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Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrate against demolitions in Qalansawe

Jan. 14, 2017 7:06 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 15, 2017 9:18 P.M.)
ACRE (Ma'an) -- Dozens participated in a protest Saturday in support of residents of the Israeli town of Qalansawe whose homes were demolished by Israeli forces earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Israeli forces demolished 11 homes belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel for lacking Israel-issued construction permits, in what Amnesty International Israel said amounted to possible human rights violations, accusing Israeli forces of acting on “political motives.”

Saturday’s demonstration was held at the crossroads between the northern Israeli town of Kafr Yasif and the al-Ayathiyya neighborhood, and was organized by Israel’s left-wing political bloc Hadash and the Israeli Communist Party (Maki).

Participants carried posters slamming Israel's policy of home demolitions and called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's “racist government" to be toppled.

Demonstrators stressed that Palestinian citizens of Israel do not want to build homes without licences, but are forced to "due to the racist policies of consecutive Israeli governments,” in which master plans for Palestinian communities “are never approved.”

Protesters expressed solidarity with the families whose homes were demolished with only one day’s advance warning, and affirmed that protests against Israel’s systematic targeting of Palestinian citizens of Israel with home demolitions would continue “through every available means.”
On Friday, thousands of Palestinian citizens and supporters took to the streets in Israel to protest against the demolitions, which they claimed was a systematic policy by Israeli authorities to tear apart Palestinian communities in Israel in order to pressure them to leave the region.

The day following the demolitions, Palestinian citizens declared a general strike across Israel, which included protests in dozens of Palestinian-majority towns and at least half a million Palestinians participating in the strike.

Due to the planning failures in the region, which necessitates that any building plans be approved on the regional rather than local level, Palestinians in Qalansawe and other areas dominated by Palestinian citizens have been forced to build without proper permission from Israeli authorities in order to accommodate an increasing population.

Amnesty International Israel called the demolitions in Qalansawe “politically unacceptable,” and noted that the Israeli planning authorities in the region have been dysfunctional for decades.

However, the mass demolition campaign on Tuesday was “almost unprecedented.”

Despite receiving the demolition orders only a day before the demolitions were carried out, the demolition notices were dated on Dec. 20, a move which the group said was designed to prevent the residents of Qalansawe from appealing the demolition orders.

Residents, however, quickly responded to the demolition notices the day before and began legal proceedings against them. But Israeli forces demolished the homes anyway, despite the right of residents to appeal such decisions.

The demolition campaign came after the Israeli prime minister vowed to escalate demolitions of Palestinian communities in Israel in retaliation to an Israeli Supreme Court decision to demolish the illegal Israeli settler outpost of Amona in the occupied West Bank, which was built on privately-owned Palestinian land in contravention of both international and domestic Israeli law.

Meanwhile, according to Palestinian NGO Adalah, only 4.6 percent of the housing tenders published by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) in 2015 were dedicated to Palestinian communities in Israel, although the population comprises 20 percent of the population.

The Palestinian population in Israel requires 13,000 new housing units per year, yet in practice only 7,000 housing units are built, mostly by means of private, self-construction, according to the group.

"As a result of the government's widespread failure to authorize a sufficient number of building permits in Arab communities, the phenomenon of ‘illegal’ home construction is widespread as residents seek to house expanding populations,” Adalah has said.

“The housing shortage in Arab communities in Israel is not the result of specific failures or unintentional neglect on the part of state authorities. It is instead the product of a systematic and deliberate policy since 1948 that has viewed Palestinian citizens as enemies and aliens.”
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