On Tuesday, July 13, hundreds of Arab and Jewish citizens marched in protest through the streets of Ramla demanding recognition of the nearby village of Dahmash. The next morning, a local court convened to discuss pending demolition orders against thirteen homes in Dahmash – and decided to freeze their execution for an additional three months.
On Wedneday, July 14, a Petah Tikva court extended the freeze on demolition orders against thirteen homes in the unrecognized village of Damhash for an additional three months, and ordered the District Planning and Building Committee to discuss, prior to the convening of the next scheduled session on October 11, the development and planning issues related to the village.
This means that the immediate danger of demolition has been postponed, but the struggle for recognition of Dahmash will still be a long one. Nevertheless, yesterday’s court decision was an important achievement for the residents of the village and for the many participants in the Arab-Jewish demonstration who marched the evening before through streets of Ramla.
The key argument raised by Attorney Qais Nasser, representing Dahmash, during yesterday’s court session was that the very same Regional Planning and Building Committee that, a week earlier, rejected the development plans submitted by the residents of Dahmash, had previously granted recognition to an entire neighborhood – Pardes Snir – located nearby to Dahmash, by retroactively authorizing the buildings that had been constructed there without earlier formal permission. This being so, after years of continuous discrimination against Damash regarding authorization of its development, and in light of the resulting administrative deprivation of the village and its residents, there is absolutely no justification in perpetuating such discrimination. Furthermore, in an earlier court session regarding Dahmash held two years ago, presiding Judge Sarah Dotan recommended that the case of Dahmash be handled similarly to cases of other neighborhoods.
The mere fact that the District Planning and Building Committee rejected the development plans submitted by the residents, argued Attorney Nasser in the name of the people of Dahmash, cannot be construed as a pretext for execution of the pending demolition orders. Many houses in Pardes Snir had also been threatened by demolition orders, but these were revoked after the development plans for the neighborhood were approved.
Therefore, the demolition orders against Damhash should be frozen and discussion of the development plans for the entire village furthered. Following the court session, Attorney Nassar told activists that they must continue their efforts: "This is not the time to relax and celebrate; rather it's the time to further our action."
Arafat Ismail, chairman of the Dahmash Village Committee, welcomed the decision and reminded the residents and activists that the struggle must continue until the village achieves full recognition. Ibrahim Abu-Sa'luk, member of the Popular Committee of Lod (Lydda), emphasized that the court decision was a direct result of the persistent and unremitting organization and activity of the villagers in cooperation with the Popular Committees of Lod and Ramla, together with the solidarity of Jewish and Arab citizens who believe in equality and the basic rights of shelter and dignity for all.
There's No Such Thing as an Unrecognized Village!
Hundreds of Jewish and Arab activists joined residents of Dahmash in the Tuesday, July 13 protest march that set out from the center of Ramla and made its way towards the village, demanding an end to house demolitions and recognition for Dahmash. Among the participants in the march were representatives from unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev where, on the very same day, three homes were demolished; activists from the Triangle region, from Baqa al-Gharbiyye and Wadi 'Ara – where two homes were demolished the day before the demonstration; and activists from Ramla and Lod (Lydda), Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Jaffa.
Member of the Knesset (MK) Hanna Sweid was among those who marched as an expression of solidarity with the people of Dahmash. After the march, Muhammad Zeidan, representative of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, delivered a speech at the rally held at the entrance to the village. Representatives of Hadash (The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) joined the demonstrators, as did representatives of the Arab Democratic Party and leaders from the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and other political movements. Also among the marchers were Ramez Jaraisy, the mayor of Nazareth, Omar Siqsiq, representing Jaffa List in the Municipal Council of Tel-Aviv/Jaffa, Nader Sarsur, mayor of Kafr Kassem.
But the true heartbeat of the protest march was provided by a group of Dahmash children tattooing away on their improvised tin drums. During the week prior to the march, these children attended a summer camp conducted at the village by Jewish and Arab volunteers, under the initiative of Hutwah (“Step forward” in Arabic), a group of young activists from Ramla and Lod working together for social change and the empowering of the discriminated against Palestinian community in the Ramla/Lod region.
The message of the drums was simple: “We're from Damhash – and we are here!”
Just behind the children marched the women of Damhash, who have stubbornly held daily protest vigils against the demolitions for the past few months.
Every demonstration gives rise to new slogans for the struggle, for the demonstrations yet to come for Dahmash as well as for other communities threatened by demolition orders and the State of Israel's policy of dispossession. Here are some of them:
- Jews and Arabs against House Demolitions!
- Equal Rights – Nothing Less!
- Citizens Are Not Real Estate – Dahmash Is Standing Fast!
- Demolitions Are No Solution – The Future Is In Equality!
- No Oppression, No Discrimination – Time for Change!
- There Are No Unrecognized Villages – Only Racist Laws!
And of course, the most popular slogan, that reached its pitch when the marchers reached the rally area at the entrance to Dahmash: “There's No Such Thing as an Unrecognized Village!”
We're Rooted Here as Strongly as Wild Thyme and Olives
At the rally held at the end of the march, Arafat Ismail, chairman of the Dahmash Village Committee, and Farida Sha’aban, one of the leading figures in the struggle, spoke on behalf of the residents. Ismail described Dahmash's long fight for recognition. Ali and Farida Sha’aban fiercely defended their home two years ago, when authorities attempted to execute the demolition order issued against it. During the past months, their home has become a warm and hospitable place of meeting for activists and supporters, next to which, in recent months, the village's protest tent is located. "We're staying here, no matter what," declared Farida. “We're rooted here as strongly as wild thyme and olives."
“All Arab citizens of Israel stand behind the people of Damhash,” proclaimed Mohammed Zeidan representing the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, also one of the speakers at the post-march rally. Buthaina Dhabit, born and raised in Ramla, and a devoted participant in dozens of battles against house demolitions and dispossession in Lod and Ramla, placed what's happening at Damhash in the broader, nationwide struggle for equality and shelter. The Israel Branch Director of Amnesty International told those gathered how the demolition of peoples' homes is a mortal blow to human rights in general.
“We place no faith in bulldozers; we believe in a life of equality, a life in which there is equal citizenship for all – no favoritism, and with no discrimination," said Gadi Algazi, representing Hithabrut-Tarabut (Arab-Jewish Movement for Social and Political Change.) "In Damhash there are no 'intruders' – the derisive term applied by that the authorities to the residents, continued Algazi. “The real intruders are those who attempt to dispossess the residents; those who draw up development plans while totally ignoring the people who live here; those who want to take away all that they have, their homes – these are the true intruders." Nasser Ghawi, chairman of the Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood Committee shared with those present the experience gained from struggling against Israel's occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Ahmad Milhem, chairman of the Popular Committee Against House Demolitions and Land Expropriation in Wadi Ara, told of the current struggle being waged against the expropriation of more Arab-owned lands and the government's plans to “Judaize” Wadi Ara with the establishment of an ultra-orthodox Jewish city at Harish.
Following the end of the rally hundreds gathered in the center of Dahmash to attend “Night of the Bulldozers," a musical event unlike anything the village has ever known. The performances there, which marked the conclusion of the week-long voluntary summer camp held at Damhash, featured Reggae by Tout Ard Group from the occupied Golan, classical Arabic music by Haq from Nazareth, and biting, fearless rap from System Ali (Jaffa) and DAM (Ramla-Lod).
It's hard to think of a better way to have closed this chapter in the fight of Dahmash for recognition – towards the next stage of the struggle.
Demonstration in the media:
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