Ron Kronish

Is it Really Necessary to Demolish the Homes of Israeli Arabs?

Is it really necessary for the government of Israel to demolish Arab homes, especially homes of Arab citizens of Israel as was the case last week in Qalansawe? Why cause this senseless suffering at all, and this time on the part of good citizens of Israel who only wish to live freely and in peace on their land? Is this morally or tactically or strategically the right thing to do? Why destroy these homes when there are no alternative plans for where the owners might be able to build their own home and live in dignity and with honor.

Unfortunately, there are no good or real answers to any of these questions.

It makes no sense at all. It is immoral and unjustified. And, all it does is create more unnecessary hatred and resentment by the masses of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, who make up 20 percent of our population, against this government of Israel and its continuing racist and anti-Arab policies and practices.

In an editorial in HaAretz on Friday, January 13th, this act of incitement against Israeli Arabs was clearly denounced, explaining that the Prime Minister and the Public Security Minister “know perfectly well that such acts won’t solve the problem, but only exacerbate it.” The editors of HaAretz also point out:

There are more than 50,000 houses that were built without a permit in Arab and Druze communities in Israel. To apply the law ‘blindly’ means erasing entire neighborhoods and leaving a half million people without a roof over their heads.

Would the government destroy Jewish homes as wantonly as they do Arab homes? Of course not! This is obvious when we see that it is taking many months, even years, to demolish a few homes in one illegal settlement (actually an “outpost”) even though the government of Israel committed to doing so a long time ago. Not to mention all the other illegal outposts, where homes should not have been built in the first place. Furthermore, the home owners in Qalansawe were not offered compensation like in Amona; no one even thought of a simple alternative solution for them.

photo of home demolition

Where is the sense of fairness in all of this? Can any of our government leaders who are authorizing these demolitions claim that it is the moral thing to do? Or, does that not matter anymore? Only internal political interests count. One can do all kinds of things, just to keep one’s coalition together, even if they are downright unethical, as well as counter-productive, leading to mass strikes and deepening distrust of the government among Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.

This coming week, we begin reading the book of Exodus in our synagogues as part of our yearly cycle of reading the Torah. In this book, we are reminded over and over again that the story of the Exodus ought to serve as a reminder to us to treat the “stranger”, the minority within our midst, fairly. Why? Because we were “strangers in the land of Egypt”! We suffered humiliation and discrimination in our history, and therefore we ought to know better, certainly when we are in the position of power, in our own state.

Arab citizens of the state (like residents of East Jerusalem and Palestinians in Area C) have a real problem that is not sufficiently addressed. They build houses without building permits because they have no choice, because they are not fairly taken into consideration in the governmental planning processes. Qalansawe is a mega town in the center of Israel where a new outline plan is in the making. In fact, the houses that were destroyed last week were built in an area that has been slated by the new plan to become an area for expansion and development. But this did not interest the authorities when they looked for a scapegoat in their fake attempt to create equal enforcement.

It is high time for the government of Israel to completely stop this horrific policy of demolishing homes. It is clear that urgent and effective planning is needed so that Arabs in Israel and in the areas it controls can build the homes that they need in organized ways. Instead of foot-dragging on plans for these communities, it is time that these plans are completed and become useful for people in need of fulfilling the most basic human right: to have a home to live in.

This ought to be done quickly and comprehensively. No more punishments or demolitions are needed. What is needed is moral and just action for the minorities in our state. We ought to know better since we were strangers in Egypt.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttelfield, in September 2017. He recently (September 2022) published a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine entitled Profiles in Peace: Voices of Peacebuilders in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which is available on Amazon Books, Barnes and Noble and the Book Depository websites,
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