Illustration. Photo by Mirah Curzer
The District Court for Administrative Matters has granted an ACRI appeal against plans to build a massive police station in the Kerem al-Tufaah neighborhood of Lod; the National Planning Committee is ordered to take the interests of Arab citizens into account and consider their appeal against the State’s construction plans.
A long-neglected plot of land in the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Lod has been the subject of an extended battle between Israeli planning authorities and residents of the adjacent Arab neighborhood of Kerem Al Tufaah. The local planning authority decided that the plot would be used to build a police station, while residents of the overcrowded Arab-Israeli neighborhood claim that they desperately need the space for new homes.
The Arab minority in Israel has long suffered from discriminatory policies and practices in the field of planning and development. Up until now, there has been a lack of representation of Arab citizens in the State planning committees and divisions that decide upon planning and building laws. The Arab neighborhoods in the city of Lod are among the poorest and most neglected in Israel. The city is currently developing a new master plan, and the decision of the local Planning Committee to build a seven story police station in Kerem Al-Tufaah bodes poorly for neighborhood residents. ACRI and Bimkom are working to ensure that the planning process includes adequate public participation and community representation.
ACRI filed the petition on its own behalf and on behalf of three Kerem Al Tufaah activists, seeking the court’s intervention to allow the petitioners to appeal local building committee’s ruling to the national planning and building council because the discriminatory local ruling did not consider the rights of the residents to housing and construction.
The District Court for Administrative Matters ruled in favor of the Arab-Israeli residents. The Kerem Al Tufaah neighborhood lacks important infrastructure and resources, and the disputed lot is the only area where new homes and other facilities can be built. Planning authorities often fail to update master plans in Arab communities in Israel and prevent new construction approvals from passing. Because of this, the ruling was an extremely significant achievement for Israel Arabs who often face discrimination by local authorities.
ACRI Attorney Auni Banna, Director of the Arab Minority Rights Department, said that “The judgment reinforces the notion that planning and design cannot take place in isolation from the social reality. This is a rare instance of an Israeli court allowing Arabs to advance their challenge to construction plans after being overruled by local authorities…we need a mass of such rulings to show Israeli planning authorities that they have to take Arab interests into consideration.”