100s in Ramle protest planned Arab neighborhood demolitions

Demolition orders issued for 13 of the 70 homes in sprawling semi-rural area between central Ramle and Lod.

Ramle protests 311 (photo credit: Nihad Awidat)
Ramle protests 311
(photo credit: Nihad Awidat)
Several hundred people marched and rallied in Ramle on Tuesday, to protest against what residents fear is a plan to demolish homes in the Arab neighborhood of Dahmash.
Demolition orders have been issued for 13 of the 70 homes in the sprawling semi-rural area between central Ramle and Lod that is home to some 600 people. According to the state, the land was zoned solely for agricultural purposes.
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The residents, who receive no municipal services, have pushed for the state to give them official recognition and rezone the land as residential so they can remain in their homes.
The protests came a day before the Petah Tikva District Court was to hold a hearing to decide whether to go ahead with the demolitions.
Activists plan to protest outside the courthouse during the hearing.
Supporters came from across Israel to the Tuesday march, from the Golan Heights and Arab villages in the Galilee, to Beduin villages in the Negev. They included more than 100 activists from the Solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah movement, who said they see what is happening in Dahmash as similar to what is taking place in east Jerusalem.
Nassir Ghawe, whose family was evicted from its longtime home in Sheikh Jarrah in early August following a court ruling, participated in the march because “what is happening here is the same as what’s happening in east Jerusalem. It’s a little different: There they kick out Arabs to bring in settlers; here they want to just kick them out. But in a larger sense, it’s the same.”
Avner Inbar, a Sheikh Jarrah movement activist, said at the march that the difference was solely in the details.
“The rules for Jews aren’t the same as the rules for Arabs,” Inbar said. “They [the Dahmash residents] own the land here, but they aren’t recognized. Across Israel, the state changes the status of agricultural land for Jewish residential projects, so I can’t see any reason why they don’t do the same here other than that they’re Arabs.”
The procession from Ramle’s city hall to the heart of Dahmash was led by a number of local leaders, who walked arm-in-arm with Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement. Salah was followed by dozens of children wearing shirts with a Nike “swoosh” and the words “Dahmash: Just recognize it.”
There were also drum circles, clowns in full regalia, and several marchers carrying life-size puppets.
The procession was joined by representatives from a wide-range of organizations on the left-wing of the Israeli political spectrum, both Arab and Jewish.
MK Hanna Sweid (Hadash) said he came “to show solidarity with those people who aren’t being allowed to live normal lives and be recognized by the state. It’s hard to imagine, but there is an area in the middle of the State of Israel that looks like a refugee camp. What these people need is to be recognized by the state.”
The dusty, run-down district lies along dirt roads next to train tracks and a soaring scrap metal heap, and is littered with broken and abandoned cars and farm equipment. Between the scrapmetal and a wooded area stretching to the horizon, a number of single and multi-level homes surround a vacant lot, where atop two flatbed trucks a stage was set up on Tuesday for a performance by the Palestinian hip hop group “Dam.”
A few of the houses slated for demolition were of very impressive construction and looked capable of housing large numbers of people.
After sunset, the people who remained from the march filtered into the empty lot for the concert, with an eye toward the next day at the Petah Tikva District Court.