Israel / Occupied Palestine: Report from the Popular Neighborhood Committee of ar-Ribat in the city of Ramle
The municipality of Ramle recently published on its website plans to demolish 30 homes belonging to Palestinian citizens on the grounds of “illegal construction.” Eleven of these homes are located in the Bedouin neighborhood of ar-Ribat. Police squads have been cruising around the neighborhood to intimidate the population and warn them that the demolitions are imminent. Most of these homes were built on privately-owned land which was maliciously zoned by authorities as “commercial” rather than ”residential,” despite the situation on the ground – this mis-zoning constitutes the legal pretext for the threatened demolition. Ten years ago, the relatively destitute families who live in these homes pooled together their scarce resources and paid the equivalent of 35,000 EUR to prepare and present formal plans to the municipality so that their homes would retroactively be recognized as legal. The municipality has ignored these plans ever since, regardless of previous informal agreements which signaled that they would be approved. The municipality, from its side, has offered no alternative plans. The Popular Committee has taken up this problem for the entire Palestinian population of Ramle, and is determined to take every legal step to prevent their becoming refugees on their own land.
On April 11 the Popular Committee held its first public meeting. Around 50 people attended among them a delegation from the ISL (myself and our local youth representative Rotem Elisha), MK Abd el-Hakim Hajj Yihye (MK Southern Islamic Movement), MK Aida Toma-Sliman (Hadash), and Awni K'hel from the local branch of the Communist Party of Israel (CPI). Outside, there were slogans written on placards which read: ”Jew and Arabs refuse to be enemies!”, “No to house demolitions!”, ”For equal (municipal) planning and housing for all!”. Most of those who attended came to the meeting as a result of their having being mobilized to do so by the Islamic movement. At the beginning of the meeting an Islamic prayer was conducted and around 90 percent of the participants joined in. Aida Toma-Sliman, who is Christian, invited both Rotem and me (Jews) to sit beside her while the others prayed.
Aida (as mentioned, a Member of the Knesset from Hadash-Joint List) was the center of attention, as residents of the neighborhood appealed to her to mobilize the Joint List’s 13 MKs to solve their problem. Toma-Sliman replied that she is merely a representative of the public, and that the people themselves should organize and tell her what they want to do and not the other way around. She requested that the committee draft a 1–2 page statement detailing the history of their problem as well as presenting their demands. At the present time, Aida said, she can do very little since all parliamentary action is suspended until a new government is formed. However, if necessary it is possible to call for an emergency sub-committee meeting to halt the demolitions.
Noteworthy during the meeting was the very positive attitude towards the Joint List (the composite list formed by Hadash and three Arab parties in the run up to the recent election in order to ensure their all passing the raised electoral threshold). One participant in the meeting suggested that all four parties belonging to the Joint List should formally merge into a single party.
The Internationalist Socialist League strongly agrees with this brother. We call for the component parties forming the Joint List to form a single party which would allow the creation of factions. The ISL would join the new party and form its own faction which would fight to make this a revolutionary workers’ party.