Residents of the northern village of Musheirifa received notices last week that two homes in the village will be demolished, as part of an ongoing campaign against illegal construction in Israeli Arab communities.
Tensions have been running higher than usual between Israel’s Arab population and government authorities since January, when the government demolished 11 buildings on the outskirts of the central town of Qalansawe, and 12 structures in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the southern Negev Desert.
The latter incident resulted in the deaths of police officer Erez Levi and Umm al-Hiran resident Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an in what police say was a terror attack, a claim that has been widely disputed.
Both demolition pushes resulted in large protests and widespread strikes among Israel’s Arab citizens, with the Joint (Arab) List Knesset faction branding the demolitions “an unprecedented crime and a declaration of war against” the “Arab public.”
“I call on Arab citizens, all the members of the Knesset and the [Arab Higher] Monitoring Committee to intensify the struggle so that our homes will not be destroyed,” said Ahmed Sayyid Agbaria, a resident of Musheirifa whose home, along with his brother’s, is slated to be destroyed, according to the Hebrew-language Ynet news site.
Agbaria added that the demolition notices the owners received said that the decision cannot be appealed.
The notices sent to the Agbaria brothers were just two of dozens of demolition orders received recently by Arab residents of the Triangle area in northern Israel where Musheirifa is located. The Finance Ministry told Ynet that “the homes were built in an illegal manner.”
MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) told Ynet that “[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is leading the two peoples to a disaster with his racist policies,” while describing recent protests by Arab citizens against the home demolitions as “the ray of light in the darkness of the destructive radicalization of Netanyahu.”
The crackdown on illegal construction by Israeli Arabs has gathered steam since December, when Netanyahu instructed Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to step up enforcement against unauthorized building among the country’s Arab population.
Critics of the recent demolition wave claim that the destruction of illegally built homes by Arabs is part of effort by Netanyahu to appease his supporters in light of the evacuation of the Amona outpost in the West Bank, which was built illegally on private Palestinian land. Netanyahu himself seemingly confirmed that in a December video in which he insisted that the law on illegal construction must be egalitarian.
“The same law that necessitates the evacuation of Amona, necessitates the evacuation of illegal construction elsewhere in our country,” he said. “I will not have double standards on enforcing the law between citizens of Israel, between Jews and Arabs, between one person and the next.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.