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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/25/15

Israel's Arab citizens fight for a roof over their heads

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Reprinted from Middle East Eye

Official "Judaization" policy blamed for severe housing crisis as anger mounts over family made homeless twice in two months
Relatives of Tareq Khatib survey the ruins of his home on the edge of the Israeli town of Kafr Kana, destroyed by Israeli officials on June 15
Relatives of Tareq Khatib survey the ruins of his home on the edge of the Israeli town of Kafr Kana, destroyed by Israeli officials on June 15
(Image by (Jonathan Cook/MEE))
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KAFR KANA -- The start of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan has been bitter for Tareq Khatib.

The Israeli authorities razed his home for the second time in two months last week. He is now under house arrest, confined to a friend's home and separated from his wife and children.

His lawyer has warned that he should expect a bill from the state for hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the costs of the demolitions and security operations.

Fingering prayer beads, the 48-year-old father of five looked disconsolate, his hopelessness compounded by fatigue from the afternoon heat and a long day without food or water.

"Where are my family and I supposed to live?" he asked. "It seems the government thinks the only place for us is out on the street, without a roof over our heads. It's like they are waging a war against their own citizens."

In the darkness before dawn on June 15, hundreds of Israeli police entered the Galilee town of Kafr Kana, close to Nazareth, to destroy Khatib's almost-completed house.

It was carried out like a military operation, he told Middle East Eye. Police, some on horse-back, sealed off the roads to the area while others fired stun grenades and rubber bullets as dozens of neighbours and relatives tried to stop the demolition. Four people were arrested, including Khatib himself.

Treated like an enemy

Khatib's long and unsuccessful battle to build his family a home legally has come to symbolize a much larger struggle by Israel's Palestinian minority against decades of land confiscations, severe planning restrictions and an ever-escalating housing crisis.

Israel's 1.5 million Palestinians, a fifth of the population, have citizenship but their leaders say they are treated more like an enemy population.

The formation in May of an ultra-nationalist coalition under Benjamin Netanyahu has further raised fears that the destruction of Khatib's home will herald a wave of house demolitions in the Galilee.

Interior ministry officials are evasive about figures for unauthorized building in Israel, but experts say the number of such homes is believed to have reached around 30,000 in Israel's Palestinian communities.

"That means one in 10 Arab homes in Israel is treated as illegal by the government and faces the threat of demolition," said Hana Swaid, who was until recently an Arab member of the Israeli parliament.

He heads the Arab Centre for Alternative Planning, an organization promoting fairer land and housing allocations for the Palestinian minority.

According to Swaid, the housing problems faced by Khatib and thousands of other Palestinian families in Israel derive from an official Zionist policy of "Judaisation."

"The goal since the state's creation has been to Judaise territory. That doesn't mean just building communities for Jews but tightly restricting where Arab citizens can live. They are trapped with no options for the future for themselves or their children."

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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