Druse protest against land expropriation

Several nat'l projects planned in area; Carmel mayor: "We won't respect a law that doesn't respect us."

Druse shepherd 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Druse shepherd 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
"We won't respect a law that doesn't respect us," Carmel City Mayor Dr. Akram Hasson said Saturday during a protest by dozens of Druse in the North against Israel's plans to expropriate 2,000 dunams of land from their community on the east Carmel Mountains. The plans are intended for several national projects, including the construction of a cross-country road, laying a gas pipeline and assembling the Hamemek railway tracks. The Druse erected a protest tent on the land, near Yokne'am. Also attending the demonstration were Israeli Arab MKs Ahmad Tibi (UAL), Jamal Zahalka (Balad) and Muhammad Barakei (Hadash). Carmel City represents a merger of Daliat al-Carmel and Usfiya. Owners of the lands set to be expropriated warned of violence more severe that the riots in the Druse village of Peki'in on October 30, in which 29 police officers and 13 civilians were injured. Druse spiritual leader Sheikh Muafak Tarif said that the national projects must be frozen and spoke of the need to act with logic and decisiveness, but without violence. Earlier Saturday, Tarif told Army Radio that "the Druse community supports national projects but not our expense." He said that in contrast to Arabs, no land was being offered as a replacement, adding that Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer had said that the projects would not begin until a deal is reached with the Druse leaders. President Shimon Peres on Friday was the guest of the Druse community near the grave of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. Though still optimistic that Israel would one day make peace with the Palestinians, Peres condemned the acts of terror that create difficulties for the peace process and for coexistence. Murder leads to murder... and achieves nothing, said Peres, adding that senseless bloodshed was an obstacle to peace. Peres was reacting to the murder of two security guards in the Nitzanei Shalom Industrial Zone near Tulkarm. Nonetheless, he said, if Israel was able to achieve peace with Egypt and Jordan, he was confident that Israel could reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians and even with Syria, "providing that the Syrians proceed towards peace in the proper manner." Expressing pride in the Druse community, Peres invited its members to join in the peace effort. Sensitive to some of their frustrations, Peres said: "I pray with you that in the next decade we will know peace with full equality, full freedom and unity." Peres also paid a condolence call on the family of St.-Sgt. Sayef Bisan, a Druse soldier killed earlier this month in an ambush in Gaza.