Anti-Arab Militia Latest Face of Galilee Judaisation
Between 20:00 and midnight in Karmiel in the Galilee, vigilantes watch over the entrances to the town, they don’t want any Arabs to visit.
Israeli human rights activists Peace Now (Gush Shalom) said the guards are a “racist right militia” and argue every citizen, regardless of ethnicity, has the right to freedom of movement and do not need explanations to enter a town. The city guards target Arabs living in the surrounding villages, blocking them from enjoying Karmiel’s night life.
The city guards were created by deputy mayor Oren Milstein, whose rise to power began with a “Save the Jewish character of Karmiel” campaign.
“Milstein was elected on a purely racist platform,” said Gush Shalom founder Uri Avnery. Along with screening Arabs visiting Karmiel, Avnery said the deputy mayor is trying to keep Arabs from settling in the city by “agitating for Jewish inhabitants to inform on other Jewish inhabitants who are renting or selling [housing] to Arabs.”
In an interview with the right-wing newspaper B’sheva, Milstein said that for Arabs to live in Karmiel “is not correct” since the stated goal of the city, founded in the sixties, was “cutting off Arab settlement.”
Zoning laws keep Arab communities confined and their expansion illegal: they are not permitted to expand or build their own villages. Growing populations have forced them to seek homes outside of their own restricted neighbourhoods, and many have moved to “Jewish” towns, Averny said.
Fatma is a resident of an Arab village neighboring Karmiel. Her sister’s experience is indicative of the problems faced by Arabs in the Galilee. Living in Karmiel, she wanted to buy a house but it proved impossible. When people heard her name and realised she was Arab, they either stated “we don’t sell to Arabs” or doubled the price of the property. Now her sister rents an apartment in Akka but faces the same racism.
“If you want to buy a nice home in a good neighbourhood, you can’t find it,” Fatma said. The only option is to buy in Arab neighbourhoods, which are generally rougher and more deprived than their Jewish counterparts. Most Arabs do not protest to the authorities because they fear the violence from Jewish people. “If you want to live in Karmiel, you have to be quiet and not make problems.”
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Gush Shalom leader Uri Averny worries more racist militias could spring up in northern Israel
Averny said Karmiel was founded on territorial racism: the original Bedouin inhabitants were driven off by Jewish settlers.
“Karmiel was built expressly to Judaize the Galilee,”Avnery said. “It is sitting on a plot of land that previously contained Arab villages… the more [Karmiel] grows, the more it dispossesses Arabs.”
Currently, deputy mayor Milstein frets that the Western Galilee is only thirty two percent Jewish. He said in the B’sheva interview, “if we examine the range of only 5 miles around Karmiel, it’s found to be surrounded by 180,000 Arabs.”
“Jews are living in mortal fear that Arabs will become the majority in the Galilee’, Avnery said, and at regular intervals local authorities voice the need to strengthen regional Zionist zeal. He cites How to Judaize the Galilee, a report published in the sixties which caused a scandal at the time but which continues to resurface, as an example of the traditional roots of racist militias and requirements for housing in Israel. Averny predicts the blossoming Arab population of Nazareth will spill into Upper Nazareth and the Jewish community will respond by creating a local militia like Milstein’s ’city guards.’
Avnery and Gush Shalom advocate Alex Keller wrote a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein protesting Karmiel’s guards, but Averny doesn’t have much hope. He believes Weinstein “will do nothing [since] racism has been tolerated for decades in Israel.”
Israeli Journalists have done little, too. No national Israeli paper has covered the creation of Karmiel’s city guards and their prevention of non-Jews entering the city unless completely necessary.
“This covering up by the media is further evidence of the growing acceptability of racism in Israel,” Avnery said. “Four decades ago, people were careful not to mention fascism because of its association with the Holocaust, but now people speak of it openly. [Israeli Welfare Minister] Isaac Herzog has warned fascism is touching the margins of Israeli society but actually it has reached the centre.”
Gush Shalom may go to the Supreme Court to pursue the demand for a criminal investigation of policy clearly violating the law “in its incitement against parts of the population.”