The phenomenon of ‘unrecognised villages’ in Israel is a perfect microcosm of the way in which Palestinian citizens are, in more than one sense, ‘wiped off the map’. Across the country, but mainly in the Negev, around 90,000 Palestinian citizens live in over 40 unrecognised villages, which the state refuses to legalise, and whose residents ‘lack security of tenure and public services’.
The demolition of Palestinian homes is a widespread phenomenon in Israel, despite some people associating the practice solely with areas under military occupation, like East Jerusalem or the Jordan Valley.
Like in other cases, some of Dahmash’s residents were given the land by the state ‘as compensation for lands from which they had been displaced’ in 1948 and ‘to which the Israeli government prohibited them from returning’.113 Since then, however, officials have refused to ‘zone Dahmash for residential construction’.
Perhaps ‘the most famous case of the internally displaced’ was the (Christian) Palestinians of two villages, Kafr Bir’im and Iqrit.58 The villagers were expelled by the Israeli military in 1948, though were told that the displacement would be ‘temporary’. As the months became years, the Palestinians took their case to the courts. Yet while the case of Iqrit was still pending, Israeli forces blew up every house in the village. Kafr Bir’im, meanwhile, was declared a ‘closed area’ for security reasons, thus requiring a permit for entry: permits the army refused to give. In 1953, after the Finance Ministry had confiscated the land on the pretext that it was ‘abandoned’ and ‘uncultivated’ by the owners, the army destroyed the remaining houses. ‘The lands of the villages were confiscated, declared “state lands”, and leased to Jewish agricultural and urban settlements.’
In the words of Human Rights Watch’s deputy Middle East director: ‘The 600 people of Dahmash are treated as if they don’t exist, while Jewish towns are developed nearby in a way that threatens Dahmash residents’ access to their homes and lands.’114 As Arafat Ismayil, head of the Dahmash village committee, said to me, ‘We’re in the heart of Israel, but we’re not here’.
Teh only democracy in teh barbaric orient with all its wild wild animals!