The government is paying millions of shekels in compensation to mixed Jewish-Arab cities for damage caused during Operation Guardian of the Walls, but is not compensating Arab cities and local authorities that also suffered damage.
In May 2021, riots erupted across Israel, causing heavy damage to property and public buildings in those communities during Operation Guardian of the Walls in Gaza. After the war, the local authorities asked the Tax Authority for compensation for the damage caused to public buildings and municipal properties, in accordance with the property tax law and a compensation fund available for damaged deriving from the Jewish-Arab conflict or, the Israeli-Arab conflict, as the state puts it.
The state agreed to requests submitted by the municipalities of the mixed Jewish-Arab cities of Lod, Ramle and Acre. It paid 3.8 million shekels ($1.1. million) to Acre and an advance of 300,000 shekels to Ramle. It also pledged an additional 900,000 shekels to Ramle (per the municipality’s estimate) for work completed and receipts submitted. Lod is still negotiating with the Tax Authority over the amount of compensation.
In contrast, the Tax Authority rejected damage compensation requests from Umm al-Fahm, Rahat, Tira and the local councils of Nahaf, Rayna and Deir Hanna. The Tax Authority’s refusal in Umm al-Fahm was based on the claim that the damage had nothing to do with the Jewish-Arab conflict, and that the residents were to blame, as Haaretz reported last month. Legal experts told Haaretz that the explanation given for the refusal to compensate all of the Arab municipalities is identical to the one given to the Umm al-Fahm municipality.
Umm al-Fahm appealed the decision with the Tax Authority appeals committee, along with a request to obtain data on the amount of compensation received by Arab, Jewish and mixed local authorities for damage done during the Gaza conflict. The Tax Authority refused the request, calling the requested data confidential.
Attorney Mudar Yunas, chairman of the National Committee for Arab Local Authority Heads, said: “This is further evidence of the government’s discriminatory policy against the Arab public. After designating some ministerial budgets for Jews only, and after the Interior Ministry has spearheaded an effort to weaken Arab local authorities – now Arab local authority heads are discovering that the public property in their communities is invisible to government institutions, and that the Arab local authorities are being blatantly discriminated against.” Yunas added: “We call on the government to immediately start remedying this injustice that discriminates against the Arab public. We are prepared to fight this and any other injustice toward us by the government.”
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The Movement for Freedom of Information, which also requested data from the Tax Authority about the amount of compensation received by the various local authorities, said: “The data presented in the article provide a very disturbing picture. Our inquiries to the Tax Authority seek to dispel the fog surrounding the Tax Authority’s policy. The Tax Authority would do well to provide the information and not hide behind confidentiality claims that have nothing to do with the requested information.”
The Tax Authority responded: “The Tax Authority, through the Property Tax Compensation Fund, is committed, as always, to examining each claim to see whether it meets legally mandated conditions for compensation. When the conditions are met, compensation is paid as required by law. When the conditions are not deemed to be met, the claim is rejected and the claimant has the right to file an appeal of the Tax Authority’s decision.”