An Intifada in the Carmel

"We call on the prime minister and his fellow ministers: Wake up and take notice of us, or a new intifada may start here, the 'Al-Carmel Intifada.'" This announcement was made on Sunday by Fahmi Halabi, chairman of the nonprofit organization Protection of Carmel Lands, during a large protest rally at the village of Daliat al-Carmel. The rally, attended by more than a thousand people, including sheikhs and other public figures, was initiated and organized by the NGO for the eve of a hearing at the appeals committee of the National Planning and Building Council, about a plan to annex thousands of dunams of private land, owned by local residents of Daliat al-Carmel, to the Carmel National Park.

At the hearing, landowners and representatives of the NGO and the municipality (including Daliat al-Carmel and Isfiya) will present their objection to Plan 1209/G. The plan, initiated by the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority and approved by the Haifa Regional Planning and Building Committee, envisions that more than 7,000 dunams of private lands will become part of the Carmel Park. "We are determined to fight against this plan, which cares more for the wild boars and birds than it does for human beings," says Halabi. He states, "The citizens of Dalia consider the area planned for annexation to be the village's 'backyard' and a natural direction for its growth, but according to the plan, there is no chance that the village will grow to the west, and we are thus sentenced to live in a ghetto. Those who made the plan are sending us a clear message: You, the Druze of the Carmel, have nowhere to grow, leave the village."

Yesterday, a strike was announced in Daliat al-Carmel and Isfiya, applying to all public institutions, including the education system. Local businesses have also answered the call. The NGO announced that Druze spiritual leadership, as well as Druze local authority heads and Knesset Member Majali Wahabi, all support the struggle. The mayor, Doctor Akram Hasson, warned of a situation in which the planning authorities ignore the residents' claims: "As far as we are concerned, this is a struggle for our very existence in this village," he said. "We will turn to the Supreme Court and even to international organizations, and if that will not help, I announce that I will allow land owners to build houses on the lands. Let the bulldozers come if they will." Mayor Hasson emphasized, "We do not oppose the law, but we cannot obey arbitrary laws that endanger our very existence."

The NGO for the Protection of Carmel Lands mentioned that the park plan is just one of a number of plans threatening the future of thousands of dunams belonging to the residents of Daliat al-Carmel and Isfiya, including another plan which reduces the town's jurisdiction, and plans to lay the gas line, railway and the Trans-Israel Highway. According to residents, all of this is robbing them of more than 3,000 dunams of private lands in the areas of Jalme and Masoura on the Carmel's eastern slopes. "It is interesting that every national project or extension must invade private lands of the Arab population, which owns only 3 percent of the country's land," said Hadash MK Dr. Hanna Swaid, and added, "There is no doubt that the battle for land is the most important campaign the Arab public in Israel faces today." According to Swaid, even the fact that Druze serve in the army offers them no help in this case. Balad party activist Said Nafaa also thinks the legal struggle cannot be of benefit in this case: "Unfortunately it has been proved that only a public campaign and a firm rank facing these plans can bear fruit."

The Interior Ministry's response: "The plan in question has been approved already a year ago. There is no expropriation of lands in the plan, and the area it deals with is considerably distant from Carmel City and Daliat al-Carmel. The plan's purpose is to conserve the natural habitat as it is. In areas with agricultural activity, this activity will not be disturbed."

The Interior Ministry further stated that the appeal hearing that will take place on November 15 at the National Planning and Building Council, has already been postponed several times by request from the municipality, despite objection from the Haifa District.

The Nature and Parks Authority sent no response.