Today, Palestinian Arab citizens own about 860,000 dunams (86,000 hectares) of land, or about 3% of the total area of State land. Land owned by Palestinian Arab citizens has decreased drastically over the decades due to a series of confiscations and land theft by Israeli authorities. The sustained forced confiscations have resulted in a housing crisis and overcrowding in the Palestinian Arab community. The national average in Israel of people per room is 0.87, while in Palestinian Arab localities the number is 70% higher at about 1.42 people per room. Further adding to this distress is the lack of approval for development plans that would provide additional space for residential zoning in Palestinian Arab localities.
There is a clear and willful neglect on the part of the Israel Land Authority and the Ministry of Housing regarding the construction of new Palestinian Arab neighborhoods and providing additional housing units in such localities. A plan was agreed upon for the years 2000 - 2004 which would have added 10,000 housing units annually in Palestinian Arab localities, but it never went into effect. As a result, there are about 40,000 unlicensed homes in the Palestinian Arab community, with the Israeli government persistently denying housing licenses to Palestinian Arab citizens. It should be noted while the vast majority of unlicensed buildings in Palestinian Arab localities are residential, most unlicensed building in the Jewish community is commercial units or illegal additions to existing housing units.
The problem of construction and housing is most acute in the unrecognized villages in the Negev, where around 100,000 Palestinian Arab citizens inhabit 30 unrecognized villages, and in mixed cities that suffer from difficult living conditions and lack basic services. In these locations, the government demolishes homes on a daily basis and issues hundreds of demolition orders rather than providing adequate solutions that meet the needs of residents.
Since its establishment in 1948, the State of Israel has not built any new Palestinian Arab localities, while at the same time building over 620 new, Jewish towns. The Israeli government is trying hard to Judaize Palestinian Arab areas, including the Negev and Galilee (52% of which are inhabited by Palestinian Arabs), through plans aimed at expanding Jewish communities in the Galilee and the Negev and constricting the development of existing Palestinian Arab localities.
Earth Day, 1976
Since 1948, the Israeli government has confiscated most of the Palestinian people's land using a various laws. In 1975, it declared 21,000 acres as a closed military area with the aim of confiscating it. Palestinian Arab masses rose to confront this decision, led by the Committee for the Defense of Lands. During the confrontations, which were triggered by the Israeli government’s violent suppression of peaceful protests, six Palestinian Arab citizens were killed (including a 15-year-old), hundreds were injured, and hundreds more arrested by the authorities. The Palestinian Arab masses thwarted the confiscation process, and the Ministry of Defense canceled the military closure order in the nineties.
Recognition of the Villages of the "Arba'in"
The Arba'in Committee led the struggle to obtain recognition for the unrecognized villages of the Arba'in in the Galilee and Triangle area. In 1996, it succeeded in obtaining recognition for most of the unrecognized villages in the Galilee. However, the Israeli government still refused to recognize the villages in the Negev.
Restriction on the Right to Housing
The Israeli government continues to deepen discrimination against Palestinian Arab housing in various areas that are developed for Jews only. During the past year, the government announced its intention to establish 8 settlements for Jews in the Negev region. Previous decisions to recognize unrecognized villages were not implemented. The Negev Development Authority has demolished about 3,000 buildings in the Negev over the past year.
Recognition of historical ownership over the land of the Palestinian Arabs of the Negev is an ongoing struggle for the residents of the unrecognized villages. The demand is focused on recognizing the ownership of the Palestinian Arabs of the Negev on their lands, according to the documents they possess. The percentage of the lands for which they are demanding recognition do not exceed 3% of the total land in the Negev.of the land of the Negev. Meanwhile, the Israeli government allocates lands for Jewish families to set up "family farms" and several tourism projects.
Afforestation and Plowing of the Land
The government is planting trees disputed lands to prevent their use by the Palestinian Arabs of the Negev and plowing the cultivated lands they already have. This is despite the fact that the government has given dozens of Jewish towns and Jewish families millions of dunams for cultivation and gives them financial aid to support agricultural production.
Recognition of the Right to Reside in Unrecognized Villages
We demand the recognition of the right of the Palestinian Arabs of the Negev to live in their unrecognized villages and and end to the forced transfers that took place in some of the towns such as Umm al-Hiran a number of times.
Concentration of Bedouin Arabs in Civilian Residential Areas
Despite the many forms of housing that the Jewish population in the Negev have obtained (kibbutzim, moshavim, villages, towns and family farms), the authorities refuse the right of the Negev Palestinian Arabs to choose the form of the localities they want to live in. It imposes on them a single model of traditional villages and cities without giving them the right to establish agricultural and livestock areas and industrial areas that serve their urban development.
Historic and Mixed Cities
The historical and mixed cities turned into one of the preferred forms of housing for the residents of the Galilee, the Triangle area, and the Negev to migrate to following the housing and development crises in the existing Palestinian Arab towns. The municipalities and government ministries did not build new Palestinian Arab neighborhoods in these cities, despite the increasing immigration to them in recent years. On the contrary, some municipalities such as Lydda and Acre incite against their own Palestinian Arab resident and deny them housing and services.
There has been a relative improvement in planning processes in recent years, but it has not led to a real improvement in the housing issue in Palestinian Arab towns. The majority of the planning teams that have been appointed are run by Jewish planning teams that ignore the social, cultural, developmental, and linguistic needs of the people of Palestinian Arab towns.