Arab Israelis strike against demolition of houses, closed schools and businesses

The population went a day long strike yesterday to protest the demolition of private homes built without permits. The documents, explain the promoters of the strike, are difficult to obtain. Prime Minister Netanyahu has accelerated the demolition process in response to the court decision on Amona outpost.


Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Israeli Arabs crossed their arms and closed schools and commercial activities yesterday, as part of a national day of protest against the demolition of houses built without permits, which are almost impossible to obtain. The day before the administrative authorities had ordered the demolition of 11 homes in qalansuwa town in the north of the country.

According to the Israeli citizens of Arab origin, the State and local governments adopt a discriminatory policy that makes it almost impossible to obtain a building permit. And, consequently, the extension of housing units and in areas at the disposal of the various communities.

Hence many Arab families end up building houses without permits, triggering the reaction of the authorities who demolish them. Mohammad Barakeh, an Israeli Arab organization leader and former Knesset MP, points out that the strike called yesterday "exceeded expectations."  "We had an excellent response in all the villages and Arab towns".

The Joint List movement, which brings together many Arab parties and represents the third major group in Israeli Parliament, point out that the houses were built on "private land" in qalansuwa and choosing to tear them down "is an unprecedented crime" and a "declaration of war" against the people of the area and, more generally , "the Arab community in Israel."

Israeli Arabs make up about 17.5% of the total population. They are the descendants of Palestinians who have decided to stay on their land following the birth of Israel in 1948.

As reported by Israeli public radio, the strike got great support in Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm, the two most important Arab cities of the country and in the mixed coastal city of Haifa. Shortly before the decision to demolish the houses, the mayor of qalansuwa Abed al-Salameh Bassat resigned, after trying in vain for years to get the issue of permits resolved by the central authorities.

The Former mayor adds that behind the decision to demolish the houses there is the attempt of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Gilad Erdan to "appease" the settlers and their expansionist policy at the expense of the Arab population.

Commenting on the decision of the Israeli court to dismantle the controversial Jewish outpost of Amona, the prime minister had drawn a link between the outposts and (illegal) construction of the Arabs in Israel.

If Amona is illegal,  added Netanyahu, even the Arab constructions without permission are and so "I gave orders to speed up the process of demolition of illegal constructions ... in all other parts of the country and we will do so in the coming days". This came after judges had ordered a postponement of the Amona evacuation, expected at first on 25 December and put back to February 8th.