NAZARETH (Ma’an) -- Palestinian citizens of Israel launched a general strike on Wednesday in protest of the demolition of 10 homes in the central Israeli city of Qalansawe the previous day.
The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee announced the strike -- which will include the closure of all schools, businesses, and public places -- following a meeting in Qalansawe.
The meeting was held hours after Israeli bulldozers razed the houses to the ground for being built without permits, as authorities have rejected attempts by the municipality to legalize a master plan for the city for the past 20 years. The incident prompted the mayor of the town to submit his resignation.
Palestinian-majority cities across Israel will partake in the strike, including Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm, Rahat, and Kuseifa.
Dozens of protesters in Umm al-Fahm held signs written in both Arabic and Hebrew condemning Israeli policies “strangling” Israeli towns with a majority Palestinian population and preventing them from developing.
MK Yousif Jabarin participated in the event, calling the strike a successful expression of Palestinian citizens of Israel’s rejection of the Israeli government’s “racist procedures.”
Strikes in towns and cities in the Southern Triangle region of Israel (Qalansawe, Tayibeh, Kafr Qasim, Tira, Kafr Bara and Jaljulia) will also include medical institutes.
Sit-ins were scheduled in the northern Israeli cities of Kafr Yasif and Baqa al-Gharbiyye in central Israel, while tens of Palestinian students with Israeli citizenship organized a sit in Tel Aviv University on Wednesday morning in solidarity with Qalansawe and to condemn the Israeli demolition policy in Palestinian-majority towns.
A march was also scheduled for Wednesday, from the entrance of Qalansawe to the site where demolitions were carried out.
During a meeting of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions in Qalansawe, committee members also decided to launch a campaign to aid the Palestinian citizens of Israel who were affected by the demolitions, to provide them with accommodation while they rebuilt their homes.
Another major protest will be held after Friday prayers in the presence of residents from all Palestinian communities in Israel.
Meanwhile, MK Dov Khenin visited Qalansawe and expressed his sympathy to the families affected by the demolitions.
“This is the ugly face of Netanyahu’s government,” Khenin said, adding that it took the Israeli government months to make a decision regarding Amona, while the demolitions in Qalansawe occurred “within seconds.”
The Arab Center for Alternative Planning (ACAP) said in a statement that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was sending a “dangerous message” to Palestinian citizens of Israel and punishing them for the Israeli Supreme Court decision to demolish an illegal Israeli outpost in the occupied West Bank.
In December, Netanyahu commented on the impending demolition of the Amona outpost by assuring the soon-to-be displaced settlers that he would commit to “enforcing laws” on “illegal construction” in Israel, referring primarily to Palestinian communities that are often forced to build without Israeli-issued building permits.
Netanyahu also reportedly held meetings last month when he instructed officials to “work to issue demolition orders for the illegal structures, located in Arab town in northern and southern Israel, as well as in eastern Jerusalem.”
“There will be no double standards regarding construction,” Israeli media quoted Netanyahu as saying. “There will be equal enforcement of the law in Israel for both Jews and Arabs.”
ACAP condemned the Netanyahu administration for carrying out large-scale demolitions and promoting other racist policies targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Their statement called for Palestinian communities to be granted building permits instead of being targeting by demolition campaigns which “create an atmosphere full of hate and tension” in Israeli society.
The center also expressed its willingness to provide services to popular committees to face the “barbaric policy,” and to come up with alternative solutions to avoid demolitions.
The Arab Association for Human Rights also condemned the demolitions, which they called “a crime against the Palestinian existence, which Israel has been doing for decades through incitements and racist legislation.”
The group said in statement the demolition policy was a dangerous violation of human rights, and warned of an Israeli bill they said was coming up for discussion that would see the demolition of 50,000 homes and the evacuation of thousands of Bedouin families in Israel’s southern Negev region.
According to Palestinian NGO Adalah, only 4.6 percent of the housing tenders published by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) in 2015 were dedicated to Palestinian communities in Israel, although the population comprises 20 percent of the population.
The Palestinian population in Israel requires 13,000 new housing units per year, yet in practice only 7,000 housing units are built, mostly by means of private self-construction, according to the group.
“As a result of the government's widespread failure to authorize a sufficient number of building permits in Arab communities, the phenomenon of ‘illegal’ home construction is widespread as residents seek to house expanding populations,” Adalah said.
“The housing shortage in Arab communities in Israel is not the result of specific failures or unintentional neglect on the part of state authorities. It is instead the product of a systematic and deliberate policy since 1948 that has viewed Palestinian citizens as enemies and aliens.”
Businesses go on strike in protest of Israel’s demolition campaign of Palestinian homes.