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Committee to fund reconstruction of Palestinian homes demolished in Israel

Jan. 22, 2017 3:43 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 23, 2017 10:34 A.M.)
Israeli forces demolish homes in Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran on Jan. 18
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Leaders from the Palestinian citizens of Israel community have reportedly vowed to raise funds in order to rebuild dozens of homes which were demolished by Israeli authorities this month in the central Israeli city of Qalansawe and in Umm al-Hiran in the southern Negev region.

The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel announced it would raise the funds required to rebuild the homes, Israeli news site Ynet reported, a day after the committee held a rally attended by thousands in the city of Arara in northern Israel in protest of the demolitions, particularly after Israeli police shot and killed an Umm al-Hiran resident during an evacuation raid on Wednesday.

The committee also said protests would continue to take place in Palestinian cities, towns, and villages throughout Israel, and that on Monday a protest convoy would drive from various Palestinian towns to the Israeli prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, where a protest rally would be held, according to the report.

According to Ynet, the committee had successfully raised funds in the past to rebuild homes demolished by Israeli authorities, due to its “large network of support in Qatar, Turkey, and other Arab and Muslim countries,” as well as its support from the European Union.

Meanwhile, Israeli news outlet Arab 48 reported that as of Sunday, Israeli authorities were still withholding the body of Yaqoub Abu al-Qian, who was shot and killed in widely contested circumstances during clashes between Israeli police and protesters ahead of demolitions in Umm al-Hiran.

While numerous eyewitnesses have insisted Abu al-Qian was posing no threat to anyone when Israeli police opened fire at his vehicle, causing him to lose control of the car and ram into officers, Israeli authorities have claimed the local math teacher was carrying out a deliberate terrorist attack in the incident that left one policeman killed.

Due to the allegations, Israel has imposed a number of preconditions on Abu al-Qian’s family to release his body, as part of the state’s policy of withholding bodies of alleged attackers on the grounds that their funerals become sites of “incitement” against Israel.

The family has refused the preconditions for the funeral, which reportedly included limiting attendants to the funeral to 50, holding it at night, and launching it from his mother’s home in the village of Hura, instead of the ruins of his home in Umm al-Hiran.

In the wake of the demolitions in Umm al-Hiran and in Qalansawe earlier this month, Bethlehem-based NGO BADIL argued in a report that the “oppressive measures” were part of the same Israeli policy of forcible displacement carried out against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“While 2016 witnessed a record number of home demolitions by Israel in the (occupied Palestinian territory), with 1,089 Palestinian-owned structures being demolished displacing 1,593 Palestinians, this increase has also taken place inside Israel itself,” the group said.

“All these oppressive measures by the Israeli authorities on both sides of the Green Line represent different manifestations of the same policy. In Umm al-Hiran the pretext was its status as an 'unrecognized' village; in Qalansawe, Susiya, and Jabal al-Mukabbir they were administrative home demolitions due to lack of building permits, with Jabal al-Mukabbir facing punitive home demolitions as well.”

BADIL went on to argue that “Israel is using different tactics that serve the same purpose of realizing the Zionist goal of ‘maximum amount of land with minimum number of Palestinians.’

The report further argued that the recent demolitions in Umm al-Hiran and Qalansawe laid bare “connections between the oppressive Israeli policies against Palestinians living in both the (occupied Palestinian territory) and Israel."

BADIL cautioned that the international community “rarely stressed” the forcible population transfer of Palestinians in both areas, despite the "daily manifestations" of the displacement of Palestinians, regardless of their status as residents of the occupied West Bank or East Jerusalem or citizens of Israel.

The group demanded that the international community and relevant United Nations agencies “scrutinize Israel's policies and practices of forced displacement and dispossession of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, and to take necessary action in order to put an end to these ongoing violations of the basic rights of Palestinians and central tenets of international law.”
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