7 May 2016

Planning Laws – Another Example of Israeli Apartheid

Officially of course there is no discrimination between Arabs and Israeli Jews when it comes to planning laws.  Except that in practice Jewish towns receive planning permission when they need to expand and Arab towns don’t.  In fact there has not been one example of a new Arab town in Israel since its foundation in 1948.  In that time the Israeli Palestinian population has increased 10 fold to 1.5 million.

Two of the Arab bidders in Afula
It is particularly important for Zionism and the Judaification of Israel that Arabs are not allowed to move into Jewish towns, hence the decision by an Israeli Jews to prevent Arabs building their own homes in a ‘Jewish’ town.  Yes most towns and villages in Israel are segregated too.

In Israel half the Arab villages are ‘unrecognised’ which means they receive no normal facilities such as electricity, running water, sewerage etc. and in addition are liable to instant demolition.

The following article is from the liberal American Jewish publication Forward.  A group of Arab bidders have been refused permission to build homes by a Nazareth court on technical grounds.  The fact that Israeli Jews attacked the original decision of the Mayor to grant permission, saying he was a ‘terrorist’ and a ‘traitor’ gives you a flavour of the nature of the objections.

Israeli Judge Says No to Arabs Building in Jewish Town — Cites Bidding Woes

Naomi Zeveloff April 26, 2016Naomi Zeveloff

Dozens of Arab families who were planning to build homes in the Jewish city of Afula have lost their leases to the land after an Israeli judge said that they illegally coordinated their bids.
The rubble of three houses of the Assaf family hours after they were demolished by the Israeli authorities, on April 15, 2015. Dahmash, located between Lod and Ramle, is the only unrecognized village in central Israel. Oren Ziv / Activestills.org
Last November, hundreds of Jewish residents of Afula protested the prospect of Arab neighbors after Arab families won tenders to build 47 houses in the northern Israeli city. Demonstrators demanded Afula mayor Yitzhak Meron revoke the tenders, calling him a “traitor” and a “terrorist.”  Likewise the comment of the Jewish bidders legal representative, Itai Cohen, who celebrated the decision of the Nazareth Court by saying that ‘“This is a day of celebration for Afula, and particularly for those who were concerned about the the fate of the city’s Jewish makeup.”

A group of Jewish families who bid and lost tenders for the land first complained to the Israel Land Authority, contending that the Arab bidders had been in coordination with one another. The ILA rejected the complaint saying that it was natural for bidders with personal connections to exchange information, said Haaretz.

The Jewish families then took their petition to a Nazareth court.

On Sunday April 24, a Nazareth judge ruled in favor of the Jewish families. He said that the Arab families had organized their bids so they weren’t competing against each other and coordinated prices in a manner that “upset the market’s natural balance,” according to Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper.
Their coordination “seriously harmed the principle of equality, a principle that is at the foundation of tender law,” the judge said.
Israeli police stand guard as the home of Hana al-Nakib and her four children is demolished in the city of Lod, February 10, 2015. Palestinian citizens of Israel can rarely obtain building permits due to discriminatory criterion. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Itai Cohen, a representative of the Jewish families told Maariv: “This is a day of celebration for Afula, and particularly for those who were concerned about the the fate of the city’s Jewish makeup.”
According to Abdullah Zoabi, a lawyer representing four Arab families, the judge did not rule that the Arab families were disqualified from trying to bid on the land again. Abdullah said he was waiting to learn whether the state would intervene and limit the bidding to Afula’s Jewish residents.
Arab lawmakers are calling foul on the Nazareth court, saying the decision was driven by racism. Knesset Member Basel Ghattas told Maariv that the court’s decision reflected the “spirit of racism that has been sweeping the country. These state institutions have always used planning and construction laws to deprive Arabs of their lands and rights, and the Nazareth District Court’s decision gave a seal of approval to a petition that was lodged exclusively out of racist motives.”
The Nazareth judge invalidated the entire group of tenders, saying that the entire bidding process was “defective” and there was no way to exempt those who did not coordinate. Zoabi’s four clients were found not to have coordinated, but they lost their right to build anyway. He said he that the four families will appeal the decision to the Israeli High Court.

