Arabs Riot Inside Israel over Demolition of Homes

It could have been happening anywhere in the West Bank or Gaza Strip:

Young Arab men grabbed by cops, roughed up and hustled to a line of waiting police vans. Arab women hurling stones. Police reinforcements, loaded with tear-gas grenades, preparing to fire into the crowd.

The atmosphere was electric with violence. But the scene Monday morning was inside Israel, in this village near Kfar Sava. And the clash was between police and Israeli citizens.

Taiba is one of the largest Arab villages in Israel. It sits astride a major road junction in the region known as the “Arab triangle.” It has been part of Israel since 1948.

By the end of the morning, four police officers and two residents were injured and 11 Arabs were detained.

The strife had nothing to do with Palestinian nationalism. It was caused by the demolition of two unfinished houses, which local residents had put up without obtaining permits.

Huge bulldozers crushed the buildings. Angry Arab women hurled rocks. Local youths joined in and eventually grappled with police.

The houses were not occupied. In fact, the authorities usually refrain from demolishing inhabited buildings. But the problem of illegal construction is proliferating.

MORE DEMOLITIONS PLANNED

More illegal homes are slated to be bulldozed within 30 days if their owners fail to get restraining orders from the courts, which has been the case so far.

As a result, more disorders can be expected.

There is a certain irony in the situation in Taiba. The illegal structures were erected by Bedouin families evacuated from their traditional lands in the Negev several years ago to make way for the construction of two huge air force bases.

They built their homes on agricultural land, because it was cheaper and they could avoid certain taxes.

“They evacuated us from the Negev in the name of peace. Now they are removing us from here in the name of the law,” said Ismail Abdul Kader, who owns an illegal house in Taiba.

“Doesn’t the law take account of the peoples’ need for housing?” he asked.

But Dov Shayish, the district commissioner, said the Bedouins knowingly built illegally after they were warned. Now, overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of illegal dwellings in Arab villages — estimated at several thousand — the authorities have decided to crack down, Shayish said.

He said Taiba was chosen as an example, because it is one of the largest Arab villages in Israel. It is hoped the action here will deter others.

But the authorities are mindful of the effects on the local Arab population, which is generally sympathetic to the Palestinian uprising in the administered territories.

Premier Yitzhak Shamir, who is also acting interior minister, has been warned that the demolitions could damage Likud’s standing with Arab voters in the Nov. 1 elections.

But he gave the green light anyway to continue the demolition process.

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