- Created: Wednesday, 02 September 2009 15:41
- Written by FRFI
FRFI 210 August / September 2009
Palestinians in Israel
Zionists step up racism
Palestinians in Israel face a threat to their existence from the racist Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu. More than ever they are feeling the intensity of institutionalised persecution and oppression. Yet they are determined to resist, as FRFI reports from Palestine.
Since the February 2009 Israeli elections, fascist parties such as Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is our Homeland), led by the current Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, whose electoral campaign was run under the slogan of ‘No loyalty, no citizenship’, have proposed a series of racist laws criminalising Palestinians in Israel. The head of The Committee for the Defence of Land and Home in Wadi Arah region told FRFI that while the Zionist state of Israel has always been racist towards its Palestinian citizens, it now has a ‘thirst to implement racist policies’.
Yisrael Beiteinu and its Habayit Hayihudi allies have proposed three laws to the Knesset targeting Palestinians. One is the Nakba bill which Yisrael Beiteinu submitted in May and which would outlaw Palestinian commemoration of the Nakba with a jail term of up to three years for those who violate the ban. The Nakba, the Catastrophe of May 1948, brought the destruction of Palestine and the establishment of Israel. The fascists also proposed a loyalty oath, which would make citizenship conditional on swearing loyalty to the state. The newspaper Haaretz quoted Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset member David Rotem saying that ‘during recent years, it has emerged that citizens of the state of Israel are not loyal to the state... This bill aims to link loyalty to the state, its symbols and values, and mandatory military service, to being a citizen of Israel.’
Although the second bill has been rejected for the moment, the Knesset has approved the first with some amendments. The ‘softened’ bill, as Lieberman calls it, bans funding for activities which could harm state symbols such as the national flag. The third bill, which was also approved by the Knesset, criminalises anyone who publicly denies the state of Israel is a Jewish state; they face up to a year in gaol.
In an attempt to erase the Palestinian existence and memory, the Minister of Transport, Yisrael Katz of the Likkud, has decided to Hebrew-ise road signs in Israel so that the Arab names of cities, towns and villages will cease to exist. For example, Jerusalem which is Al Quds in Arabic and Yirushalaim in Hebrew, will be rewritten as Yirushalaim both in Arabic and English.
House demolitions and planning policies: an oppressive apparatus
Zionist settlements are being created and extended inside the Green Line in Israel as well as in the West Bank. The Ministries of the Interior and Housing are planning to build a new settlement for 150,000 ultra-nationalist religious Jews in predominantly Palestinian Wadi Arah which connects central and coastal Israel to its north. The planned city, which will be on Palestinian land, violates the same planning and zoning rules which are the pretext for demolishing Palestinian houses in the area. It will also strangle the expansion of local Palestinian towns and villages.
Palestinians in Wadi Arah are facing a vicious campaign of house demolitions, a policy which aims at ‘transferring us’, FRFI was told by a Palestinian whose commercial store was demolished recently. In Wadi Arah there are more than 70 houses and buildings which are threatened with imminent demolition. There are many thousands more, which, according to the Israeli planning authorities, have been built without a permit and are therefore illegal. In reality, the regional planning authorities do not approve master plans submitted by the Palestinian local authorities. This leaves no alternative for Palestinians but to build on their private unauthorised land.
According to the National Master Plan, on either side of Wadi Arah are green areas, which means that Palestinians cannot build homes there nor develop them as a commercial zone. The city of Umm el Fahem, the largest in Wadi Arah, submitted plans to the regional planning committee to approve its entrance as a commercial zone. As expected, the committee refused, and instead there will be only two commercial centres along the main road of Wadi Arah, both in Jewish kibbutzim. This will channel business to Jewish settlements and lead to the underdevelopment of Palestinians areas. Many commercial stores in Umm el Fahem which attract Palestinians from Wadi Arah and the Galilee are threatened with demolition. Suq Al Saa’di was one of a number of stores which were demolished on 1 July 2009. An eyewitness on his way to work was shocked to see that at 3am there were loads of police and special units in the store entrance:
‘They were standing one next to the other...like a military parade... I thought they came to occupy the city ...I started screaming from my car asking hysterically in Arabic what is happening here...then as I turned my head to the left I saw the demolishing machines.’
Another said ‘they came like thieves’: locals believe that the authorities fear resistance so they work under cover of darkness. The people set up a protest tent on the demolished site and immediately started to rebuild it, under the slogan ‘You demolish and we build’, declaring a general strike in the region. Two days after the inauguration of the rebuilt site, the authorities demolished it again. Clashes left 17 Palestinians injured. The decision is to rebuild yet again.
Minister of Housing Ariel Attias said on 2 July 2009 that ‘efforts must be made to stop Arab expansion in the Nahal Eeron/Wadi Arah area of northern Israel’. All these provocative actions, says the Popular Committee for the Defence of Land and Home, reveal ‘the desire of the government to implement the biggest demolition campaign’ in recent years and aim at threatening the very existence of Palestinians on their own land.
The Palestinians in Israel are not alone: the Druze and Cherkessk who serve in the Israeli Army have been on strike as their local authorities are on the verge of collapse. They suffer from severe discrimination as well; their land has been confiscated and annexed to Jewish settlements. By using the many laws and Emergency Rules inherited from the British Mandate, and through the martial law imposed from 1948-66, the Zionists have confiscated most of Palestinian land, leaving only 3% of the total land in Palestinian hands.
Despite these racist attacks, Palestinians resist and Palestine will always remain Palestine. As Umm Kammil, who together with her disabled husband was thrown out of their East Jerusalem house at 3am on 9 November 2008 – he died a week later – said: ‘Oppression has its day but right is until the last day!’ Umm Kammil still lives in her protest tent, despite all the harassment from settlers and soldiers who have not only occupied her house but torn down her tent six times: she is still steadfast, strongly believing that oppression will be defeated.