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High Court to rule over fate of unrecognized Palestinian village

The village of Dahmash has been around since 1948, and its residents have the documents to prove it. The authorities, however, have been threatening the unrecognized village with demolition for years. Now residents are taking matters into their own hands and putting together a festival to bring attention to their cause.

Protesters march on the main street in Ramle, demonstrating against home demolitions in the unrecognized village Dahamash, July 7, 2010. (photo: Activestills.org)

Protesters march on the main street in Ramle, demonstrating against home demolitions in the unrecognized village Dahamash, July 7, 2010. (photo: Activestills.org)

On Monday, March 16 — a day before the national elections — Israel’s High Court of Justice will hear an appeal by the residents of the unrecognized village Dahmash. The village, located between Ramle and Lyd (“Lod” in Hebrew), is not recognized by any local council. The hearing could set an historic precedent — should the High Court rules in favor of the residents, it will force the state to try and recognize the village, which would prevent home demolitions in the near future. However, if the Court rules against the residents, the threat of demolition will loom larger than ever before.

The unrecognized village Dahmash is under the jurisdiction of the Emek Lod Regional Council, a mere 20 minute drive from Tel Aviv. The village has been around since 1948, and its residents even have proof of ownership in the Israel Land Registry. However, the State does not recognize their claim to the land, and does not provide the village with the necessary infrastructure or even the most basic services, such as sewage, roads, electricity, garbage collection or a post office.

As opposed to the moshavim (a type of cooperative agricultural community) whose agricultural lands have been cleared for construction, the only thing the residents of Dahmash can do with their land is grow tomatoes. Despite the efforts by the residents, which included demonstrations, a lengthy court battle and funding for a master plan — all construction is deemed illegal.

There are currently 16 home demolition orders in the village. The struggle to prevent the destruction has lasted for over a decade, and has been successful due to the support of dedicated activists who supported the villagers over the years. For instance, in 2010, in the wake of a public campaign that included major protests on the main road in Ramle, which included artists and activists, the district court delayed the demolition orders against 13 homes, and gave the residents the opportunity to try and push forward a solution to resolve the status of the village. In the spring of 2014, the state attorney toured the village, and soon thereafter the residents’ appeal against the demolition orders — filed four years prior — was rejected. It wasn’t long before the original 13 demolition orders were reinstated, including another three orders. The state tried to begin the demolitions in July 2014.

In the wake of a legal battle by Attorney Qais Nasser, who represents the residents, and has been active on the issue of home demolitions, the court repeatedly delayed the demolitions. Since some of the hearings take place in front of different judges, some of them have officially agreed to delay some of the demolition orders until after the High Court hearing, while other judges decided not to delay the orders. As a result, some of the homes have been under immediate threat of demolition for a long time.

On Saturday, March 14, local activists are planning a protest event in the village. “Here we are, still struggling,” tells me Tamer Nafar, of the Palestinian hip hop group DAM and one of the central organizers of Saturday’s event. “We decided that this time we will put together a cultural event with many well-known artists, Arabs and Jews, to support the village and be able to create some noise around what is happening.” Saturday’s event will include performances by DAM, singer Amal Murkus, Hadag Nachash’s Sha’anan Street, and singer Joan Sfadi among others.

Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call here.

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      • Whiplash

        The Palestinians were never part of Israel. The Palestinians in the West Bank used to hold Jordanian citizenship. The majority of Jordanians are of Palestinian ethnicity. It would make sense that the Palestinians should join Jordan in a confederation with Areas “A” and “B” of the West Bank. Israel will take care of the rest of Judea and Samaria.

        This is the logical solution. There is unlimited space in Jordan for Palestinians to expand and develop a culture and a nation.

        Reply to Comment
        • Bryan

          The Israelis in the West Bank used to hold American or British or Russian or Polish citizenship (and indeed many are still dual nationals with a second passport tucked away). The majority of West Bank Israelis are of European or North African or Russian ethnicity. It would make sense that the West Bank settlers should return, either to Israel within its 1948 borders, or to New York, Paris, Moscow, Kiev, Yemen, Buenos Ares, Adelaide, Cape Town or any other country that they recently migrated from. How can ghetto enclaves like those of Areas “A” and “B” (a very temporary designation under the Oslo Accords, which were to be expanded to provide a Palestinian State, until Israel reneged on the agreement) possibly provide a long-term solution.

          This is the logical solution. It is far easier for a mere half million very recent settlers to be relocated than the millions of Palestinians who have called the West Bank their home, in many cases for centuries. Have no fear about the need for Palestinians to develop a culture and a nation – there culture is long-standing, and their nationhood is no more recent than the contrived nationhood of Israeli Americans, Frenchmen, Russians, Poles etc.

          Reply to Comment
    1. Bar

      This is not for the courts to decide. This is exactly the type of matter that should be handled by elected politicians.

      And, by the way, if the court rules against the unrecognized town and set the legal precedent supporting Israeli governments, activists such as Younis and company will claim the system is rigged, just as they have with Sheikh Jarrah and other places where their positions were rejected by Israel’s High Court.

      Reply to Comment