Palestine’s sad homes and houses

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Palestine’s sad homes and houses

Noreen Sadik reports on how Israel is demolishing Arab homes.

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© Noreen Sadik

The two older ladies sit outside a tent. They are tired and they are very, very sad.

There are four apartment buildings and two houses nearby on the dusty land.

There is life everywhere – doors with flowers, a dog barking, washing hanging out to dry, a wheelchair. But on this spring day, the tent is a protest and a sign of death – the death of the houses. All of the houses will be demolished Um Saleem and Um Eyad live in Taibeh. It has 50,000 people and it is the third-largest Arab city in Israel.

Their families wanted to leave the crowded housing in a nearby town and they bought the land to make a better future. They asked permission to build houses three times with no success. But they built the first house in 2003. Two years ago, they received news the houses will be demolished. Last week the final court order came with a possible date for demolition. On 15 May their homes will be gone.

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Noreen Sadik

Now there are plans to demolish 6,500 homes in Arab towns in Israel. About 50,000 Israelis will have no homes.

The ladies ask sadly: ‘Where will we go if they demolish our homes?’ They say the people in the houses are sick or handicapped, they are pregnant, schoolchildren, teenagers, newly engaged, and new babies.

Um Eyad is crying and she says, ‘We are like rubbish.’

Their problems are real. On12 April, the home of Tareq Khatib in Kafr Kanna, an Arab village in northern Israel, was demolished. The next day, five buildings owned by the Asaf family from Dahamesh, an unrecognised village near Tel Aviv, were also demolished.

There are plans to demolish the houses of eleven families in Ramle, also near Tel Aviv. Umm el-Hieran is an unrecognised Bedouin village with1,000 people. After a 10 year legal battle, the Supreme Court ruled 2 days ago that it will be demolished. A Jewish town called Hiran will be built in its place.

Injustice

There are now 1.3 million people in the Arab community in Israel. This is 20 per cent of Israel’s population. They are from the families of about 160,000 Palestinians who stayed on their land when Israel was created in 1948. The Palestinian people of Israel often complain about the terrible things the government does.

The EU and the Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel reports that there is injustice for Arab citizens of Israel - economically, socially, and culturally. There is great injustice with land and houses.

The report says that today 93 per cent of land in Israel is under the control of the state, and 13 per cent of this is owned by the Jewish National Fund. The Jewish National Fund sees its job as finding land only for Jews.

In February 2015, there was a 295 page report by the Israeli State Comptroller about Israel’s big housing problem. It was mostly about the rising cost of houses in the Jewish sector, but there was no information about the big housing problem in the Arab sector.

Adalah is the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. It answered the report and said that the problem of housing in Arab communities is the result of government policy to make it difficult for Arab citizens.

Arab towns are only 2.5 per cent of Israel. In Israel’s 67 years, new Arab communities have not been built. And there has been no new building for the growing Arab population in the old Arab communities. The result is crowded homes and not enough houses.

The National Master Plan was a plan for houses for all the country. But there are only a few possibilities for Arab communities. There are plans for only 41 of 139 Arab communities. Committees in each area make plans for Arab towns but they often do not think about what the people really need.

It often takes years to wait for permission to build new houses. So people build illegally. In 2014, there were 38,261requests to build new houses in the Jewish sector and only1,844 in the Arab communities. This means only 4.6 per cent of new houses are for the Arab community.

There are plans to demolish Arab homes in the West Bank. B’tselem is an Israeli human rights organization. It says that between 2006 and February 2015 at least 847 Palestinian houses in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) were demolished. There were 4,015 people (including 1,957 children) lost their homes.

Lost houses and lost dreams

Last year, 3,163 houses were sold in Israeli settlements in the West Bank for about 500,000 Israelis who live there illegally.

There are new plans to demolish the West Bank village of Susiya and if so up to 350 people will lose their homes.

B’tselem says that Israeli settlers in the area have taken almost 300 hectares of the villagers’ land. It says that the past shows that if the Israeli authorities move the villagers from Khirbet Susiya, the settlers will take the land or the authorities will control it and give it to settlers.

The night before Um Saleem and Um Eyad protested, Knesset members and local people came to the protest tent in Taibeh.

A speaker said the situation as very dangerous. He said they can start the demolition without telling anybody. You can wake up when you hear a knock on your door at 2.00 in the morning and your home and your dreams are gone an hour later.

Ushruf is Um Saleem’s son He asked for help from the lawmakers. ‘No-one can understand the feelings of the people with demolished houses,’ he said. ‘If the demolition men come, I will stay on the roof of my house,’ he said. Two days later they stopped demolition plans for a while. Now the houses are standing. But what about the thousands of other houses?

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2015/05/14/palestine-house-demolitions/

(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).