Discrimination Against Arab Communities in Israel and Palestine
by Stephen Lendman
An April joint Bimkom Planners for Planning Rights/Arab Center for Alternative Planning (ACAP) report
titled “Outline Planning for Arab Localities in Israel” explains state-sponsored discriminatory injustice.
Bimkom’s Cesar Yeudki called study findings “a recipe for further widening the gaps between population groups in Israeli society.”
The report discussed Arab community planning for the first time. It reviewed 119 areas with about 950,000 residents. It compared variations in planning solutions for Arab and Jewish locations.
Over decades, Arab areas transformed from rural to densely urban “with no overarching strategy.” Israeli planning procedures failed to meet needs of a growing population.
Housing, infrastructure and adequate land allocations are sorely lacking. In contrast, Jewish communities get preferential treatment. Two main Arab groups lack housing solutions:
(1) Residents who own land located outside areas zoned for development.
(2) Others without land unable buy it for home construction.
Israel’s Interior Ministry bears responsibility. Partial solutions only are offered. In addition, drawn out planning procedures leave them out of date when approved.
The 2003 Or Commission concluded that discrimination, neglect and hardship contributed to September 2000 Intifada eruptions. While the Arab population grew sevenfold since 1948, residential areas remained virtually unchanged. Lack of planning and bureaucratic foot-dragging were blamed.
Until 2000, most Arab communities had no approved plans. Early that year, the Interior Ministry initiated efforts for the “advancement of outline planning in the non-Jewish sector.”
Initially about 30 communities were included. Later they more than doubled. The project included master plans for 13 locations in north and Central Israel. A regional one for Wadi Ara areas was also completed.
At the same time, nine local plans were initiated. Twelve years later, approval was gotten for only half the designated areas. In other words, the Interior Ministry’s fulfillment belied its promise.
Development requires careful planning with regard to housing, industry, commerce, public buildings, open spaces, agriculture, infrastructure, and other essential needs.
Failure to complete them properly leaves vital issues unaddressed. Quality of life deteriorates. Unregulated building fails to keep up.
Jewish areas get preferential treatment. Arab ones function largely on their own, hit or miss, including running afoul of zoning requirements.
As a result, ad hoc plans haven’t solved Arab problems. Systemic ones exist. They include unrealistic estimates of housing needs relative to population size and growth.
Arab citizens are marginalized and neglected. Dozens of their communities in Israel’s North, Central, Haifa and Jerusalem districts have no approved plans. In total, areas without plans include over half the Arab population.
In preparing their report, Bimkom and ACAP conducted comparisons of Arab and Jewish areas having similar characteristics. They include population and area size, local government similarities, and other factors.
The study examined the amount of land allocated in outline plans per locality. Attention was paid to future residential development, industry and employment.
Findings showed population projections for Jewish areas greatly exaggerated. Plans prioritized them generously. They’re given more land, funding, and allocations for infrastructure, schools, medical facilities, open areas, and other needs.
In addition, industrial and employment considerations got much greater attention. In contrast, Arab communities were deprived.
For example, Taibeh’s population matches Rosh Haayin. Each has about 40,000 residents. Both have similar municipal status and jurisdictional area characteristics.
Plans, however, treat them differently. Taibeh’s population projection is 45,500 residents compared to Rosh Haayin’s 100,000. At the same time, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) estimates 65,800 Taibeh residents and 47,700 for Rosh Haayin by 2030.
Underestimating Taibeh’s growth means fewer public resources for it. Moreover, by the time plans are approved, they’re outdated.
As a result, planned Taibeh residential development is 40% less that Rosh Haayin’s. It needs more but didn’t get it. In addition, land for Taibeh’s industrial growth is 55% lower than Rosh Haayin’s. Opportunities for business and commerce are lacking. Jobs aren’t created. Residents lose out. So does overall quality of life.
Moreover, Jewish communities are situated on public land. Arab towns get by on what’s privately owned. It means much less is available without government help.
According to ACAP’s Reem Swaid:
“The vast majority of the Arab population in Israel, in dozens of communities, has not been provided with appropriate planning that answers its needs.”
“Housing and good planning are basic rights of all citizens – whether they are Arab or Jewish, whether they live in central Israel or in the periphery.”
Prioritizing Jewish needs over Arab ones leaves one-fifth of Israel’s population marginalized and cheated. It’s been that way for decades.
National Parks Over Neighborhood Needs in East Jerusalem
Another April Bimkom report
was titled “From National to Public – National Parks in East Jerusalem.” It was a first of its kind initiative. It discussed national park planning and development.
Findings showed “their conglomeration points toward a news trend: the designation of areas as national parks instead of open and public ones has become a tool for limiting” Palestinian neighborhood development.
Moreover, multiple national parks in the heart of the city’s urban fabric is unique to Jerusalem. Some include existing houses, commerce and industry.
Jerusalem’s Municipality is advantaged two ways:
(1) National parks don’t require land expropriation.
(2) Development and enforcement responsibility is transferred from municipal control to the National Planning Authority (NPA).
As a result, a national body has development control. At the same time, the Jerusalem Municipality bears responsibility for all its residents. Nonetheless, it abdicated it to NPA authority. Arabs lose out to Jewish priorities.
Currently, a detailed plan for establishing a national park between the Palestinian neighborhoods of Al-Isawiyyah and At-tur is under review. Its official name is Mount Scopus Slopes National Park.
It encompasses about 75 hectares or nearly 200 acres. It encompasses all land between two crowded Palestinian communities. It deprives them of space to grow. According to Bimkom’s Efrat Cohen-Bar:
“The Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are crowded and they suffer from neglect and extreme shortage of public infrastructure.”
“The residents are in desperate need of space by means of which they can improve their quality of life, even if slightly. The designation of land as a national park is a powerful and unjustified planning tool that is harmful for the population of East Jerusalem.”
Israel wants all Jerusalem for its exclusive capital. Palestinians are systematically deprived and removed. They’re driven from their own land. They’re marginalized and deprived.
They’re on their own to reverse decades of injustice and ill-treatment. They’re headed for cantonized isolation on worthless scrubland if fail. That’s powerful motivation to prevent it.
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