Israeli authorities were faced with a full-scale riot late Sunday night after being sent to demolish an illegally-built home in the Israeli Arab town of Kafr Kanna.
Security forces were already prepared, however, to back up the demolition crew that had been ordered to level the home that was built without a required legal building permit.
It's a problem that is not new to Israel, and particularly to dealings with the Israeli Arab and Bedouin populations. There have at times been similar issues with Jewish community “start ups” in Judea and Samaria too.
Late Sunday night, Israel Police and Border Guard officers sealed off the neighborhood and then evacuated the targeted home of Tariq al-Khatib, according to Arab media and the Hebrew-language newspaper Yediot Acharonot. Family members at the scene were quoted by media as vowing to the police officers, “You destroyed the home, and we will rebuild it.”
But riots broke out in the wake of the demolition, leading to clashes with Nazareth district security personnel that left at least six residents with injuries, including Mujahed Awawdeh, head of the local town council.
Police used tear gas, stun grenades and finally, rubber bullets to disperse the swelling mob. Security personnel were deployed at the entrance to Kafr Kanna following the incident to ensure that no protesters attempted to block traffic on the nearby roads.
A general strike by the town's residents was declared Monday in response to the demolition, which Khatib insisted was unjust.
“I built on land that I inherited,” he said. “The state has no right to demolish the home and even if they destroy it 100 times I will rebuild it...
“Where else can we live? We have no roof over our heads. Instead of helping the Arab citizens, the country is trying to drive us out,” he ranted.
But in his tirade Khatib did not address the fact that he just plain failed to obtain a legal building permit to build the home. In the State of Israel, one requires that permit for construction anywhere in the country for any reason.
Nor did he acknowledge the fact that in all Israeli Arab towns, as well as Druze towns and legally recognized Bedouin towns and villages, all homes are now built with legal permits in accordance with Israeli building codes.
Kafr Kanna is no exception. Israeli Arab homes are not exempt from the laws that also apply to Israeli Jewish homes, Israeli Druze homes, Israeli Circassian homes or Israeli Christian homes. There is good reason for this.
Such homes are also built these days with a “mamad” – a bomb shelter – automatically included within the housing unit, regardless of whether it is an apartment or a single or multi-family dwelling. Parameters for the construction of a secure mamad are very specific and detailed – and woe to the contractor who fails to meet them. Engineers are required to inspect the work to ensure the family living within will be protected properly.
Requiring proper construction standards in order to ensure the safety of her citizens is not a sign that Israel is trying to “drive out” its Arab residents. It's a sign of caring enough to make sure that they, too, are protected.
Trying to cut corners to avoid the admittedly cumbersome and ugly process of having to obtain a building permit via the endless Israeli bureaucracy is not an answer.
Yelling “Allahu Akbar” and screaming that the police are “terrorists” because they back up the demolition crew and protect them from a mob that gathers to stop them from doing their job is, frankly, ridiculous. It is also disgraceful behavior by those who should know better.
Kafr Kanna is a northern Israeli town of some 20,000, is located in the Tur'an Valley, in Galilee. It is believed to exist on the site of the New Testament village of Cana, where the founder of Christianity was reported to have transformed water into wine. In the 17th century CE, in fact, the village was officially recognized by the Vatican and the pope of that era confirmed that Kafr Kanna is indeed Cana of the Galilee. At that point, the village was added to the list of Christian holy sites. It also appears on the Israel Ministry of Tourism website as well.
People who live on the site of a town of such veneration should at least try to measure up to the history of their locale, if not surpass it.