Mass Protest in Ar’ara Today, 6pm, against Demolition of Arab Homes

The High Follow-Up Committee of the Arab public in Israel called for a mass protest rally to be held today, Saturday, July 27, at 6pm in the town of Ar’ara in Wadi Ara, northern Israel, against the government’s demolition of homes in the Arab community. The rally is being initiated by the local council and the Popular Committee Against the Demolitions, the newspaper Arabic-language communist newspaper, Al-Ittihad, reported.

The call for today’s demonstration follows the demolition on Wednesday morning, July 24, of the home of the Marzuq family, which authorities say had been “built without permission.” About 200 policemen entered Ar’ara at about 3am to secure the forces demolishing the building until they completed the destruction around 7am. Ten protestors were injured in clashes with police during the demolition of the house. Three people, including the son of the  house’s owner, were arrested for “obstructing officers and disrupting public order.” The owner’s son was handed a restraining order forcing him to keep away from the area.

The Ar’ara local council went on strike on Wednesday morning following the demolition which activists say is a part of a governmental policy to speed up and increase the number of house demolitions in Arab towns throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. (Human rights activist Jafar Farah, the head of the Mossawa Advocacy Center, has noted that Netanyahu is speeding up the pace of house demolitions in an attempt to generate an enemy from within and divert public discourse from his own failures.”) The council was later reconvened during which, among other measures, today’s demonstration was decided upon.

The Marzuq family home in Ar'ara after its demolition early Wednesday morning, July 24, 2019

The Marzuq family home in Ar’ara after its demolition early Wednesday morning, July 24, 2019 (Photo: Al Ittihad)

The policy of demolitions of Arab homes within the green line (Israel’s pre-1967 borders) are an integral part of the state’s ongoing, long-term and less publicized attempts to ethnically cleanse Arab citizens by undermining their ability to lead a normal life. It is estimated that, within the Arab community inside Israel, there are currently some 50,000 Arab homes that are potential targets for demolition, ostensibly because they were built without official permits and are in violation of zoning codes. A key to understanding such legalese is that, since its founding, Israel has appropriated vast amounts of land from Arab cities, towns and villages on the one hand, while on the other hand the governmental institutions have purposely dragged their heels in rezoning agricultural land to land on which homes can be built legally, something which it does slowly but regularly in Jewish areas of the country. The authorities have created a Catch-22 situation for Arab communities throughout Israel by using technicalities to continually delay the procedure whereby land can be rezoned to be residential in nature. Landowners, unable to get permits have, in tens of thousands of cases, gone ahead and built homes for themselves and their children, even though they know that the state can exploit its “laws” and demolish any and all such homes and other structures. The only question for the state, in its present character, is how big of an explosion it wants to ignite among its Arab citizens.

Hadash lawmaker Yousef Jabareen, a resident of Wadi Ara, was among the political leaders of the Arab community in Israel calling for the today’s mass protest saying that a “day after police and army forces demolished 70 apartments in Wadi al-Hummus in East Jerusalem, the house of Ibrahim Marzuk was demolished in Ar’ara.” MK Jabareen accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “scoring points ahead of the election,” claiming that Netanyahu “is speaking to the Arab-Palestinians in one language: the language of power, destruction, and Jewish superiority as codified in the Jewish Nation-State law,” he told Al-Ittihad.

Or as another Hadash lawmaker, MK Ofer Cassif, said last week following the start of mass demolitions of Palestinian homes in the Wadi al-Hummus neighborhood of Sur Bahir in occupied East Jerusalem: “The current Israeli government has launched a war against the entire Palestinian people. Home demolitions are only one of their tactics that, taken together, have but a single goal: to force all Palestinians out of their homes.”