On 12 November 2006, Adalah submitted a response to a petition filed to the Supreme Court of Israel by residents of the Jewish community town of Kamoun, located in the Galilee in the north of Israel. Adalah filed the response on behalf of residents of the Arab village of Kammaneh (the Kammaneh Local Committee), one of the three named respondents. The residents of Kamoun requested in the petition the cancellation of the master plan for the neighboring village of Kammaneh, unless three demands are met. In its response to the petition, Adalah argued that these demands are racist, and reminiscent of the former apartheid regime in South Africa. Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara is representing the residents of Kammaneh.
The petition was filed by residents of Kamoun on 24 July 2006, following the publication of the approved master plan for Kammaneh by the National Council for Planning and Building (NCPB) on 19 June 2006. The other named respondents are the NCPB and the Northern District Council for Planning and Building.
The three racist demands made by the residents of Kamoun, as Adalah argued in its response, are as follows:
1. “The cleansing of Kamoun of its Arab residents”
The residents of Kamoun demanded that the master plan for Kammaneh should include a “solution” for the Arab family of Shahade, who currently live in Kamoun, i.e., that they should be relocated to Kammaneh. The family has been living on land currently within the boundaries of Kamoun since the beginning of the 19th century, long before the establishment of the town, which it has been in its ownership since. For a number of years, members of the family have been attempting to obtain a permit to build on their land, but without success, despite the fact that their land is designated for building purposes according to the master plan for the town.
In the response, Adalah argued that conditioning the approval of the master plan for Kammaneh on the relocation of the Shahade family is arbitrary and illegal. The demand constitutes an attempt to connect the fulfillment of the basic rights of the residents of Kammaneh to the relocation of Arab families living in Kamoun. Adalah further argued that the implication of this request is the imposition of an apartheid system through the exploitation of planning and building procedures, by preventing Arab families from living in the town.
2. The paving of a road for the exclusive use of the residents of Kammaneh
This demand involves the paving of a by-pass road to circumvent Kamoun, so as not to force its Jewish residents to travel on the same road as their Arab neighbors in Kammaneh. Adalah indicated that the position of the NCPB is that the existing road was planned to meet the transportation needs of both of the towns. Adalah further contended that, even if there were a need for a further road, the approval of the master plan for Kammaneh cannot be made contingent on an “exclusive” road for Kamoun.
3. The safeguarding of a Jewish majority on “Mount Kamoun” in the long-term
In the petition, the residents of Kamoun claimed that the master plan for the village Kammaneh will preclude future expansion of the master plan for Kamoun. Adalah argued, however, that the master plan for Kammaneh does not prevent the expansion of Kamoun, as the proposed master plan for the expansion of Kamoun, attached by residents of Kamoun to the petition, is not planned according to a calculation the area of land in the master plan for Kammaneh.
Adalah argued that another agenda lies behind the petition, which is revealed in a number of documents produced prior to the petition, including a letter sent by the Kamoun town committee in January 2006 to the head of the National Security Council, which included the statement that, “The current expansion of the village of Kammaneh damages the sensitive balance between the residents of the two towns, Jewish and Bedouin…”. The same letter also included the following question: “We have turned from the achievement of Zionist and the dream of Judaizing the Galilee to a non-compelling factor which concerns no one in the decision-making apparatus of the state; so, is the Judaization of the Galilee still among the goals of the State of Israel?”
The Historical Background of Kammaneh and “Kamoun”
The village of Kammaneh was established in 1810, when the Sawaed family gained possession of the land on Mount Kamoun. The village was recognized by the Israeli government in 1995. Master plans were prepared for it, but these plans excluded two neighborhoods in the village from its jurisdictional borders (covering 50% of the village’s land). In November 1999, Adalah submitted a petition to the Supreme Court (H.C. 7960/99, Hashem Sawa’ed, et al. v. Misgav Regional Council, et al.), seeking official recognition for the al-Jelasi and its inclusion in the new master plan for Kammaneh.
In the petition, Adalah and the inhabitants of the Al-Jelasi neighborhood argued that the exclusion of their neighborhood from the boundaries of the master plans severely violated their rights to equality and dignity, property and housing. The Court accepted the petition in September 2001, ordering the Northern District Planning Committee to submit an expansion plan for the master plans within 18 months. The planning authorities, however, failed to fulfill their obligations, neither submitting nor approving any plan to include al-Jelasi within the official boundaries of Kammaneh. It was only on 9 December 2005 - over four years after the Supreme Court issued the order, and after Adalah filed a motion for contempt of court on behalf of the residents of al-Jelasi - that the relevant planning authorities submitted an expanded master plan for Kammaneh incorporating al-Jelasi, and thereby affording it official recognition.
The community town of Kamoun was established in 1981, when a number of Jewish families began to construct houses on Mount Kamoun, without building permits and in the absence of an approved master plan. A master plan for Kamoun was approved in 1984, allowing for building permits to be issued to the Jewish families. The master plan included plots of land of two dunams for each family, and created a high-level planning base for the own. Three master plans for Kamoun have subsequently been approved.