Analysis

While Coddling Illegal Outpost, Israel Demolishes Arab Construction With Glee

The government cites a lack of permits, but the Arab community can't accept its bleak situation for long.

A demolished building in Kalansua, January 10, 2017.
Moti Milrod

The house demolitions in the Arab town of Kalansua Tuesday were accompanied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s militant Facebook post on “equal enforcement” and the congratulations from Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. All this is largely a message to the home audience: the government, the right and at their head the settlers, with a special emphasis on the Amona settlers.

“We promised and we have fulfilled our promise” is the message. When it comes to the Arab community, the government enforces the laws on illegal construction and in one day demolishes 11 buildings in a single town. An effort that large hasn’t been seen in decades.

The timing is no coincidence: the UN Security Council decision, the ruling in the Elor Azaria case, Joint List MK Basel Ghattas allegedly carrying smartphones for security prisoners. Then on Sunday came the truck-ramming attack in Jerusalem. With all this, public opinion, especially the right, has the appetite for another 100 demolitions in Arab towns and villages. The Kalansua demolitions were larger than those every week in unrecognized villages in the Negev and the West Bank.

This time the message also went out to the heads of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, Arab Knesset members, and the heads of local governments and civil society groups: The State of Israel wants, and has the tools, to do this in the heart of Arab communities. And nothing will stop it, certainly not militant declarations to the media and empty statements like “declaration of war” and “we will prevent the demolitions with our bodies.”

The announcement by Kalansua’s mayor, Abdel Basset Salameh, of his intention to resign because of the demolitions reflects the helplessness of Arab elected officials.

In an emergency meeting a few hours after the demolitions, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, mayors and Joint List MKs rushed to declare a general strike for Wednesday in the Arab community, along with other steps basically declarative. It’s doubtful that all this will deter the government, help the families who lost their homes, or calm people with a demolition order hanging over their heads.

Israeli Arabs particularly their elected officials fiercely object to the comparison with the settlers. Arab citizens aren’t stealers of land and haven’t built towns under the auspices of the occupation. They’re building on their own private land they bought with their own money, or inherited.

But everyone present in Kalansua on Tuesday felt that the name Amona was hovering in the air. It expresses Arabs’ weakness in Israel, and how Israel’s political leaders take pride in the country being the only democracy in the Middle East.

But meanwhile, these leaders are taking a stand to find a solution for 40 families of land thieves the settlers at the Amona outpost. The political leaders are recruiting the attorney general and top experts in order to bypass the High Court of Justice’s decision to evacuate Amona. But they’re refusing to discuss any proposal to legalize tens of thousands of Arab homes built on private land in the heart of Arab communities and lead a consensual move for efficient planning for Arab society.

Neither the government nor the Arab leaders can accept this bleak situation for long. Leaders of the Arab community must do some soul-searching. Factionalism is tearing Arab society apart and preventing a legitimate and effective democratic protest. The government can’t depend on the apathy and patience of Arab citizens for too long.