensure the presence of inspectors to prevent unauthorized dumping in East Jerusalem. According to Municipality figures, East Jerusalem has 16 other pirate refuse sites, with the Dahiyeh al-Salam site being the largest and greatest nuisance.
Neglect of the neighborhood illustrates the Municipality’s grave, ongoing neglect of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. The neglect appears in every area of Municipality responsibility: education, refuse collection, water supply, development, and building permits.
In neglecting East Jerusalem, the Municipality is breaching its obligations to the residents there. East Jerusalem, like other parts of the West Bank, is considered occupied territory and is therefore subject to international humanitarian law. According to this body of law, Israel is required to ensure order and public safety, which includes sanitation services.
The annexation of East Jerusalem following the 1967 war violated international law, which prohibits unilateral annexation of land. As a result, the international community has not recognized Israel’s annexation.
B’Tselem calls on the Jerusalem Municipality to act immediately to improve municipal services to East Jerusalem’s residents.