‘Thousands’ of Israeli Arab homes threatened with demolition

‘I’m annoyed because I tell myself: who gives them the right to destroy our house,”’an eight-year-old said, her young voice shaking with anger

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“Where will we go,” asks eight-year-old Tiba Qeren, saying goodbye to the family home that, like those of many other Israeli Arabs, is condemned to demolition for failing to meet planning rules.

“I’m afraid,” she tells AFP. “I know that they are going to destroy our home as they have others in Ramle,” the mixed Arab and Jewish town where they live, about 18 kilometers from Tel Aviv.

“I’m annoyed because I tell myself: who gives them the right to destroy our house,” she says, her young voice shaking with anger.

“The land is not theirs, it belongs to my family and the house is not theirs because it is my family who built it!”

Read also: Palestinian, Israeli rights groups condemn home demolitions

The Israeli Arab community has its roots in the 160,000 Palestinians who stayed on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948.

Today they and their descendants number around 1.3 million.

While Israeli law guarantees them full equality with other citizens, in practice there are claims of discrimination in government funding and a raft of other issues.

Israeli Arab rights group Adalah says only 4.6 percent of new homes built in Israel are in Arab towns and villages although Arabs make up 20 percent of the population.

Jewish settlers in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, who number around 580,000, receive four times as many housing units as Arabs in Israel, the group’s website says.

On Wednesday, five apartments in the Arab village of Dahmash, between Ramle and Lod, were demolished for having been built without construction permits, a villager told AFP.

On Monday, a home in the Galilee village of Kfar Kana -- biblical Cana -- was razed for the same reason.

In Ramle, 11 families last week received demolition notices.

Arab community leaders Wednesday called for a general strike in protest

Across the country the potential threat is huge, Arab former MP Hana Sweid said.

“About 25,000 Arab homes fall under the scope of demolition orders,” he told AFP.

“Police came a week ago and told us that he must leave the house quietly, without resistance,” said Tiba’s father, Yusef Qeren, 49.

“I told them, there are 12 people living here.”

He said that four times he submitted applications for building permits and four time he was rejected.

His son Abdelrahman, 14, does not believe his home could soon be rubble.

“If they destroy it, we shall rebuild it!” he vows.

Yusef Qeren is convinced that the local authorities are anti-Arab in their policy on planning permission.

“In Ramle the law only applied to Arabs,” he said.

A local committee opposing the planned demolitions has set up a protest tent, with a large banner in Arabic and Hebrew.

“They are destroying Arab homes and building houses for settlers,” it reads.

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