Lydd residents protest home demolitions

A woman in Lydd cries beside the rubble of her destroyed home, December 2010. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)

The Electronic Intifada attended a demonstration against home demolitions in Lydd on Tuesday night, 12 April. The demonstration was part of regular weekly protests against the increasing ghettoization of the heavily-segregated Palestinian areas of the city, which is located southeast of Tel Aviv. The weekly protest have been held since the December 2010 demolition of seven homes belonging to the Abu Eid family.

Home demolitions in Lydd are just another form of discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel, mirroring the tactics faced by Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Among the protesters were residents of Lydd and the “unrecognized” village of Dhammash, which is between Lydd and the neighboring town of Ramle, and where home demolition orders still stand against more than a dozen homes. They marched together with community leaders from Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem and Israeli solidarity activists and protesters stood at a busy intersection holding a banner reading “Refugee camp Abu Eid” in Arabic, Hebrew and English. Children from the community chanted slogans against Israeli policies and banged on drums and other percussion instruments.

Riyadh Abu Eid, whose home was one of the seven demolished, spoke to the crowd of protesters following the demonstration. He urged them to keep demonstrating and to increase public pressure on the local government, which ordered the demolitions.

“There were a lot of cars that passed by our demonstration tonight,” Abu Eid said. “And after next week’s demonstration, we plan to hold a sit-in at the mayor’s offices to demand our rights.”

Suhad Bishara, senior attorney with Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, told The Electronic Intifada that the Israeli government has imposed demolition orders under the guise of “illegal construction” in Palestinian neighborhoods. She said that what’s happening in Lydd and Dhammash is similar to building restrictions imposed on Palestinian neighborhoods across Israel and in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

“The process of obtaining building permits is very difficult,” Bishara said. “People are trapped, because they need to build homes, but the authorities won’t give them permits. All claims related to the history of these families who have been in the area, their circumstances as the families expand, it almost doesn’t play a role [in the legal procedures]. It’s a formula initiated by the [Israeli] authorities.”

Bishara added that the land on which the Abu Eid family was living was zoned by the city municipality as “non-residential,” even though it is surrounded by homes in a residential neighborhood. She said that although the families in Lydd and Dhammash are in the process of submitting paperwork to have the area re-zoned, it could take years “even in the best-case scenario.”

“If the authorities want to, they can make it very difficult for Palestinian families,” Bishara said. “But the families are engaged in planning procedures. They’re doing a lot of public activism and media work, which could help.”

She added, “It’s an ongoing threat … You see what’s going on in the Naqab [Negev], and Israel’s plans to evict tens of ‘unrecognized’ villages from their land. You see the policies of segregation in the cities, where there are huge areas where Arabs are not allowed to live. [What’s happening in Lydd] is a small part of the whole policy, but we have to take a look at the whole picture.”