By Mohamed Mohsen Watad – Umm al-Fahm
A complaint is to be lodged with the human rights agencies of the UN about the intensification of house demolitions in the Negev desert region by the Israeli authorities. The demolitions are part of a wider range of land and housing abuses the authorities commit against Israel’s Palestinian citizens. Israel says that the house it demolishes in the Negev are in villages which are “not recognised” by the state. Around 80,000 people live in 45 such villages, which have lost around a million acres of land in the demolition onslaught.
The Arab Centre for Law and Policy inside the Palestinian territories has presented a paper on building services, structural maps and the demolition of Arab houses to Amnesty International and international institutions dealing with minority rights. Foreign ambassadors in Tel Aviv are also being urged to intervene with the Israeli government to end its aggressive policies towards Israeli Arabs.
The Chairman of the Monitoring Committee, Mohamed Zidane, said, “In the light of this escalation, we started an international campaign which includes going to the various human rights agencies of the United Nations that deal with humanitarian issues.”
He stressed to Aljazeera.net that the committee’s goal is “to expose Israel” for what it is doing and “inform the international community of our suffering as a Palestinian minority”. The committee hopes that by putting the land and housing issue on the international agenda it will succeed in forcing Israel to stop its aggressive offensive against a minority of its own citizens.
The document, prepared by Dr. Yousef Jabareen and Qais Nasser, gives details of the obstacles created by Israeli institutions which prevent Arab citizens from being able to obtain building permits. It noted the lack of planning in 22 Arab towns in addition to old planning for Arab towns, and it also stated that only five Arab councils out of 83 authorities are functioning as local committees for planning and building. This affects the ability to develop Arab towns.
Mr. Nasser told Aljazeera.net that in October Amnesty International will publish a report on the Arab minority in Israel, based on the document presented to the human rights organisation. The document claims that there are 77 Arab town without new structural maps and 25 towns without structural plans at all. Israeli Arabs are prohibited from using an incredible 80% of the land across the country.
Dr. Jabareen, an expert in international law, added, “The problem of illegal building by the Arab minority is due primarily to discriminatory planning policies pursued by Israel against them.” Planning and building affect the bigger issues of land and housing, he said, which are the pillars of the survival and development of the Arabs in their homeland. He hopes that this document will benefit the struggle of Arab citizens and ring alarm bells for Israeli decision-makers whose policies turn tens of thousands of Arab citizens into unwitting criminals.
Israeli law, said Dr. Jabareen, makes clear distinctions between Jewish and Arab citizens, favouring with special status institutions set up to promote the Jewish nature of the state. He highlighted the legal status of the Jewish Agency and Land Fund of Israel, whose functions include governmental roles and authority, including the establishment of new settlements for Jews only. He concluded, “Historically, Israel has dealt in an aggressive fashion with the bodies set up by the Palestinian community to defend the issues of their land and housing.”
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