All Israel’s Arab cities and towns are on a general strike today. All the municipalities are closed, and protests are being held in Arab towns throughout the country.
The strike is in protest over yesterday’s violent clash between police and residents of Umm al-Hiran, in which a police officer and a resident of the unrecognized village were killed. The incident started when police came to carry out a court order to demolish an illegally built house.
Tensions within the Arab community (20 percent of Israel’s population) have been rising over what it perceives as the government’s aggressive policy regarding demolition of illegal structures in Arab towns.
Last week a house was demolished in the large Arab town of Qalanswa, located in the center of the country, near Kfar Saba. Although the house did not have a building permit, it was built on privately owned land that belonged to the family living in the house. Many Arab municipalities, including Qalanswa cannot issue building permits, because they do not have government approved master development plans, which have been mired in red tape for years, sometime decades.
The result is a major housing shortage in Arab locales, forcing people to build illegally on their land. The Arab leadership says the government deliberately creates this situation, as part of its policy to enable it to expropriate Arab land.