Local Councils Participate in a Study Day on Housing Issues in the Arab Community - مركز مساواة لحقوق المواطنين العرب في اسرائيل

Local Councils Participate in a Study Day on Housing Issues in the Arab Community

The study day, organized by the Mossawa Center in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, included numerous discussions during which the housing budgets of Arab localities were presented. This included housing projects related to national and local planning including the restoration of neighborhoods and working with the expedited-Planning Committee.

Moreover, the challenges and problems Arab localities face on a daily basis were also demonstrated, highlighting the lack of proper planning for Arab towns. These challenges, such as the issue of land registration, home demolitions, and how to approach the recently passed Kaminitz law, stand in the way of Arab localities reaching their potential.

Activist Asmahan Jabali opened the study day by emphasizing the importance of the recognition of rights in housing and planning, and the head of the local council of Arara, Modar Younis, spoke about the political aspect of the Housing Ministry in Arab localities and the obstacles the Arab community is forced to cope with. In his speech, Younis focused on the role of the governmental offices which often stand in the way of the community’s development; and he requested from the community members to fully trust their local councils in managing the housing and planning issues and developing a plan which takes care of each town’s needs. Additionally, Younis emphasized the significance of the governmental offices and local councils’ joint cooperation, as well as that the local councils’ ability to do their job properly despite lack of funding.

The importance of raising awareness concerning the people’s discouragement was also stressed by the head of Sakhnin’s municipality, Mazin Ghnayem, who said that he understands that “the head of the local council is the only person who is addressed by the people in issues such as these. However, the people must remember not to blame the lack of required building permits on heads of local councils because the government imposes severe penalties upon those who do not follow its rules”.
Judith Stelmach, of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), affirmed the significance of the cooperation of the Arab community and the state’s institutions regarding social and political issues, and stated that FES is ready to support this cooperation.

During the event, the director of the minority division in the Ministry of Housing, Yossi Hadad, presented the 2017 work plan of the ministry. According to the presented data, 126 million NIS was allocated to local councils, from which only approximately 32 million were used for public institutions. Haddad pointed out that the larger part of planning was devoted for state lands due to the lack of private land zoned for housing and said that the housing ministry aims to fully utilize the funding provided by the government.

The participation of Representative Fird Salmon, of the planning and building authority, played a positive role among the heads of local councils at the study day. She expressed her support and understanding of the housing issues in the Arab community, and her willingness to help deal with the challenges. Salmon encouraged joint work among active institutions, emphasized the importance of integrating women in to the field through planning according to the Arab social reality, and including Arab professionals in planning committees in the future.

Dikla Persico, the director of the housing committee (FATMAL), spoke about the committee’s work and the success of the joint work with local councils such as Taibe, and Abu Ghosh village, and said that the committee is currently planning in 8 areas.
Ayman Seif, director of the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors, stated that he is supporting local councils through monitoring the budgets allocated by the government for the development and enhancement of facilities in Arab towns. He also requested from the local councils to improve their management of said budgets.

Similarly, the representative of the Arab Center for Alternative Planning, Samer Sweid, encouraged the increase of the joint work among those responsible for the Planning issues, and suggested forming a supervising committee for better management of budgets, while emphasizing the people’s right to learn about the course of the planning.

The heads of local councils continued their participation in a roundtable discussion

Participating local councils included: Deir Hanna, Ara-Arara, Basmat Taboun, Baqa Al Gharbeya, Kafr Qassim, Tira, Sakhnin, Jat, Zemir, Jisr Al Zarqa, Kufr Manda, Majd Al Kurom, Shafaamr, Iksal, Al Mashhad, Qalansawa, Fassouta, Deir Al Assad, Al Mazraa.

The director of Mossawa Center, Jafar Farah, concluded the study day saying: “the follow up of the government requires constant work. The right to housing is similar to the right to education, work, and health. In cooperation with the Committee of the heads of Arab local councils and the Arab Center for alternative Planning, we will continue to work with the people, local councils, and communal committees in order to protect homes and ensure the right of proper housing, planning, and land”.

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