Palestinian citizens of Israel have announced a nationwide strike after Israeli authorities demolished 11 Palestinian homes.
“We condemn the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally for these crimes, that reflect his racist mentality and aim to divert attention away from his scandals,” said Mohammad Baraka, the head of the High Follow-up Committee, a representative body for the Palestinian citizens of the state.
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In a statement issued on Tuesday, the committee stressed the importance of standing in unity and joining ranks to repel “the new attack that the government has taken against us”.
The homes were demolished on Tuesday in the city of Qalansawe in central Israel, on the pretext that they were built without a permit, but Palestinians say their permit applications are almost always denied causing them to build their homes illegally.
The strike is taking place across all Palestinian towns within Israel and in all areas of public life, including schools. Activist and professor of architecture Yosef Jabareen said half a million Palestinians face displacement in Israel and East Jerusalem.
There is systematic ghettoisation of our towns and a strategy to confine us within our existing spaces.
“Five hundred thousand people living in 100,000 homes within Israel and East Jerusalem are under threat of having their homes demolished,” Jabareen told Al Jazeera. Approximately 56,000 of those homes are in the Negev region in the south, the triangle in central Israel, and in the Galilee region in the north, while the other 44,000 homes are in occupied East Jerusalem.
During the past two decades approximately 5,000 Palestinian homes in Israel have been demolished, Jabareen estimates.
“There is an obvious plan to halt any prospect of Palestinian cities naturally developing and expanding as our population grows. There is systematic ghettoisation of our towns and a strategy to confine us within our existing spaces.”
Palestinians have jurisdiction over only 2.3 percent of the entire state land, causing severe overcrowding in towns and villages and the building of houses without the required permits.
Since the creation of the Israeli state in 1948, no new Palestinian towns or cities were built, in contrast to the 600 Jewish municipalities that have been developed, according to Adalah, the legal centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.
“It is so hard to develop our towns because there are no construction master plans for our cities,” said Jabareen. “Israel is a very central state – all the planning decisions have to come from the government which will not make moves to develop our villages. If it were up to local authorities, we would not have this problem.”
There are 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel who who exist as second-class citizens in a “state for the Jewish people”.
According to the Adalah, Palestinian citizens of Israel suffer from more than 50 discriminatory laws limiting their access to state resources and political expression. Nadim Nashif, an activist within the Palestinian community in Israel, believes that Israel’s tactic of suppression is the same whether it is applied in the occupied territories or in Israel against Palestinians.
“This is about the same lack of rights that Palestinians experience, whether it is in the 1948 or the 1967 areas,” Nashif told Al Jazeera.
Activists believe the reason Israel is now taking action against homes built without permits is to “prove to the Jewish Israelis” that they will “compensate for evacuating settlers in the Amona outpost” in the occupied West Bank, said Nashif.
In December, Netanyahu was quoted by the Israeli daily Haaretz as suggesting that he would push for demolitions of Arab homes to appease Israelis. “There will be no double standards regarding construction,” Netanyahu reportedly told a source quoted by Haaretz, prompting outrage among Palestinian politicians in Israel.
Nashif believes this strike is more symbolic than effective.
“We’ve gone on strike, but this doesn’t affect the state. We need to apply pressure in a way that will cause the state to respond to us – like stopping traffic or organising large protests.”