Thousands marched Friday afternoon, January 13, through the street of Qalansawe to protest the demolition of 11 homes in the city this week. Among the demonstrators were MKs from the Joint List, headed by Ayman Odeh (Hadash); Chairman of the Higher Monitoring Committee of the Arab Citizens in Israel, Mohammad Barakeh; Secretary General the Communist Party of Israel (CPI) Adel Amer; and Secretary of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash), Mansour Dahamsha.
The protest rally started in the early afternoon in a procession that began in the Qalansawe city center next to the al-Ribaat Mosque and ended at the site where three of the eleven homes that were demolished once stood. During the rally the organizers announced the establishment of a special fund to raise money to rebuild the demolished homes announced. The fundraising campaign was launched during Friday prayers in mosques throughout the country. During the assembly which followed the procession, Hussam Makhlouf, one of the residents whose home was demolished on Tuesday, called upon Knesset members, mayors and other Arab leaders to come the assistance of the homeowners: “We will stay here on our soil and nothing will move us from here; they can demolish our homes but they will not break our spirit.”
The 11 homes demolished last Tuesday, January 10, by the National Unit for the Enforcement of Planning and Building which belongs to the Ministry of Finance, with the assistance of the large defensive escort numbering hundreds of police. The houses which were destroyed, some in the final stages of construction, were owned by four families who had built them on land they owned but which is zoned for agricultural use.This is the classic excuse that the state uses to demolish homes within the Green Line, authorities saying that they are merely “upholding the law which applies to all.” However, this a disingenuous justification, as it totally ignores the reality on the ground in which the state purposely drags its heels over even seriously discussing the rezoning of Arab municipalities and villages. The inability of such administrative units to get approval for master plans they have submitted — in the case of Qalansawe, they have already been waiting for 20 years — creates a situation in which, as the population grows, families initiate building on their privately owned land for which rezoning is pending. It is estimated that throughout the Arab communities of Israel there are some 20,000 homes that have been built without official authorization and, therefore, which can “legally” be demolished by a hostile government. In the demolitions which took place in Qalansawe this week, the owners claim that they learned about the administrative order to destroy the buildings just two days before its execution, meaning that they had no time at all to deal with the matter through the courts and prevent the move by delaying its implementation.
Following the demolitions, the mayor of Qalansawe, Mahmoud Kahdega, announced his intention to resign from his position. In addition, an emergency meeting was held by the Higher Monitoring Committee of the Arab Citizens in Israel Knesset members from the Joint List in which they declared a general strike for the following day, Wednesday, January 11, in all Arab communities throughout the country. Today, Saturday January 14, another meeting of the Monitoring Committee plenum is scheduled to convene to plan further protests. Chairman of the Monitoring Committee, former MK Barakeh (Hadash) told Haaretz “that the rally here today is a message to the government that it cannot demolish homes and have the Arab public remain indifferent. I sense that the prime minister is trying to create not merely a spectacle of ruins but also a spectacle of blood and I call upon him not to escalate the situation because of his personal whims and troubles. We will wage a struggle for our homes, a struggle for our very existence and rebuild the homes.”
Chairman of the Joint List, MK Odeh, said during Friday’s event in Qalansawe: “Thousands came out today to participate in the demonstration – entire families, including women, men and children – in numbers unprecedented for the last few years, a clear call against crime and cruelty of demolishing homes of families that were built on private land. The Arab public already knows that the prime minister has decided to mark it as public enemy number one, and now he’s trying to hide his own corruption with destruction and incitement.”