In which other country would one group of
citizens be prevented, through planning laws, from building houses, whilst the
dominant group is allowed to build? In Israel
not only are half the Palestinian villages ‘unrecognised’ and liable to instant
demolition, but even those which are recognised are not permitted to expand.
‘Judaisation’ policy blamed for severe housing crisis as anger mounts over
family made homeless twice in two months
East Eye – 24 June 2015
start of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan has been bitter for Tareq
Israeli authorities razed his home for the second time in two months last week.
Now under house arrest, he is confined to a friend’s home and separated from
his wife and children.
lawyer has warned that he should expect a bill from the state for hundreds of
thousands of dollars to cover the costs of the demolitions and security
Arab Israelis take part in a rally organized by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, in protest against the demolition of homes in Arab communities, at Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, April 28, 2015. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)
prayer beads, the 48-year-old father of five looked disconsolate, his
hopelessness compounded by fatigue from the afternoon heat and a long day
without food or water.
A relative of Abdelrahman Shaludi, a Palestinian who killed two Israelis with his car last month, displays his portrait inside his family home after it was razed by Israeli authorities in east Jerusalem Silwan neighborhood on November 19, 2014, (Photo: AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
are my family and I supposed to live?” he asked. “It seems the government
thinks the only place for us is out on the street, without a roof over our
heads. It’s like they are waging a war against their own citizens.”
A relative surveys the ruins of Tareq Khatib’s home / Photos: Jonathan Cook
the darkness before dawn on June 15, hundreds of Israeli police entered the Galilee town of Kafr Kana, close to Nazareth, to destroy Khatib’s
was carried out like a military operation, he told Middle East Eye. Police,
some on horse-back, sealed off the roads to the area while others fired stun
grenades and rubber bullets as dozens of neighbours and relatives tried to stop
the demolition. Four people were arrested, including Khatib himself.
Residents of Kafr Kanna stand in the rubble of a demolished home (Photo: Hassan
Treated like an enemy
long and unsuccessful battle to build his family a home legally has come to
symbolise a much larger struggle by Israel’s Palestinian minority against
decades of land confiscations, severe planning restrictions and an
ever-escalating housing crisis.
1.5 million Palestinians, a fifth of the population, have citizenship but their
leaders say they are treated more like an enemy population.
A man walks amidst the rubble of a house belonging to an Arab-Israeli family .
formation in May of an ultra-nationalist coalition under Benjamin Netanyahu has
further raised fears that the destruction of Khatib’s home will herald a wave
of house demolitions in the Galilee.
ministry officials are evasive about figures for unauthorised building in
Israel, but experts say the number of such homes is believed to have reached
around 30,000 in Israel’s Palestinian communities.
means one in 10 Arab homes in Israel is treated as illegal by the government
and faces the threat of demolition,” said Hana Swaid, who was until recently an
Arab member of the Israeli parliament.
heads the Arab Centre for Alternative Planning, an organisation promoting
fairer land and housing allocations for the Palestinian minority.
to Swaid, the housing problems faced by Khatib and thousands of other
Palestinian families in Israel derive from an official Zionist policy of
goal since the state’s creation has been to Judaise territory. That doesn’t
mean just building communities for Jews but tightly restricting where Arab
citizens can live. They are trapped with no options for the future for
themselves or their children.”
result has been rampant overcrowding in Arab communities, with a chronic lack
of open spaces, proper roads, and industrial and commercial centres offering
100,000 homes needed
troubles gained public attention in April when he, his wife and three of his
children were evicted. The house he had built two years earlier in his family’s
olive grove, on the edge of Kafr Kana, was destroyed.
26 other homes in the town are threatened with immediate demolition. Despite
repeated appeals from the local municipality, planning officials have refused
to expand the town’s residential area for more than 15 years.
Khatib, a local councillor, told the Haaretz daily that parts of Kafr Kana – the place where Jesus
reputedly performed his first miracle, turning water into wine – now looked more
like “refugee camps”.
“I have been trying for years to get a permit to build on my land
without success. We couldn’t keep living in a small rented apartment for ever,
so I decided it was time to build.”
A recent study, according to Haaretz, showed that approval of at
least 100,000 additional homes was needed over the next decade to avert a
deepening housing crisis among the Palestinian minority.
on the housing ministry’s current estimates, barely a fifth of the necessary
building permits will be issued to Palestinian citizens. In recent years
approval rates have actually fallen.
demolition of Khatib’s house in April, along with five homes in three buildings
in the village of Dahmash in central Israel, triggered a general strike by the
country’s Palestinian minority and a protest by thousands in central Tel Aviv under the banner “Fighting for
Odeh, leader of the Joint List, the main Arab party in the Israeli parliament,
told the demonstrators: “A family which loses its home, built on its own
private land, is shattered.”
efforts to hold an emergency debate in parliament on the minority’s housing problems were
blocked by opposition from the Jewish parties.
attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, meanwhile, has warned that a failure to enforce demolitions would be
“irreconcilable” with the rule of law.
