Israeli-Arab political groups join housing protest movement

National Committee for the Arab Local Authorities and the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee address housing needs of Arab sector.

By SHIRA POLIAK
July 29, 2011 03:37
2 minute read.
TA rally against high price of rent last week

Tent City Rally (Ben) 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman [file])

 
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Two Israeli-Arab political bodies, the National Committee for the Arab Local Authorities and the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, joined the mounting housing struggle on Thursday. They are the first Israeli-Arab organizations to utilize the momentum of the protest movement to address the specific housing needs in the Israeli-Arab sector.

Israeli-Arabs face difficulty obtaining building permits and a housing shortage of approximately 5,000 apartments per year, according to Ramez Jeraisy, chairman of the National Committee for the Arab Local Authorities and the mayor of Nazareth.

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About 95 percent of Arab land is privately owned, according to Suheil Diab, an adviser to Jeraisy, making it difficult for the state to free up land for building projects and public housing. He said that Nazareth is one of the only Israeli-Arab cities that has public or affordable housing complexes.

The organizations waited two weeks to join the struggle because the initial campaign against rising rent prices did not relate to the Arab-Israeli sector, he said.

“For Israeli-Arabs, it’s not the price of houses,” Jeraisy said. “There are no houses.”

But the momentum the protest movement has garnered – and the serious recent attention the government has afforded to it – created a new opportunity to emphasize the distinct housing problems in the Israeli-Arab sector, he said.

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According to a report compiled by the Arab-Israeli NGO, The Galilee Society, in 2010, 55% of the Arab public that will need housing in the coming decade, will not be able to afford a place to live.

The two associations have not decided if they will begin pitching tents in protest, but “all legitimate, democratic, participatory forms of protest are possible,” said Daib. They will meet tomorrow to formalize their campaign strategies.

Roee Neuman, one of the spokesmen for the Tel Aviv tent-protester movement, which has been heralded as the hub of the struggle against rising rent prices and the cost of living, was thrilled that the Arab committees joined the movement.

“We welcome everyone from all parties,” he said.

The organizations’ decision to formally join the protest comes three days after Jaraisy sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urging him to address the housing crisis in the Israeli- Arab sector.

Jaraisy called on the government to expedite the process for Israeli-Arabs to obtain building permits and increase government subsidies for mortgages and new building projects. He also called for Israeli-Arabs to be included in government committees proposing solutions to the housing crisis.

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