Iman Sharary told the Forward she was extremely disappointed to learn that the Nazareth judge disqualified her family building in Afula. She wanted to lease the land in Afula for her sons and their families, since land is at a premium in Yafia, the village where they grew up. She believes that the judge’s decision was racially motivated.

“It’s so unjust,” she said. “If this is not racism, so what is?”

She said that she and her husband, Riad Sharary, did not coordinate their bid and that she had no idea who the other Arab bidders were. Now, she is looking for a new place for her sons to settle down.
“I’ll find other places. It’s not Afula or nothing,” she said. “There are other places that are much less aggressive and much less humiliating and much less threatening.”

Naomi Zeveloff is the Forward’s Middle East correspondent. Contact her at zeveloff@forward.com or on Twitter @NaomiZeveloff

Israel's Virulent Housing Bias Runs Deep — and It's Not Only Aimed at Arabs

Naomi Zeveloff December 29, 2015

AFULA, Isrsael - From her backyard deck in Yafia, an Arab village west of Nazareth, Iman Sharary, 53, pointed to a plot of land in the distance where her sons will build their homes.
She would have preferred her children stay in Yafia, but with land at a premium in the village, she and her husband sought and won the tender to build in a less expensive area. Afula Illit is a tree-lined suburb about 10 miles south of Yafia. It’s also predominantly Jewish.
Now, the Sharary family is at the center of a local controversy with national proportions. One of dozens of Arab families from northern Israel that won tenders to build 49 homes in Afula Illit, the Shararys and their fellow Arab bidders face the fury of many of their potential Jewish neighbors.

Days after the tender process results were made public, a group of about 200 Afula residents staged a protest, calling on Mayor Yitzhak Meron to revoke the tenders. Demonstrators denounced him as a “traitor” and a “terrorist,” according to press reports. “He wants to build a mosque,” one sign at the protest read.

The Afula episode is only the latest real estate controversy with a racial tinge in Israel. According to the Walla news site, Jewish residents of Ofakim, a city west of Beersheba, won tenders to build in the city but canceled the transaction once they learned that 14 Bedouin residents were planning on settling in the same area.
Naomi Zeveloff: Not in My City: Adeil Eluz, a gas station manager in Afula, is protesting against the prospect of Arabs moving in nearby.

And in November, the Bemuna construction company posted a video advertisement of an Ashkenazi family whose Hanukkah celebration was interrupted by Mizrahi neighbors — Jews of Arab origin — depicted as raucously ignorant of their Ashkenazi holiday traditions. The video, which the company later deleted, was an advertisement for a new housing development in Kiryat Gat that presumably would be free of Mizrahim. “Do you dream of owning your own home?” the voiceover said. “Want neighbors after your own heart?”

Now, Israel’s attorney general has demanded the Israel Land Authority to look into the charge of racial discrimination at Bemuna in the sale of the apartments.

These incidents and others in recent years speak to the deep segregation in Israel. With a few exceptions, like Haifa and Jaffa, Israel is a country split along ethnic and religious lines, with different school systems and population centers for each group. Officially speaking, “there is no legal basis in creating the segregation” when it comes to housing inside the Green Line, said Talya Steiner, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute. “It just kind of evolved.”

But the High Court has sanctioned such segregation in recent years by allowing Bemuna, the company with the anti-Mizrachi advertisement, to build housing explicitly marketed to Orthodox, so-called “national religious” Jews, who are predominantly Ashkenazi, in an Arab section of Jaffa.

There are other ways that the state maintains segregation and even helps to deepen inequality between sectors. One has to do with the ultra-Orthodox. Because Haredim, as they are known in Hebrew, have larger families and educate their children in sex-segregated schools, the Housing Ministry acknowledges and supports their need for separate neighborhoods to maintain their lifestyle. Yet the Housing Ministry ran up against “not in my backyard” attitudes from several municipalities when it tried to plan Haredi neighborhoods in cities with secular and national religious majorities. Now there is a major housing shortage for ultra-Orthodox Israelis.

