About 200 demonstrators from Arab communities throughout Israel held a protest against home demolitions outside the Ministry of Finance in Jerusalem on Tuesday, March 14, as legislators in the nearby Knesset discussed a draft of the proposed “Kaminitz bill” that would increase penalties for and tighten enforcement against “illegal construction.” The Committee of the Heads of Arab Local Authorities organized the protest together with several other groups.
During the demonstration clashes erupted between Arab-Palestinians citizens of Israel and forces from Israel’s Border Police. The organizers said that the protesters were chanting slogans condemning the demolition of Arab-Palestinian homes, while calling the Israeli government “racist,” and holding up signs reading “Stop the Home Demolitions, No to Expulsions,” “Don’t Destroy my Home, It is my Right to Live with Honor,” and “Housing Instead of Destruction.” There were shouts of “police state” and “Kahlon resign, we don’t want you anymore,” a jab at the government’s neo-liberal Minister of Finance, Moshe Kahlon.
According to Al-Ittihad, the daily Arabic-language newspaper of the Communist Party of Israel, Border Policemen suppressed the demonstration and assaulted protesters when the latter attempted to close the street leading to the Ministry of Finance. Among those assaulted by the Border Police were Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) and the head of the Mossawa Center, Jaafar Farah. MK Jabareen commented afterwards that the brutality of the assault “attests to the true face of the Israel’s police forces who treat Arabs as enemies and not as citizens with equal rights.”
Jabareen described the assault on the protesters as “despicable,” adding, “It is our right to raise our voices and protest, especially when [Israeli policies] harm our basic right to shelter.” The MK emphasized that he would not attempt to prevent Palestinians from continuing their popular resistance until demolition plans in Arab-Palestinian communities in Israel are halted. “These are very harsh measures targeting our community,” said MK Jabareen. “I’m extremely worried about the next few weeks and months. All of these measures are being imposed while entirely ignoring the need to approve master plans for Arab communities so that construction can be carried out legally.”
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the proposed “Kaminitz bill” aims to increase the power of “administrative entities, especially national planning entities,” in their “enforcement of planning laws,” and their handling of construction carried out without building permits.
According to ACRI, if passed into law, the bill would “increase the monetary fines and lengthen prison terms for construction offenses, as well as expand the scope of penalties for such offenses.” Based on data the ACRI accessed from the Knesset Research and Information Center, 97% of demolition orders issued in Israel between 2012 and 2014 were against unauthorized building in the state’s the Arab communities. Rights groups have stressed that the bill in no way addresses Israel’s systemic discriminatory policies against the country’s Arab-Palestinian communities, but deals only with penalizing these citizens faced with no other option except to build illegally.
The proposed legislation would fast-track demolitions in these communities, just as outrage has erupted since the start of the year after the demolition of 11 homes in the city of Qalansawe on January 10 and a deadly demolition raid in the Arab-Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran in the Negev on January 18. Last week dozens of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel held a protest in the town of Tayibe in the center of the country against home demolitions, saying that the state’s demolition policies are ultimately aimed at displacing Arab-Palestinians from their villages.
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