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6/6/05

The Ethnic Cleansing of Arabs inside Israel: A Recent Example from the City of Haifa

  

A growing section of the world public opinion is beginning to realize that Zionism is a colonialist movement based on the ethnic cleansing of the native Arab population of Palestine. For decades the Zionist “left” tried to center the discussion on the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the territories occupied in the Six Days War of 1967. The current Intifada has definitely put back at the center of the discussion the mass ethnic cleansing 1948 (called Nakba or catastrophe) and the inalienable right of return of the five million Palestinian refugees.

But the imperialist media and politicians want us to believe that the Zionists at worst carried out ethnic cleansings in the past, and they use the term occupation mostly to refer to the situation in the West Bank and Gaza. What the socialist and democratic activists must remember is that not only the Territories but the whole of Palestine is occupied and that an ethnic cleansing of the native Arab population is taking place not only in the West Bank and Gaza but also within Israel itself.

A clear example of this ongoing transfer is the policy of house demolitions of Arabs within Israel. The most recent example of this brutal and inhuman policy is the demolition of the house of the Boushkar family on Sunday June 5, 2005 in Haifa-one of the outstanding examples of successful “Jewish-Arab coexistence” according to the pro-Zionist media. Since we have been present at the event (one of our comrades was arrested trying to prevent the demolition) we can provide a first-hand account of how the policy works.

The house of the Boushkar family was located in one of the poorest sections of the city, next to the Hazera factory warehouses. The land itself belongs to the residents and several families have been living in tin shacks for decades. As in most cases when it comes to Arabs, they have been denied building permits-in this case with the excuse that the area designated as an industrial zone. As long as they lived in infrahuman conditions they were not molested, but when five years ago one of the families erected brick walls and a tile roof, the municipality was quick to issue a demolition order. Previous plans to build a road on the site had already been cancelled, and there are no prospects of a factory being built or expanded in the site in the foreseeable future, so that the municipality had no reason to demolish the building

The Arab community of Haifa, the Arab parties and a series of left Jewish activists organized to stop the demolition. A protest sent was set up at the site of the house, and Arab MKs came to express solidarity with the struggle. As one of them put it in his speech: “An Arab house is like a red flag to the Zionist bull.” The first reaction of the Zionists when they know of an Arab house being built is to go and destroy it.

On Thursday night (June 2) a spontaneous demonstration was held in front of Yahav’s house in the bourgeois Denya neighborhood, immediately after a demonstration was held in the area of the house slated for demolition.

On Saturday, June 4, dozens of protesters waited for Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav outside an event at Beit Hagefen-the municipality’s “Arab-Jewish” center-in the city. After the Mayor’s arrival, the protestors, waving banners, entered the hall where the event was taking place and demanded that the demolition order be postponed (pictures from this event can bee seen at yairgil.com/d-050604-haifa/index.htm).

The demonstration against mayor Yona Yahav at Beit Hagefen, Haifa

On Saturday the Arab and left activists were asked to stay and sleep at the protest tent, as it became clear that the Haifa municipality intended to carry out the demolition order whatever the consequences. The following morning, 300 policemen attacked the site, in which several dozen people were present: members of the family, supporters, activists, and Arab MK’s. Members of the Boushkar family, refusing to leave the house, threatened to blow themselves up using gas tanks. 12 people were injured by the police’s brutality and 15 were detained.

 

 

Members of the Bushkar family threaten to commit suicide to protest the demolition of their home

The Supreme Arab Monitoring Committee decided on Sunday evening to rebuild the house and appointed a team that will coordinate efforts with the Boushkar family for this purpose. The committee also adopted a decision to start raising funds to finance the reconstruction.

In the poisoned racist atmosphere of Israel, when a Zionist politician-especially from the “left” around the Labor Party-wants to raise its popularity, he attacks the Arabs. One of the most prominent examples is the Nobel peace prize laureate Shimon Peres, who in April 1996 launched the operation “Grapes of Wrath,” which killed 102 people in the Qana village in Lebanon, on the eve of the national elections. In the case of the Haifa municipality, a series of corruption scandals have flared up lately, and it is widely believed that mayor Yona Yahav turned against the Arab residents of the city hoping to boost his shrinking popularity among its Jewish residents (it remains to be seen whether this racist maneuver will not have the opposite results from what he expects).

In a related development, the Israeli government has recently announced its determination to demolish 80 to 90 houses, in which a thousand Palestinians live, in the Silwan neighborhood in Jerusalem-again probably to appear “tough” on the eve of the “disengagement” from Gaza. At the same time a massive expansion of Jewish settlements is taking place in the West Bank, especially in the lands which have been confiscated in the last three years by the Apartheid wall, whose construction is continuing apace, with more land confiscations announced every week. The ghettoization of many communities in the West bank is now complete.

The issue of house demolitions is a central one in the struggle of the Palestinians in the 1948 areas (”citizens of Israel”): some 70,000 houses in the Galilee, the Triangle and the south are under threat of demolition, due to the systematic policy of the Israeli governments, a policy of gradual ethnic cleansing by means of massive land confiscations, the denial of building permits, the absence of zoning plans for the Arab villages and towns and of any public housing projects in the Arab towns-while exclusively Jewish settlements in the same areas receive massive government financial subsidies, a policy which leads to a situation in which it is impossible for most Arab families to gain access to decent housing.

We call on all the democratic and socialist activists to support any mass activity called by the local committees and the Arab Follow-up Committee against the house demolitions. We demand the dismissal of the Mayor of Haifa, Yona Yahav, and a plan of popular construction for the families at the site. We demand the dropping of any charges against the demonstrators and an investigation of the police brutality. But in the end, nothing but the dismantling of the Zionist apartheid regime and the establishment of a common state for all the inhabitants and refugees of Palestine, both Arab and Jewish, will put an end to the horrors of occupation both inside and outside the borders of Israel.

Socialist Workers League (Palestine)

  
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