House built in six days
by the demolition in Kafr Kana, local residents rallied to Khatib’s side and
rebuilt his house this month in just six days.
efforts now lie in ruins. A large mound of rubble and twisted steel wires marks
the spot where his second house briefly stood.
torn green canvas and crumpled metal frame close by are all that is left of a
large tent the family had been living in while they finished the house. Friends
were able to salvage only mattresses, blankets and chairs before the bulldozers
set to work.
chose their moment carefully,” Khatib said. “That day we were due to get the
house connected to water and move in. Now nothing’s left.”
he try to build his house a third time? He shrugged, the mammoth task one he is
apparently not yet willing to contemplate. “The system is rigged against us,”
interior ministry, which oversees building permits, was unavailable for
comment. Government officials, however, regularly claim that Palestinian
citizens like Khatib are refusing to abide by planning rules and prefer to
Halper, director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD),
said thousands of Palestinian families in Israel were trapped in what he termed
the same “matrix of control” that operates in the occupied territories of East
Jerusalem and the West Bank, where demolitions also regularly take place.
are surprised that Israel demolishes three times more homes inside Israel,
against its Palestinian citizens, than it does in the occupied territories,” he
told MEE. “The number of demolitions in Israel undermines the idea that the
policy is simply a problem of the occupation.”
he said, had launched a new campaign called “Judaising Palestine” to emphasise that Israel’s goal was
confinement and displacement of all Palestinians wherever they were living in
a slow-down in Jewish immigration in recent years, Judaisation is still being
late 2013 the Jewish National Fund, an international Zionist charity with
semi-governmental status, announced it would invest $1 billion over the next decade to
encourage 250,000 Jews from the US and Europe to move to the Galilee and Negev.
land and housing problems faced by Israel’s Palestinian citizens, note experts,
have a long history that started in the immediate wake of the 1948 war that
established Israel as a Jewish state.
confiscated most of its new Palestinian minority’s lands, as well as that of
the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians freshly made refugees. It then
nationalised 93 per cent of its total territory on behalf of worldwide Jewry.
built hundreds of rural, land-hungry communities for Jews, including farming
collectives like the kibbutz, that exclude Palestinian citizens through
admission committees, said Swaid.
Palestinian minority has been mostly confined to some 130 separate communities
occupying just 2.5 per cent of Israel’s land.
over 1,000 new Jewish communities have been established [since Israel’s
creation], not a single Arab settlement has been authorized,” notes the website of Adalah, a legal centre for Israel’s Palestinian minority.
Or Commission, an Israeli judicial-led inquiry, concluded in 2003 that
systematic discrimination in land and housing had been a major cause of unrest
in the Galilee three years earlier. Israeli police shot dead 13 unarmed
Palestinian citizens and wounded hundreds more during demonstrations in Israel
at the start of the second intifada.
commission observed that waves of massive land expropriations had been
viewed by the Palestinian minority as a “dispossession enterprise”. Despite a
sevenfold increase in the Palestinian minority’s numbers since the state’s
founding, it added, zoning for residential areas had barely increased.
Destroyed 80 times
picture in Israel’s south, in the semi-desert Negev, is particularly extreme, Maysanna
Morany, a lawyer with Adalah, told MEE.
several dozen Bedouin villages have been unrecognised by the state and 10,000
homes are automatically under threat of demolition.
small village of al-Araqib, near Beersheva, has become a test case for the
government, with the authorities destroying the entire village more than 80 times over the past five years.
month the Israeli Supreme Court also approved the demolition of another Bedouin village, Umm
al-Hiran, to make way for an exclusive Jewish town on its land.
there are severe problems too in the 120 or so recognised Arab communities in
the Galilee and Triangle areas in the north and centre of the country, where
20,000 homes are ruled illegal.
most cases it is because they are built in communities either lacking a
state-approved master plan or with a long out-dated master plan that fails to
take account of the Palestinian minority’s growth, said Morany.
al-Fahm, the second largest Palestinian town in Israel after Nazareth, with a
population of 50,000, has no master plan, making all its homes illegal.
change in approach has been blocked because planning committees, dominated by
Jewish officials, have refused to abandon the state’s Judaisation policy, said
research based on interior ministry data showed
that no Palestinian citizen held a professional position on any of Israel’s
planning committees, which oversee and approve community master plans. Further,
none of the 74 staff of the interior ministry’s Planning Authority was Arab.