Dozens of residents of a Bedouin neighborhood in northern Israel on Friday vowed to continue a public struggle against efforts to evacuate them from their land.
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Residents of Ramya, who live in tin shacks and sheds within Carmiel, waged a protest in the city center urging neighbors to support their battle against the authorities. The state expropriated Ramya residents' land in 1976, and their efforts to thwart evacuation have been going for decades.
Demonstrators at Friday's protest near city hall included residents and their families, Arab and Jewish activists who support the cause and Knesset members including Hadash chairman Mohammed Barakeh, MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) and Masud Ganaim (United Arab List-Ta’al), among others.
One of the protest leaders, Saleh Sawad, addressed the crowd, saying, "The time has come to face us. Why do they want to evict us? We have lived here for hundreds of years, and we want to live with you as human beings. The nation of Israel suffered greatly in Europe, so don’t transfer that to the residents of Ramya. What is happening is unacceptable – all we are asking is that we and our children have a roof over our heads."
In 1995, Ramya residents signed an agreement with the Israel Land Authority (formerly the administration) and the local municipality. It allocated 30 two-family plots, averaging 750 square meters each, for Ramya residents in accordance with approved building plans. They also were promised15 dunams of land for agricultural purposes and shepherds and another 15 developed plots in the nearby Beit Hakerem valley.
Ramya residents claim that the plots were only prepared for construction in 2003, eight years after the deal was signed, and that their families have grown since then. They also claim the authority unilaterally determined the criteria for allocating land, which they say is being distributed unequally.
The state, meanwhile, says it has upheld all of its obligations toward the Ramya residents. The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee discussed the issue last month, and the matter, which has already been through the courts, is currently awaiting a Supreme Court decision.