Take a Stand Against Demolishing Homes and Allow Construction!

-שרון-אברהם-ויס-מנכלית-האגודה-לזכויות-האזרח-e1441547483804

Dear Friends,

 

There’s a lot to unpack from the painful events that occurred this week. Yesterday we woke up to bad news – a civilian and a police officer were killed in clashes during home demolitions in the village of Umm Al-Hiran, in the Negev Desert, and others were wounded. ACRI Attorney Sanaa Ibn Bari, who regularly handles the issues regarding the rights of the Bedouin in the unrecognized villages, explains that while the Supreme Court ruled to evict the residents of Umm al-Hiran, the implementation of the decision does not require such an act of violence. The government’s insistence on a policy of home demolitions in Arab towns, while ignoring the historical background and the human rights of residents who are citizens of the State of Israel, led – and not for the first time – to tragic results that could have been prevented.

 

Umm Al-Hiran is an Arab Bedouin village established several decades ago (with government permission), in the Negev. But now, the State seeks to demolish the village and evacuate its residents in order to establish a Jewish town called Hiran. The events in Umm Al-Hiran followed the dramatic measure taken last week to demolish eleven homes in the town of Qalansawe, in the Triangle region of central Israel.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unabashedly presented the demolitions in Qalansawe as an “equal enforcement” measure; however equal enforcement assumes that the baseline is equal, which is not the case in Israel. Construction without permits in Arab towns is often not a choice, but rather the result of years of discriminatory planning policy, whereby construction permits in Arab towns are nearly impossible to attain. For decades the State has refused to recognize 35 Bedouin villages in the Negev and refrained from planning them and establishing local municipal bodies. Instead it continues to promote initiatives to evacuate thousands of Bedouin citizens from their homes.

 

Citizens must act in accordance with the law, and a strong system of enforcement is a basic and essential element of the rule of law. However, it is very disturbing that the current government chooses to employ the harshest and most harmful enforcement methods at its disposal – home demolitions – while ignoring the situation on the ground, and its responsibility for that situation.

 

In tandem with home demolitions, the government is now promoting the “Kaminitz Bill” (Amendment 109 to the Planning and Building Law), which passed in its first reading and will be deliberated in the Knesset in the coming weeks. The bill seeks to increase enforcement and punishment pertaining to construction violations, and will have particularly adverse effects on Arab citizens. It was proposed due to cabinet ministers’ opposition to government Resolution 922, which proposed the allocation of government resources to developing Arab towns. Placing resource allocation and increased demolitions in the same basket means that the full implementation of Resolution 922 is conditional on increased enforcement. This is in clear disregard for the unique circumstances of the Arab population, the multiple planning difficulties it faces, and the State’s policy towards it.

 

This conditioning may significantly harm the important, necessary process of promoting the Arab society in Israel and advancing equality among all citizens.

 

There is no justification for the harsh policy of house demolitions. It infringes on the right to housing and shelter and contradicts basic principles of justice. The government should immediately halt home demolitions in Arab towns rather than promote the Kaminitz Bill, and instead create a channel of dialogue with representatives of the Arab community until master plans are approved, existing construction is regulated, and legal construction is facilitated in Arab towns.

 

We at ACRI demand an end to demolitions and a move towards dialogue. Yesterday, ACRI Attorney Sharona Eliahu Chai turned to the Police Commissioner and demanded that he examine the police’s conduct in Umm al Hiran.

 

 

Yours,

Sharon


Adv. Sharon Abraham-Weiss
Executive Director
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel

 

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Categories: Arab Citizens of Israel, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Land Distribution and Planning Rights, Negev Bedouins and Unrecognized Villages

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