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Group of Israeli Arabs Renew Campaign to Be Allowed to Return to Their Home Villages of Ikrit and Bi

A group of Israeli Christian Arabs have renewed their public campaign to be allowed to return to their home villages, Ikrit and Biram in northern Israel, which they were ordered to leave “temporarily” 38 years ago, during Israel’s War of Independence. An Arab Knesset member, Abdul Wahab Darawshe of the Labor Party, will introduce an agenda motion on the matter. The petitioners, Catholics and Maronite Christians, will meet with the head of the Catholic Church in Israel, Archbishop Salum this Friday, to get their campaign underway.

Neither Ikrit nor Biram exist any longer and the former residents have long since resettled in other Arab towns in Israel. But a core group continues to press for the right to return. Years ago, their claim was upheld by the Supreme Court. But then-Premier Golda Meir refused to abide by the court order on security grounds. Succeeding governments took the same position although both left and rightwing politicians acknowledge the appeal is justified.

The “security reasons” for which the villages were evacuated are no longer relevant. Nevertheless, the Israeli authorities reportedly fear that to allow the Biram and Ikrit villagers to return to the sites of their former homes would create a precedent for other Palestinians ousted from their villages in the 1948 war to press similar claims.