Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israeli Forces Open Fire on Arab Citizens of Israel Protesting Land Confiscations Inside Israeli Borders

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israeli Forces Open Fire on Arab Citizens of Israel Protesting Land Confiscations Inside Israeli Borders

Article excerpt

Israeli Forces Open Fire on Arab Citizens of Israel Protesting Land Confiscations Inside Israeli Borders

A powerful event took place in late September in Umm al-Fahm, a Palestinian town inside Israel's borders, that has many here wondering if a sleeping giant is beginning to open its eyes. Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship are once again reminded that in a state defined as a Jewish State, their position as a national minority is that of second-class citizens, discriminated against and oppressed violently when the need arises.

Three days of violent clashes took place in Umm al-Fahm, north of Tel Aviv, when Israeli police and soldiers broke up a peaceful protest held in a tent near the town. The protest was in response to an Israeli decree to expropriate 10,000 acres of land belonging to the area's residents and turn them into a shooting range for the Israeli army.

Palestinians who live in villages in this area, known as al-Roha, are all too aware that such confiscations for "military use" usually end up as new Jewish towns or settlements.

"These massive land confiscations not only prevent our overcrowded villages from naturally expanding, but they are part of a larger plan to keep us off the land so Israel can eventually settle it and break up any territorial integrity that exists either here or anywhere else where Palestinians live inside Israel," said Tawfiq Jabareen, an attorney from Umm al-Fahm who is a member of the Popular Committee for the Defense of the Lands of al-Roha.

Jabareen, who studied law at American University and interned at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), told the Washington Report that the Israeli government has longterm designs on this and other Arab-owned land in Israel. He referred to the Israeli 2020 Plan that foresees the building of some 300,000 homes for Jews by the year 2020.

"The first step is to confiscate our land using all manner of laws, decrees, and ordinances which are blatantly discriminatory and which basically make it impossible to keep our land or to get anything back that was taken when the state was formed," he explained.

"The government tells us we can grow vertically rather than horizontally. In other words, Palestinian ghettos with skyscrapers and no land," he said, using Umm al-Fahm as an example. "We're bursting at the seams with 36,000 people and the government refuses to allow us to build on the surrounding land -- our land, which is now subject to confiscation."

Large sectors of land in the al-Roha area had already been expropriated in 1948 for use by the military. In fact, by the early 1950s the state became owner of 92 percent of all land in Israel, a figure that has increased to 95 percent to include subsequent confiscations. Expropriation of Palestinian-owned land is carried out with the help of over 30 laws. All confiscated land is subject to the Israeli Basic Land Laws that ensure no state lands can be transferred either by sale or any other means.

Legal struggles to regain land are doomed by the complicated system of state ownership and private land held by the Jewish National Fund and Development Agency, who together own one-third of the land in Israel. Both agencies have close links with the Israeli government. …

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