Israel builds town to ensure “the Arabs won’t rear their heads”

The State of Israel is building a town in the country’s north. Its purpose: to make sure “the Arabs won’t rear their heads” and to “put them in proportion.” Anybody objecting to this goal should “go live with the Palestinians” and is “harming Israel’s security.”

Last week, the Knesset passed a bill that legalizes “acceptance committees” in small localities, a tool that is used to maintain segregation between Jews and Arabs (as well as keeping out various other “undesirables”). As I wrote, this bill is just one of the many policies through which Israel denies its Palestinian citizens the right for adequate housing, even on their own private land.

Another one of these policies is called “Judaization.” It is aimed mainly at Israel’s northern and southern periphery, where most Israeli Palestinians reside. Its purpose is to prevent Palestinians from forming a majority in any area of Israel, so that they will not be able to secede or demand autonomy in that area. This aim is achieved by strategically establishing Jewish localities to create contiguous strips of Jewish settlements, which cut off any sequence of Palestinian habitation.

This is an explicit, formal policy, unabashedly promoted by all Israeli governments. However, it is rarely articulated as bluntly as in comments reported [Hebrew] today in the Israeli business daily TheMarker (a subsidiary of Ha’aretz).

The comments were made by Nissim Dahan, the head of the local council for Harish-Katzir, a Jewish locality of 4,000 residents in Israel’s north. Dahan was not elected by the residents, but rather appointed by the Interior Minister, to promote a plan to build a town of 150,000 residents where Harish is currently located. This plan is strongly opposed by Jewish locals, as well as by nearby Palestinian localities.

Dahan is a former Minister of Health and a member of Shas, the ultra-orthodox Sephardic party. Although the ultra-orthodox have traditionally been skeptical towards the Zionist enterprise, in recent years they have become increasingly nationalist, with Shas leading the trend. However, the following comments, made by Dahan in 2008, are completely in the mainstream of Israeli society:

This is Israel’s interest. We want to Judaize the Wadi Ara area [a mainly Palestinian area where Harish is located]… The state wants to put this place in order so that the Arabs won’t rear their heads. 150 thousand Jews who will live here will put them [the Arabs] in proportion.

You don’t want [to live in the heart of a city with 150,000 ultra-orthodox residents]? Then go live with the Palestinians… Want to live in a small village? You are harming Israel’s security.

When asked by TheMarker about these comments, Dahan reaffirmed their substance, while providing a strange excuse for the harsh tone:

I said in a closed meeting with residents that the government’s policy is to create a border and a sequence of Jewish habitation. The locality of Katzir-Harish is on the seam zone of Israel’s eastern border and these issues were said [sic] after terror attacks that took place in the area.

Dahan’s explanation is, in fact, a lie. No terror attacks took place near Harish in the years before he made those comments. But even if this were true, it could not justify his words, nor the policy that they accurately describe.  Palestinians in Israel are not equal citizens, whose needs are taken into account. They are treated by the state as a security threat, which needs to be cordoned and restricted, not as people who wish to live and build homes for their families.