We are an Israeli group which supports the rights of Palestinians and tries to resist the ongoing efforts by our government to displace and suppress Palestinians. We are writing you with regard to your planned participation in the Karmiel dance festival.
Very recently the Israeli press reported that senior Army officials admit (what has been obvious for a long time) that the army purposely displaces Palestinians in the occupied West Bank1. Such displacement is nothing new and has been applied to Palestinians even when they are Israeli citizens (as opposed to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank who have even less rights).
A particularly notorious case is that of the town of Karmiel, in the center of the Galilee, which was built in 1964 on lands confiscated from the villages of Deir al-Asad, Be’eneh, Majd Al-Kurum and Nahef. When Palestinians try to resist these policies the Israeli response is often deadly as has been the case only two weeks ago when Muhammad Abu Thahr, 15, and Nadim Nuwara, 17 were killed by the Israeli army at a demonstration.2
At Karmiel, the process of displacing Palestinians is taking place along with preparations for the dance festival. The case in point is that of the residents of Ramiya, a small village that was there long before Karmiel was even planned. Ramiya’s people lived on their privately owned land, but it was confiscated in 1976 for “public needs” – i.e. to make room for the expansion of Karmiel. Some 165 of Ramiya’s people still stay of their land almost 40 years after its confiscation.
After long struggle, Ramiya’s residents signed in 1995 an agreement whereby they will be compensated for their lands by (much smaller) building plots in a special new neighborhood in Karmiel. In subsequent years the Israeli land authority and the municipality of Karmiel breached the agreement, as was recognized by a ruling (in 2009) of the Haifa district court. The judge suggested that the Israeli land authority should allocate more lands for Ramiya’s people. The state ignored this ruling and continued to work for the eviction of the people of Ramiya. In August 2013 another ruling at the district court opened the way for the city to evict the remaining residents without any compensations or alternative housing3.
All along this period the Municipality of Karmiel wages a war of attrition to make life unbearable to the people of Ramiya in order to force them out of their lands. They do not allow Ramiya’s people to connect to the electricity grid and prevent them from any building. Recently Karmiel issues special by-laws that prevent Ramiya’s people from holding any sheep or goats, on which many families depend for their living. For the smallest violation, Karmiel inspectors impose high fines on Ramiya’s poor hard-working people.
The people of Ramiya object to the confiscation of their land and say that if this land is designated for building, it is their natural right to build on their ancestors’ land. All they ask for is to be recognized as rightful residents of Karmiel, build their houses on their land and live as equals alongside their Jewish neighbors.
The same city which prides itself on its international dance festival is taking an active part in the discriminatory displacement of Palestinian residents. Just few hundred meters from where the dance festival is scheduled to take place, the original residents of the area still live in barracks, without electricity or paved roads, and are under constant threat of expulsion just because they don’t belong to the right religion or ethnicity – what amounts to ethnic cleansing – a crime against Humanity.
The city of Karmiel and the Israeli land administration cannot justify this policy to the world and they no longer try. Instead, like other Israeli institutions they attempt to distract the world’s attention by any means possible. Cultural events such as the Karmiel dance festival are one of the state’s few opportunities to present itself as something other than the racist belligerent aggressor that it is. Cooperating with complicit Israeli institutions in this context amounts to taking the side of the oppressor over the wishes of its Palestinian victims. Indeed since 2005 Palestinians have unified around a call to apply Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until such policies as the one applied by Karmiel against the people of Ramiya are ended.4
We call on you to take the side of the victims and the side of opposition to discrimination and oppression. Please do not participate in the Karmiel dance festival.
Boycott from within.
1“IDF uses live-fire zones to expel Palestinians from areas of West Bank, officer admits” Haaretz English edition, 21/5/2014http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.591881accessed 26/5/2014
2 “Video: Palestinians shot dead at Nakba Day protest did not threaten soldiers” Haaretz English edition 20/5/2014 http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.591738 accessed 26/5/2014
3 “Apartheid Bulldozers Threaten Ramiya’s Houses in Karmiel”, Free Haifa blog. http://freehaifa.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/apartheid-bulldozers-threaten-ramiyas-houses-in-karmiel/ Accessed online 26/5/2014