Israel’s “law of citizenship” will have dire consequences

The definition of Israel as “Jewish and democratic” already makes the Palestinian minority second-cl

On Sunday 10 October, the Israeli cabinet voted in favour of an amendment to the country's "law of citizenship", supporting a proposal that would require non-Jews seeking to become citizens to swear allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic" state. The move comes as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues to insist that Palestinians must "recognise Israel as a Jewish state" an agains the background of faltering negotiations.

One of the reasons for the Palestinians' rejection of this demand is the situation of the Palestinian minority in Israel (around 20 per cent of the population). By coincidence, just two days before the cabinet vote, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a press release on the plight of Dahmash, an "unrecognised" Palestinian village 20 kilometres from Tel Aviv, sandwiched between Lod and Ramle. Here in microcosm is what Israel "as a Jewish state" has always meant for its Palestinian minority.

Dahmash has been inhabited since at least 1951, and its residents are Israeli citizens. Yet the Israeli authorities "refuse to rezone the land as residential" – despite doing so for land nearby – and "refuse to provide basic services such as paved roads, sewage, health facilities, kindergartens and schools". Moreover, "the authorities consider almost every one of the 70 houses 'illegal', and 13 are under threat of demolition".

The people in Dahmash thus face the same daily emergency as the tens of thousands of Palestinians living in "unrecognised villages" in Israel, as I saw for myself when I visited in July.

Paradoxically, some of Dahmash's residents were given the land by the state "as compensation for lands from which they had been displaced" in 1948 and "to which the Israeli government prohibited them from returning". Since then, however, officials have refused to "zone Dahmash for residential construction".

Many towns and neighbourhoods in central Israel, including the new residential development bordering Dahmash, were also originally zoned for agricultural use, but authorities rezoned those lands to allow them to expand and created plans that permitted residential construction. Neither regional nor national authorities have provided such a plan for Dahmash. In the last few years both Ramle and Lod have constructed residential complexes restricted to military career personnel and religious Jews.

The case of Dahmash highlights the important role played by both national and local planning mechanisms in maintaining Israel's regime of control and segregation. In the words of HRW's deputy Middle East director, "The 600 people of Dahmash are treated as if they don't exist, while Jewish towns are developed nearby in a way that threatens Dahmash residents' access to their homes and lands."

Nor is Dahmash an isolated case. A recent Haaretz article on the Galilee described how "the goals of the hilltop Jewish communities" in the region – according to a member of the Jewish Agency hilltop planning team – are "to prevent Arabs from 'taking over' government lands, keep Arab villages from attaining territorial continuity and attract a 'strong' population to the Galilee".

Twenty-nine Jewish communities, most of them co-operative, were built in Misgav between 1978 and 1988. The regional council also includes six existing Bedouin communities, whose conditions are light years removed from those in the Jewish areas. The Arab towns in the area do not belong to the council.

But it's not just a problem of land zoning for existing communities: as HRW describes, since 1948, "more than 900 Jewish villages and cities have been established in Israel, while the only new Arab towns allowed in 60 years have been seven towns that the government planned and constructed for Bedouin residents of the Negev". In a country that presents itself as the region's only democracy, the only new Arab towns in 60 years are half a dozen townships built as part of a "relocation" drive.

Ramle's mayor, Yoel Lavi, "who sits on the planning committee that rejected Dahmash's [alternative zoning] plan, told Israeli television in 2004 that the Maccabi District was not meant for Arabs because allowing Palestinian-Israeli citizens to live there would 'harm the ability to market the project since people won't want to live there' ". In 2006, Lavi explained his own "solution" to the unrecognised village of Dahmash:

. . . take two D10 bulldozers, the kind the IDF uses in the Golan Heights, two border police units to secure the area, and go from one side to the other . . . when you give the first shock with the crane everyone runs from their houses, don't worry.

That day has not yet come for Dahmash – but it is rather reminiscent of scenes in al-Arakib in the Negev, the village which just last week was destroyed for the sixth time this year. While the current trends in the Knesset are certainly troubling, the example of Dahmash highlights what "Jewish and democratic" has long meant for Palestinians living as second-class citizens in their own land.

Ben White is an activist and writer. His latest book is "Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy"

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Zac Goldsmith has bitten off more than he can chew

In standing as an independent, Goldsmith may face the worst of both worlds. 

After just 48 years, we can announce the very late arrival of the third runway at Heathrow. Assuming, that is, that it makes its way past the legal challenge from five local councils and Greenpeace, the consultation with local residents, and the financial worries of the big airlines. And that's not counting the political struggles...

While the Times leads with the logistical headaches - "Heathrow runway may be built over motorway" is their splash, the political hurdles dominate most of this morning’s papers

"Tory rebels let fly on Heathrow" says the i's frontpage, while the FT goes for "Prominent Tories lead challenge to May on Heathrow expansion". Although Justine Greening, a May loyalist to her fingertips, has limited herself to a critical blogpost, Boris Johnson has said the project is "undeliverable" and will lead to London becoming "a city of planes". 

But May’s real headache is Zac Goldsmith, who has quit, triggering a by-election in his seat of Richmond Park, in which he will stand as an anti-Heathrow candidate.  "Heathrow forces May into Brexit by-election" is the Telegraph's splash. 

CCHQ has decided to duck out of the contest entirely, leaving Goldsmith running as the Conservative candidate in all but name, against the Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney. 

What are Goldsmith's chances? To win the seat, the Liberal Democrats would need a 19.3 per cent swing from the Conservatives - and in Witney, they got exactly that.

They will also find it easier to squeeze the third-placed Labour vote than they did in Witney, where they started the race in fourth place. They will find that task all the easier if the calls for Labour to stand aside are heeded by the party leadership. In any case, that Clive Lewis, Lisa Nandy and Jonathan Reynolds have all declared that they should will be a boost for Olney even if she does face a Labour candidate.  

The Liberal Democrats are fond of leaflets warning that their rivals “cannot win here” and thanks to Witney they have one ready made.  

Goldsmith risks having the worst of all worlds. I'm waiting to hear whether or not the Conservatives will make their resources freely available to Goldsmith, but it is hard to see how, without taking an axe to data protection laws, he can make use of Conservative VoterID or information gathered in his doomed mayoral campaign. 

But in any case, the Liberal Democrats will still be able to paint him as the Brexit candidate and the preferred choice of the pro-Heathrow Prime Minister, as he is. I think Goldsmith will find he has bitten more than he can chew this time.

This article originally appeared in today's Morning Call, your essential email covering everything you need to know about British politics and today's news. You can subscribe for free here.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.