Israeli Arabs Call for General Strike Over Home Demolitions

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The demolioshed construction in Dahamsheh, April 15, 2015.Credit: Moti Milrod

Three homes were destroyed Wednesday under a demolition order in the unrecognized village of Dahamesh, near Lod – the third demolition of illegal construction in an Arab community within 48 hours. The demolition in Dahamesh began at 4 A.M., when hundreds of policemen, including riot control units, surrounded the area to secure the entrance of three bulldozers that destroyed three homes belonging to the Assaf family that were under construction.

Walid Assaf told Haaretz that he had struggled for years to secure a building permit, and “whoever knows the story of Dahamesh knows that we are doing everything to get recognition and a permit to build a home. We’ve gone all the way to the Supreme Court. They demolished today, but I’m not giving up. We aren’t leaving. This is our land; we were born here and here we will die.”

On Monday, a home was demolished in Kafr Kana in the Lower Galilee, and on Tuesday three structures were knocked down in the unrecognized village of Kafr Saua in the Negev.

The Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, the main Israeli Arab leadership body, announced a general strike in the Arab sector on April 28, including in schools, because of the demolitions. The committee also said it would help the affected families rebuild their homes without any help from international organizations. Many Israeli Arabs believe that the recent spate of demolitions signifies a change of policy in the wake of the recent Knesset election,

The Prime Minister’s Office made contact Wednesday afternoon with aides of Joint Arab List chairman Ayman Odeh to arrange a meeting between Odeh and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Odeh’s associates said he would like the meeting to take place as soon as possible given the recent demolitions, but needed to consult with the heads of the other factions that comprise the list.

The Assafs’ attorney, Kais Nasser, said that there had been a hearing earlier this week at the Lod District Court on delaying the demolition order, and the court had asked the state for a response within 48 hours. “We were waiting for a response in writing; we didn’t expect the response to be demolition.”

The Interior Ministry said there was no connection between the demolition in Kafr Kana and the one in Dahamesh. “The demolition [in Dahamesh] was carried out in accordance with the District Court decision handed down two days ago that rejected the request to postpone the demolition. These are illegal, unoccupied structures of between 120 and 150 square meters that were built on land zoned for agriculture.”

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