by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, September 9, 2007
"......The Plight of Palestinian Nonpersons in "Unrecognized Villages"
The term is Orwellian in its worst sense. How can something real not officially exist? Around 150,000 or more (accurate numbers are hard to come by) Palestinian Arabs today live in over 100 so-called "unrecognized villages," mainly in the Galilee and the Negev desert. They're unrecognized because their inhabitants are considered internal refugees who were forced to flee their original homes during Israel's 1948 "War of Independence" and were prevented from returning when it ended.
These villages were delegitimized by Israel's 1965 Planning and Construction Law that established a regulatory framework and national plan for future development. It zoned land for residential, agriculture and industrial use, forbade unlicensed construction, banned it on agricultural land, and stipulated where Israeli Jews and Palestinians could live. That's how apartheid worked in South Africa.
Existing communities are circumscribed on a map with blue lines around them. Areas inside the lines can be developed. Those outside cannot. For Jewish communities, great latitude is allowed for future expansion, and new communities are added as a result. In contrast, Palestinian areas are severely constricted leaving no room for expansion. Their land was reclassified as agricultural meaning no new construction is allowed. This meant entire communities became "unrecognized" and all homes and buildings there declared illegal, even the 95% of them built before the 1965 law passed. They're subject to demolition and inhabitant displacement at the whim of Israeli officials. They want new land for Jews and freely take it from Arab owners, helpless to stop it.
All Israeli public land is administered by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) that has a legal obligation to treat all its citizens fairly. Instead and with impunity, it serves Jewish interests only using various methods to do it.
It restricts and prohibits Palestinian land development by:
-- putting large Arab areas under its control through the creation of regional councils;
-- zoning restrictions mentioned above;
-- transferring public land adjacent to Arab communities to Jewish National Fund (JNF) ownership that mandates it's only for Jews;
-- connecting the cost of leasing land to military service that discriminates against Palestinians not required to serve and almost none do;
-- declaring national priority town areas for Jews only;
-- delaying, restricting and prohibiting local development in Arab communities;
-- ignoring Arab needs in regional and national plans;
-- allowing Palestinians little or no representation on national planning committees;
-- enforcing a policy of forced evictions and demolitions of buildings without appropriate permits. In "unrecognized villages," no permits are allowed Palestinians on their own land. Entire villages thus face prosecution in the courts and loss of their homes, land and possessions through a state-sponsored policy to remove them judicially.
It gets worse. No new Palestinian communities are allowed, and existing "unrecognized villages" are denied essential municipal services like clean drinking water, electricity, roads, transport, sanitation, education, healthcare, postal and telephone service, refuse removal and more because under the Planning and Construction Law they're illegal. The toll on their people is devastating:
-- clean water is unavailable almost everywhere unless people have access to well water,
-- the few available health services are inadequate,
-- many homes have no bathrooms, and no permits are allowed to build them,
-- only villages with private generators have electricity enough for lighting only,
-- no village is connected to the main road network,
-- some villages are fenced in prohibiting their residents from access to their traditional lands,
-- in the North, only one school remains open and children must travel 10 - 15 kilometers to attend another; as a result, achievement levels are low and dropout rates high.
It's worse still when home demolitions are ordered. It may stipulate Palestinians must do it themselves or be fined for contempt of court and face up to a year in prison. They may also have to cover the cost when Israeli bulldozers do it under a system of convoluted justice penalizing Palestinians twice over......
Silence is not an option, and people of conscience can help. Noted author and documentary filmmaker, John Pilger, believes "something is changing," and he saw it in a recent full page New York Times ad having a "distinct odour of panic." It called for boycotting Israel, and Pilger senses the "swell....is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed (and it's) reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa.....once distant voices," notes Pilger, have "gone global," it caught Israel off guard and may signal change. But not easily or fast and may not happen at all unless global pressure becomes mass public outrage that this injustice no longer will be tolerated by people of conscience anywhere."