Arab Families Displaced by Home Demolitions in Qalansawa

Date: 2017/01/13
Eleven homes were destroyed in Qalansawa, an Arab city in the Central District of Israel near the Green Line, on Tuesday 10 January. More than sixty people, including dozens of children, were displaced by the home demolitions.

Eleven homes were destroyed in Qalansawa, an Arab city in the Central District of Israel near the Green Line, on Tuesday 10 January. More than sixty people, including dozens of children, were displaced by the home demolitions. According to residents of the city, 800 police officers descended on Qalansawa to facilitate the demolitions. The demolitions are a result of discriminatory planning and housing policies against the Arab community and infringe upon Arab citizen’s right to housing. Residents of the city peacefully protested on Wednesday afternoon to demand recognition of Arabs’ housing rights and justice for the families displaced by the demolitions. Arab communities across the country participated in a nationwide strike this week and 15,000 citizens peacefully marched Friday to protest the Qalansawa home demolitions.

 

On a dusty trail on the outskirts of town, Makhlouf Abdullah’s home was razed, leaving his nine children homeless. “[The police officers] threatened to use their weapons against me,” he said. “My daughter is six months pregnant and they pushed her to the ground. I told the children and youth to stay away because I was afraid they would be killed.”

 

Home demolitions and discriminatory housing and building policies have been a major source of frustration and consternation in the Arab community in Israel. Building projects in Arab municipalities are rarely granted proper permits because master plans for Arab communities are frequently outdated or unapproved. The Arab community’s rapid growth has created a serious housing shortage and municipalities are unable to accommodate their booming populations. As a result, Arab families are forced to build homes illegally.

 

The displaced families in Qalansawa were reportedly fined hundreds of thousands of shekels for the home demolitions. By contrast, residents of the settlement of Amona, built illegally on private Palestinian land, are expected to receive compensation from the Israeli government for their evacuation. "There will be no double standards regarding construction," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in December 2016. "Israel will have equal enforcement of the law between Jews and Arabs.” The vastly different treatment of Amona and Qalansawa has cast further doubt on the government’s commitment to equitable construction and housing access.

 

The blatantly discriminatory enforcement of building policies has left many Arab citizens with a grim outlook on the future of the Arab minority in Israel. “You feel like you are in a war. The violence of the government implies that we are enemies. You cannot feel that you are a citizen because of the situation. You don’t find this situation in Jewish cities,” noted Dr. Jawad Ankar, a member of the municipality. “They are destroying the idea of a shared society.”

 

The demolitions are a stark example of ongoing legal, social and economic discrimination against the Arab community in Israel. The families called on the international community to take note of the dire need to protect the Arab minority’s rights. “Let the international community see the difference between the Jewish and Arab communities. There is no democracy in Israel,” Abdullah said. “The Jewish community has rights, but Arabs can’t even get permits to build homes.”

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