Wednesday, 19 January 2011 13:44
Tania Kepler for the Alternative Information Center (AIC)
Fifteen kilometers southeast of Tel Aviv, next to Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, there is a refugee camp. 74 people are living in tents at the Abu Eid Camp in the city of Lod.
The extended Palestinian family now sleeps in tents on the same site where they once slept in homes.
Lod is a historic place, dating back to 5600–5250 BCE. Inhabitants of the city lived through Roman, Arab, Crusader, Ottoman, and British rule. Today Lod is a city divided, known for high crime rates and drug use. In 2010, residents numbered 69,500, around a third of whom are Palestinian.
This, however, was not always the case. Before the state of Israel and the 1948 Nakba, it was a small peaceful Palestinian town, not far from coastal port of Jaffa.
In the mid 19th century, when an American missionary, Dr. William M. Thomson, visited Lod, he described it as a “flourishing village of some 2,000 inhabitants, embosomed in noble orchards of olive, fig, pomegranate, mulberry, sycamore, and other trees, surrounded every way by a very fertile neighborhood.”
“The inhabitants are evidently industrious and thriving, and the whole country between this and Ramleh is fast being filled up with their flourishing orchards,” Thomson wrote. “Rarely have I beheld a rural scene more delightful than this presented in early harvest ... It must be seen, heard, and enjoyed to be appreciated.”[i]
The beauty and tranquility of the city was not long appreciated. In July 1948, the Israeli military stormed Lod. Soldiers were ordered to shoot people in the streets and hundreds of Palestinians were killed. Most of the residents of Lod fled to cities like Ramallah. Not long after, refugee families from other parts of the country arrived, seeking shelter.
The Abu Eid clan is one such family. They arrived in the 1950s from a village in the north, built homes and made a life. While they were struggling to rebuild and establish a community, the Israeli government began using Lod as a place to settle new Jewish immigrants. Today 33% of the city’s residents are new arrivals to the country.
On 13 December 2010, the Israel Land Authority (ILA) arrived in Lod, armed with bulldozers and hundreds of police officers, entered the Abu Eid family property and demolished the 6 homes and one office building. 74 people, including 54 children, remain homeless.
“I was at work when I got a call that they were destroying the houses,” Zaki Abu Eid, age 45, said. “I rushed over but the police had set up a roadblock and the yassamnikim (anti-riot police) wouldn’t let me in. By the time I got in, the house was gone.”
The ILA is the branch of the Israel government responsible for managing 93% of the land in Israel, which the country considers public domain, though much of the land is actually unrecognized Arab villages and land. The ILA claims that many of the Palestinian homes in Lod and the surrounding area, were built without permits, and are therefore illegal structures that should be demolished. However, housing options for Palestinians in cities now considered Jewish or Israeli are limited, and permits for building are almost impossible to obtain.
According to the ILA, the demolitions of the Abu Eid family’s property “were carried out on illegal construction totaling seven buildings on land that is zoned for agricultural use.” It added that the families whose homes were demolished “will not be compensated because they invaded public lands managed by the ILA.”
Around 42,000 Palestinian homes built without required permits are threatened with demolition, according to Ittijah, a Palestinian civil society organization. Of these threatened homes, 13,000 could be carried out at any time and 30,000 are at some stage in local courts.
At present, more than two-thirds of the residents of Lod and nearby Ramle are living in what the government considers illegally built houses, though many, like the Abu Eid homes, were built more than 50 years ago. Only one kilometer away from the Abu Eid Camp, the wreckage of the homes of nine other families whose homes were destroyed in 2008 remains visible.
Israeli authorities have also demolished thousands of Bedouin homes in unrecognized villages since the 1970s, many of them comprising no more than tents or shacks. In 2010 alone Israeli officials demolished hundreds of Bedouin structures. The government’s goal is that people will move from the rural areas, which the government would like to use for agriculture or settlement, to new Bedouin cities.
The increasing frequency of home demolitions, and the constant fear of homelessness, are the deplorable tactics of the Israeli government to drive Palestinians from areas they want to dominate and populate, erasing the history of historic Palestine.
Every Tuesday at 6pm demonstrators gather in front of the Abu Eid house to protest this unjust act and stand in solidarity with the family.
[i] Thomson, W.M. (1861). The Land and the Book. T Nelson and Sons, p. 525.