High Court to state: Why won’t you recognize Arab village?

Israeli authorities have for years refused to make a decision about Dahmash, leaving its residents without the most basic services and in constant fear of demolitions.

Residents walk through the remains of their homes in the unrecognized village Dahmash, Israel, April 15, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Residents walk through the remains of their demolished homes in the unrecognized village Dahmash, Israel, April 15, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel’s High Court of Justice this week granted the state 90 days to explain its decades-long refusal to even decide whether to recognize the Palestinian village of Dahmash, located in central Israel. Being unrecognized means that residents have no legal access to basic infrastructure, planning or zoning mechanisms, and live under constant fear of demolition.

The struggle for Dahmash’s recognition began in 2005 when the state first began issuing orders to demolish a number of homes in the village. Since then, Israeli authorities have carried a number of demolitions, and 10 of its 70 houses currently face imminent demolition.

Dahmash falls under the jurisdiction of the Emek Lod Regional Council, and is a mere 20 minute drive from Tel Aviv. The village has been around since before 1948 (Palestinian historians claim it’s over 100 years old- R.Y), and its residents even have proof of ownership in the Israel Land Registry.

However, the State does not recognize their right to live and build on their land, and does not provide the village with the most basic infrastructure and services, such as sewage, roads, electricity, garbage collection or a post office.

By refusing to rule on Dahmash’s status — whether to declare it an independent municipality or annex it to one of the adjacent cities — the state keeps its residents in perpetual limbo.

As opposed to local 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 to fight the demolitions, which included demonstrations, a lengthy court battle and funding for a master plan — all construction is still deemed illegal.

The High Court’s decision means that it is unlikely that the demolition orders, which were frozen by the District Court until November 2016, will go into effect. A local activist told +972, “not only do we expect the demolition orders to remain frozen after November 2016, the High Court’s decision likely means the State of Israel will practically be forced to recognize the village as an independent municipal entity, unless it first comes up with another solution within 90 days.”

Following the 1948 war, the state resettled Palestinian refugees from southern Israel in the village. The residents were allowed to build their own homes on agricultural land until the 1990s, but once the population grew and more houses needed to be built, the state decided to stop issuing building permits and started issuing demolition orders.

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