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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I can see my house from up here...

Hey, well, my posting this week will be a bit sporadic. I'm vacationing with the husband up north, so I haven't really gone online or anything in the past day or so. But, I have to tell you about what happened here yesterday. I don't know how many of you, outside of people like Jameel, will know about this guy, but it's still very interesting.

Even-though I don't agree with what transpired in Ammona a few weeks ago, I agree with my husband that there is some good that can come out of that travesty. The biggest one being that finally some long over-due spot-light will be put on the hundreds and thousands of Arab homes that are being built illegally, on other people's private land, etc in this country. As I have said before, I believe that the threat of riots that would come in response to the Israeli government doing anything about these illegal homes is actually holding this democracy hostage. You cannot be equal and democratic without the law being enforced both ways. On one hand, the Arabs complaing that they are not treated equally and that they don't get the same rights that any other Israeli citizen gets. On the other hand, they believe that they don't have to pay taxes, Arnona, or abide by any law that any other Israeli citizen has to obey. It's a reverse Apartheid or reverse discrimination, if that sits better with you. The rule is being applied to one group of citizens and not the other. Then, the Arabs wonder why their cities don't look as nice or aren't taken care of as well as other Israeli cities. (If you look in this past week-end's Maariv's edition of Sof Shvuah, there's actually a pretty good article about Arab mayors and politicians complaining and trying to start a campaign to get their Arab residents to pay Arnona. One of the really great quotes was one Arab saying, "I can't understand why any-one wouldn't pay Arnona. It's not like not paying taxes, which goes to pay for the Israeli Army and Israeli Occupation. This is for them." That really just sums it up right there.

Anyways, after the whole debacle of Ammona, some right wing politicians said that they were going to shed some light on the Arab illegal building problems. They said, and rightly so, that if we're going to be a country that allegedly abides by the rule of law and demolish illegal houses built by Jews, then we are going to apply the laws to every-body, i.e. the Arabs. They said, again rightly so, that the country cannot be held hostage by these Arab communities who refuse to abide by the rule of law simply because they threaten riots, death, and destruction. One particular supporter of this move is Baruch Marzel. He is running for Knesset, and whether he gets in or not is irregardless of his crusade to see that ALL illegal houses and citizens who commit this crime are treated equally. The first Arab community he looked to was Sachnin.

For those of you don't know, Sachnin is a large Arab city in the Galil. It is very close of Carmiel. Actually, my in-laws' Yishuv looks directly over it, and when my husband and I drive up here, we usually drive through it. This is a city typical and very representative of most Arab cities, towns, and villages. It's run by about 4-5 tribal families. When one of the heads of the families is elected as Mayor, the other families don't pay taxes. And, when this family sends a collection agency to collect the back taxes, these families will pay the collection agency NOT to collect their taxes. It's a fairly peaceful town. Though, when the Intifida broke out, no-one on the Yishuv and the entire Misgav were allowed to leave their houses on their own or wonder off without every-one else knowing where you were going. People were basically shored up in their houses until the violence quieted down. (How it did is an entirely different story.) All the intersections were being blocked off by rioting. A sad thing too for the people of Sachnin. Before the Intifada broke out, their economy was doing quite well. People who lived or worked in the area had no problem going into town to eat, shop, or get their cars repaired. Now, it's safe to drive through, but almost no-one would think of stopping and getting out of their car there.

Beyond that what makes this town so representative of all the Arab cities in Israel is their complaints. One one hand, they complain that their city is expanding, but that they don't have decent roads or enough room to accomodate the growing numbers. Well, when companies try to come in to help with zoning and to push the heads of the city to abide by city laws, they threaten violence. There are no apartment complexes, business offices, or anything else, for that matter, in Sachnin. All the things essential is defining a successful city are lacking here. The most a house is here is 3-4 stories high, but that is because one one family is sharing the house, and their family business is on the first floor. No house is built according to code, and when officials claim that they are going to start, the families and tribes threaten more violence, so the claim is stopped. When the police was asked why they don't just go in and destroy the illegal houses like they did in Ammona, the answer was that they didn't have enough force to do the job. That's a crock of sh*t in my book. They just are scared of what'll happen. Again, being held hostage by the threats of its own citizens.

Fast forward to now. Baruch Marzel chose Sachnin as the first Arab city that he was going to publicize in his campaign for illegal housing equality. He was going to bring the press in and show all the houses that were being built or were already built illegally, whether without permits, in violation of zoning laws and building codes, or on private property. It's very easy to prove. If you build a legal house on legal land, then you would have filed with the local building commissioner or whatever, and there would be records. If there isn't, then your house is illegal. Or, if your house is built on private property, all you need to do is pull out a map, look at where the lines are, and then see where the houses are built.

