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Haaretz: Protest in Jaffa against home demolitions

Protestors rally in Jaffa against move to evict local Arab families
By Yigal Hai, 28 April 2007

Hundreds of Jaffa residents on Friday participated in a march to protest measures that the Israel Lands Authority and the Amidar housing company have taken in the past year to evict Arab families from Jaffa.

The Israel Lands Authority and Amidar claim the families invaded the properties and built on them illegally.

The march was organized by The Popular Committee to Defend the Land and the Right to Residency, which was established by the Arab residents of Jaffa several weeks ago.

According to the committee’s leaders, the Authority and Amidar in the past year issued 500 eviction notices to Arab families from the Al Ajami and Givat Aliya neighborhoods, and some of the notices have evolved into eviction lawsuits.

The organizers of the march questioned why the Authority and Amidar have taken a sudden interest in the matter in the past year, when the families have been living in their homes for several decades. They say the families have held a status of protected tenants who pay rent.

The residents’ representatives say the authority and Amidar are attempting to Judaize Jaffa while also making a profit from selling the properties, which are near the seafront, to an affluent Jewish population.

The protesters in the march shouted various slogans such as “Jews and Arabs against house demolitions” and “The transfer won?t happen.”

According to the “This is a tsunami of evictions and demolitions,” said Al Ajami neighborhood chairman, Camel Agbaria. “The struggle for a roof over one’s head should be the ultimate struggle. Instead of firing bullets, they fire dollar bills here.”

March participants included Meretz MKs Yossi Beilin and Ran Cohen and Hadash MKs Dov Khenin and Hanna Swaid.

Throughoutt the past week, the Popular Committee handed out flyers to Jaffa residents, calling on them to join the protest. The flyer, entitled “The residents of Jaffa are at risk of being evicted and expelled again,” presented a picture from 1948 of an Arab family reluctantly leaving its Jaffa home along side a picture from 2005 of a tractor demolishing the home of an Arab family in Jaffa.

“500 families are at risk of being expelled,” the flyer read. “Thousands of people remain with no roofs over their heads for the benefit of the wealthy and rich entrepreneurs.”

The Housing Authority and Amidar reject the accusations. A statement issued by the Housing Authority said, “The documents in question are warning letters issued by the Amidar company, which manages the Authorities properties and deals with invaders.” Only several dozens of letters have been issued.”

“If anyone has any complaints, they are welcome to visit the Amidar offices and prove they have a legal claim to the property,” the statement read. “The claims that this is a transfer are demagoguery. No person will be evicted without a court order.”

According to the head of the Amidar directorate, Doron Cohen, Amidar rejects “with scorn the demagogic attempt by the ‘Popular Committee’ to use the events of the War of Independence to protect those who break the law. Amidar works to protect the State’s property rights regardless of the tenants character, religion or nationality.”