Adalah Submits Objections to Plans to Confiscate Lands Cultivated by Arab Farmers for the Creation of a “Kiryat Ata Forest”
On 21 and 28 August 2006, Adalah submitted two objections on behalf of 19 Arab farmers from the north of Israel to Local Master Plans G13449 and HBG/1237 to the Haifa and Northern Planning and Building Committees. The plans demarcate an area of land cultivated by Arab farmers in and around the area of Wadi al-Malak to be confiscated, with the stated goal of creating a man-made forest in the area, called the “Kiryat Ata Forest” in the plans. Adalah demanded that the committees conduct a thorough examination of the facts on the ground in the area, and to withdraw the plans.
The plans, which were initiated by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), cover a total area of close to 12,182 dunams, and include swathes of land which have been farmed for decades, even before the establishment of the state of Israel. In the objections, Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara and Adalah Urban and Regional Planner, Hana Hamdan, argued that these lands provide Arab farmers with their basic source of livelihood, and therefore reassigning them as forested areas would deprive them of their income and violate their rights to property and freedom of occupation.
Adalah further argued that the lands owned by the farmers do not currently contain natural forests to be protected or developed. Therefore, there is no basis for them to be demarcated as forested land, in accordance with the plans. Moreover, there is no link between the current state of the lands and the stated goals of the plans.
Adalah emphasized that the farms located in the area covered by the plan represent an indivisible and essential part of the natural landscape and the tourist value of the area, and therefore must not be damaged. In addition, these plans contradict the National Master Plan TAMA 22 by exceeding the boundaries which it marks out for forests, Adalah maintained.