One aspect of a democracy is supposed to be that if you are a citizen of a country then you can travel into any city or state you want. No-body can stop you. Being an Israeli citizen, nobody can stop Mr Marzel from traveling in or through Sachnin. Well, that didn't happen here. A couple of weeks ago, when Baruch was scheduled to look around the city, everything, at first, seemed OK. The Mayor didn't have a problem with it and gladly tolm him to come for a visit. But, when he got to Sachnin, the entrance was blocked, and the police told him that it was in his best interest to turn around and go home. So, he did.

That brings us to yesterday. Ironically enough, my husband and I were talking about this very subject a couple of days ago while we were walking around the Yishuv. As we were walking past the over-view of Sachnin, I asked him how he could tell just by looking which houses were built illegally. He said that it was very easy. On the outskirts of the border of Sachnin, there are plots of government land designated for agriculture (in this case, olive groves). You weren't allowed to build on them. He said, every year, you can see the city inching its way closer to the Yishuv. The designated agricultural land is very easy to see, and you can see all the houses built on that land. That's blatantly illegal. so, without having to get zoning plans and such, you can already see over a hundred houses built on illegal land.

Yesterday, as my husband and I were driving out of the Yishuv, we see all these police-men standing at this edge of the hill that overlooks Sachnin. They were inspecting the benches and stuff that were there. It's basically a little cul-de-sac that sticks out. It's fun to sit there, and people have bonfires there. Very pretty little area. And, they were standing around looking. As we driving down the hill to the main road, we saw more cops driving up toward Eschar, the Yishuv. Then, we were in the right turn land to head towards Carmiel, and we see more cop cars in front of this car with a bunch of orange stickers on it. They're in the left turn lane to come in, so they were right in front of us. And, who does my husband see in the car? None other than Baruch Marzel. He was going up to our Yishuv to look at Sachnin. If he couldn't get in to see it. Well then, he was going to look over it. He figured out the same thing the husband told me. There's an incredible view of the city from the Yishuv, and if he wanted another way around to get a good look at it and record the illegal houses, the Yishuv was second best to actually being in the city. He was a lot more low-key about this, though. There was no press with him, and it seemed as if he was going out of his way to make sure no-one really knew what he was doing. Unfortunately, he didnt pick the best day to go inspecting. We've been having dust clouds or whatever in here over the past couple of days, so the visibility wasn't the best. You could see Sachnin and a lot of the illegal houses, but it wasn't nearly as good as if he had been able to come on a clear day. He was gone by the time we got back.

I hope he gathered some good evidence and really goes through with crusade. The Arabs can't have it both ways. They can't have their cake and eat it too. They can't scream for equality, then scream that they don't have to equally abide by the laws of the country. And, we have to be willing and have the courage to fight them and stand up for the rule of law. We can't allow ourselves to be held hostage by fellow citizens just because of their threats of violence. If there is no rule of law, then there is no democracy. Equal rights for all also means equal obligation for all. Anything less wouldn't be just.


At 4:11 PM, Blogger amechad said...

On one hand, you are 100% correct.
OTOH, Marzel is a crazy right wing ex-Kahanist. I blame him (but I may be wrong) for the reason why Herut under Michael Kleiner didn't win any seats in the past election.

At 1:28 AM, Blogger Ezzie said...

Marzel isn't as crazy as people make him out to be (okay, he's my best friend's cousin, so I'm biased). OTOH, my friend wouldn't vote for him.

Fascinating post.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hey OC - Great Post!

Its funny -- I have Baruch's cellnumber in my mobile's phonebook.

However, here are a few random samples as well, to show you I'm totally equal opportunity :-)

Baruch Marzel
Hamal HaChativa
La Gondoloa
Kippa Freak
Uri - madrich terror

(All the above are exactly as they appear in my phone book...)

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Rafi G said...

Marzel is right wing and a (former) Kahanist, but he is in no way crazy.
I had the opportunity to meet and speak with him a couple of years ago and I spent a shabbat lunch with him in his "house" in tel Rumeida in hebron.
Marzel is brilliant and at the same time a tzaddik. Everything he does is purely out of genuine concern for the jews. He is a tremendous Baal Chesed and feeds tens of soldiers in his house every shabbat, and sends food and drinks to the ones in the area who are too far away to come to him (stationed at checkpoints). His cincern is genuine and if you do not automatically discount him but pay attention to what he says, you will see that usually his claims are completely rational and logical.

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

Am and Ezzie, I have no idea if he crazy or not. I really don't know that much about him or his history. I only started reading up about him after he started this campaign.

Jameel, thanks, and I knew you would know who he is. That's why I mentioned you!

Rafi, I really hope that means that even if he doesn't get elected he's going to continue this campaign against illegal housing, equally.

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At 12:50 PM, Blogger Sue said...

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