Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Palestinians in Israel protest against house demolitions and police violence

By The Palestine Monitor - January 22, 2017
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [House Demolition] [Palestinian citizens of Israel]

Ar'ara - On Saturday, more than 5,000 people converged in Ar'ara, a Palestinian Arab town inside Israeli borders, to protest a recent spate of house demolitions and police violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel. A number of Jewish Israelis also attended the initially peaceful gathering, which started near the Ar'ara municipality and marched through a neighborhood where several homes are considered at risk. When some of the younger protesters blocked nearby highway 65, clashes broke out with Israeli police, which used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets against the demonstrators.

The protest was called following the demolition of several homes in the Bedouin town of Umm al-Hiran in the Naqab (Negev) desert last Wednesday, when a local teacher, Yaqoub Abu al-Qiyan, was shot dead by Israeli security forces. While police statements alleged he drove his car into a group of policemen, other witnesses at the scene and a video which later emerged of the incident suggest Abu al-Qiyan was shot before the car started gaining speed, killing policeman Eraz Levi. Rights groups have demanded a criminal investigation into the incident, alleging police violated open-fire regulations.


Residents of Umm al-Hiran have faced the threat of displacement for over a decade, as the Israeli government refuses to recognise the village and plans to build a Jewish town on its ruins.

Around 1.6 million Palestinians live in Israel and carry Israeli citizenship, over 20 percent of Israel's population. However, rights group Adalah has compiled a database of more than 50 laws passed since 1948 that directly or indirectly discriminate against them. Palestinian-Arab communities in Israel face a severe housing crisis, which, according to Adalah, “stems from years of discrimination in state zoning regulations and land distribution policy.” Earlier this month, the state demolished 11 homes in Qalansawe, an Arab town in central Israel, arguing they were built illegally. However, most Arab communities lack updated master plans for their development.

“Ar'ara has approximately 23,000 residents. We are talking about 5,500 houses, [of which] about 2,000 without legalisation. And we can't get legalisation because of lack of housing plans,” Ar'ara's mayor Mudar Yunis told the Palestine Monitor at the protest. “The last was [approved] 50 years ago. We are working on a plan, and yet the government decides to demolish houses after they decide to go ahead with a plan here,” he said, adding that 10 homes in the town are at immediate risk due to recent court decisions.

“There are about 2,000 houses without electricity. We have no lands for schools, for parks, for living,” Yunis continued. “The danger is not only home demolitions, I think the danger is for our future.”

Following the announcement of the planned relocation of the Amona outpost in the West Bank (illegal under Israeli as well as international law), on land slated for a future Palestinian state, Netanyahu said he would "increase enforcement" of housing construction violations in Arab communities within Israeli borders.

“In the last few years, Netanyahu's government has been escalating the moves against Palestinian Arabs inside the borders of Israel,” Ahmad Khalifa, a 33-year-old lawyer from the nearby town of Umm al-Fahm told the Palestine Monitor.

“Young people are now fighting for their future. Any young couple, like me and my wife, won't be able to build a house, buy a house. There are more than 900 villages and settlements and cities in which Arabs can't own houses, that is the policy of the Israeli government,” added Khalifa, referring to both economic reasons and the existence of admission commitees for small towns in Israel, which entrench racial segregation by effectively preventing Palestinians from living in Jewish-majority towns.

“The only places we can own [a house] without any restrictions from the government are our villages. And when we want to build in our village, they come and demolish. (...) Israel has been hammering this society, and killing any opportunity or hope of any recognition in this society,” Khalifa said.


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