Another form of state-sanctioned segregation is seen in small communities in Israel, such as kibbutzim or moshavim. These communities may screen new members based on standards such as “unsuitability to the community’s social life” or its “social-cultural fabric,” or to “unique characteristics of the community as defined in its bylaws,” according to a law upheld by the high court in 2014. Critics say this is actually code language to weed out Arabs, homosexuals or anyone outside the community norm.

Beyond the issue of segregation, Israel’s Arab villages and cities suffer from a lack of planning, which exacerbates the housing shortage in these areas. In 2000, after 13 Arab citizens were killed in demonstrations at the start of the second intifada, a state commission found that inequality between the Jewish and Arab sectors in the realms of planning and building was a central cause of the unrest. The commission recommended new plans for Arab localities. But according to a 2012 report by Bimkom, a planning rights organization, planning in Arab cities still lags far behind that in Jewish areas, leading to “housing crises and lack of public buildings for services.”

Poor city planning in Arab areas is at least part of the reason that some Arabs are moving out of their home communities and into Jewish towns. As Sharary said of her family’s purchase in Afula, “Arabs need it very much.”

“The story of Afula is a symptom of a much greater issue,” Steiner said. “There is a socioeconomic development pushing young Arab couples to leave Arab cities and find quality of life in adjacent neighborhoods.”

Many of the Arab buyers in Afula — such as the Shararys, who are a family of accountants — come from sturdier economic backgrounds than the Jews who are now protesting their presence in the city.

“There is a counterintuitive socioeconomic aspect here,” said Rachelle Alterman, a planning expert at Israel’s Technion. “We are talking about an upwardly mobile, upper-middle income, or certainly a higher-educated Arab population in Afula, which is lower-middle income Jewish. There is this reverse disparity.”

Afula’s Jewish protesters are expressing their opposition to these new neighbors loud and clear. One anonymous activist posted a photo of Meron wrapped in a keffiyeh, the Palestinian national scarf, on Facebook. Right-wing activists mocked up similar images of Yitzhak Rabin before his murder, and also, more recently, of President Reuven Rivlin for his outreach to Arab citizens. According to a report on the Israeli website Mynet, the police are investigating the picture’s provenance.

One of the protesters, David Suissa, is chief of staff to Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant of the center-right Kulanu party. Issawi Frej, an Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset, called for his firing.

“The Housing Ministry should campaign against racism in housing and not promote it,” he said.

The mayor’s spokesman, Moty Priel, said that the municipality is “unable to and should not intervene” in the tender process. Because the land in question is state owned, any citizen — regardless of race, religion or gender — may participate in the auction, which is held by the ILA.

An ILA spokesman told the Forward that the tender was conducted “according to the rules.”
That hasn’t placated the protesters. Adeil Eluz, manager of a gas station in Afula, said that the tender should have first been open to locals in Afula and then to people who have served in the army — a move that would exclude most Arab Israelis, who are not drafted into the army.
Naomi Zeveloff:  Working the Legal Front: Attorney Ilan Vaknin, who represents 10 Jewish families who lost an auction for tenders to build homes in Afula, says he and his clients ‘want to keep the Jewish character’ of the city. He is calling for an investigation into where the Arab families who won the bids got their money.

 “It’s not against the Arab people,” he said. “It’s against the priority of the mayor and his councilors to give land to outside people instead of local people.”

Ilan Vaknin, an attorney representing 10 Jewish families who lost the auction, as well as other Afula residents, is less guarded in his assessment.

“We want to keep the Jewish character of the city,” he said. “And if we take in 50 [Arabs] in this little place, this will change the place from one side to the other.” Afula’s total population is 41,000 residents.

Vaknin said he suspects that some of the Arab buyers coordinated their bids, which would run afoul of the ILA process.

“Maybe an Islamist organization brought money to buy the Jewish land,” he said. “We want the police to check it.” The mayor’s office said it would look into the allegations.

Sharary believes that the protesters are driven by fear. The uproar hasn’t prompted her family to reconsider their bid. “It’s a good opportunity to make Afula another mixed town,” she said.
Contact Naomi Zeveloff at zeveloff@forward.com or on Twitter, @NaomiZeveloff

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