In Tel Aviv on February 4, 2017
An Agence France-Presse journalist said that around 1,000 protesters – Israeli Arabs and Jews – marched arm-in-arm through central Tel Aviv on Saturday night, calling for the government to stop demolishing Arab homes built without permits that are rarely granted.
Israeli Arab leaders called for a general strike in all their towns and villages in response to the demolition. They say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has cracked down on unlicensed Arab construction to placate Jewish settlers angry at a demolition order against the Amona outpost in the occupied West Bank. Israeli public radio said that the strike was widely observed in Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm, the country’s largest Arab cities, and in the mixed-population city of Haifa.
Netanyahu said: “The law must be equitable; the same law which obliges vacating Amona also obliges removing illegal construction in other parts of our country, therefore I have given orders to speed up demolition of illegal construction… in all parts of the country and we shall do that in the coming days.”
Israeli Arabs are descendants of Palestinians who remained after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. They now make up around 17.5% of the population and say the state systematically discriminates against them, making it impossible for them to obtain planning permission to expand their communities. The result is that many resort to building homes without permits, leaving them liable to demolition.
The Jerusalem Post reported that in January thousands protested in Kalansuwa near Kfar Saba following the destruction of 11 buildings in the town by government bulldozers.
Haaretz adds that four local families who owned the buildings had been notified of the demolitions only two days before they were carried out and were not given sufficient time to respond through legal channels. Kalansua Mayor Abdel Bassat Salameh announced his resignation in the wake of the demolitions. He said he had fought for years to expand Kalansua’s master plan, which the Israeli authorities had refused to approve for decades.
Doha Baransi, a student from the nearby town of Taibe, added: “What they are doing is destroying the lives of the people. They should respect the people. They don’t respect us as Arabs and as citizens. If they wanted to respect us they wouldn’t destroy.”