HOT TOPICS ▶ Climate Change     Undoing The New Deal     The Real Baltimore     Reality Asserts Itself     United Kingdom    

  March 12, 2013

Israel's Land Injustice Perpetuated by a Racist Discourse

Efforts to reform Israel's discriminatory land allocation has met with failure, because mayors of impoverished Jewish communities are loath to cooperate with the mayors of Palestinian and Bedouin towns and villages.
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

I support The Real News Network because it is not Conservative, it is not Liberal; it is Real. - David Pear
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


SHIR HEVER, ECONOMIST, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER: Land allocation to municipalities and regional councils in Israel are once again a cause of strife among mayors and officials. These struggles offer a rare glimpse into the deep injustice in land allocation in Israel, which perpetuates generations-long social inequality.

Efforts to reform the location of land have been repeatedly met with failure, because the Israeli government and even some of the mayors of underprivileged municipalities are afraid that altering the status quo could benefit Palestinian and Bedouin-Israeli citizens.

The origin of Israel's land allocation policies lie in the efforts of the Israeli government in the 1940s and the 1950s to take over as much land as possible, preventing Palestinian refugees from the 1948 mass deportation from returning to their lands and using Jewish immigrants from Arab countries to create a working class in Israel in order to leave no role for Palestinians in the Israeli economy.

The state founded in the 1950s so-called development towns, in which Jewish immigrants from Arab countries were housed in dense residential projects. Most of the open areas between these towns was entrusted to the kibbutzim and to villages. These lands were granted on lease, but for free, because the kibbutzim and the villages were seen as representatives of the Zionist movement and as pioneers.

Throughout the development of Israel's economy, agriculture declined in economic importance. Industrial zones, quarries, military bases, commercial and residential zones have been gradually developed in areas that used to be fields and orchards, although these areas remained in the jurisdiction of the kibbutzim and the villages.

Mayors of Palestinian villages and cities within Israel, as well as the Jewish mayors of developing towns, found themselves in a similar predicament. Plagued by unemployment, substandard education services, crumbling infrastructure, and widespread social problems, municipalities in such communities could not find the money to invest in infrastructure and public services. Their only source of income is municipal taxes, which are already an almost unbearable burden on an impoverished urban population.

Meanwhile, the rural communities surrounding these urban areas were able to collect municipal taxes from the industrial zones, quarries, and military bases within their jurisdictions. These large revenues were accumulated to serve the relatively small population of these communities. They therefore had the resources to develop better schools and better infrastructure and to maintain a powerful lobby in the Israeli parliament.

Hakeshet Hademocratit Hamizrahit, the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition, is an organization founded in 1996 to try to rectify this injustice. Although it mostly consisted of Jews of Arab descent, the organization called for a comprehensive land reform that would benefit not only the development towns, but also many Palestinians and Bedouin communities who suffer even more severe discrimination in land allocation.

The regional councils developed a tactic to defeat the call for a land reform. They pointed out that the reform proposed by the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition would benefit Palestinians and came out with a slogan: the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition supports the right of return--the right of return of Palestinian refugees from 1948, that is.

By appealing to nationalistic and racist sentiments in the Israeli public, the regional councils were able to draw support away from the reform. When the Israel Land Administration in the year 2000 gave permission to agricultural communities to convert much of their lands to commercial or residential use, they effectively granted another boon to those agricultural communities who received these lands on lease from the state, lands whose value was predicted to increase dramatically.

The Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition appealed the decision in the Israeli High Court. The Court decided in 2002 that the profits from changing the use of these lands should be divided in a more egalitarian fashion. But the Court reached that decision only when the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition agreed that the history of these lands would not be part of the discussion. And the fact that much of them used to belong to Palestinians, who had their property confiscated without compensation, was not mentioned by the Court.

Despite the Court's ruling, the situation today remains one of extreme inequality. Although 90 percent of Israel's population is urban, over 80 percent of the country's lands are within the jurisdiction of regional councils who continue to benefit from the municipal taxes. Michael Bitton, mayor of Yeruham, a developing town surrounded by military bases who pay their municipal taxes to the nearby regional council Ramat Negev rather than to Yeruham has tried in the past 18 months to convince the Israeli parliament to reallocate the jurisdiction of these military bases. His efforts failed, and he now plans to appeal to the Israel High Court.

The chairman of Ramat Negev regional council, commanding 20 percent of Israel's territory, is Shmulik Rifman. Rifman's response to the demand for a fair allocation of land was to say that these demands are driven by Bedouins trying to take over state lands, thereby bringing the nationalistic and racist argument into what began as a social justice debate. Indeed, the Bedouins are among the most discriminated group in Israel. In 2011, over 1,000 homes of Bedouins were demolished by the state of Israel, which is planning the deportation of 53,000 additional Bedouins from their homes.

The state refuses to recognize the villages in which the Bedouins live, even though most of them existed before the state of Israel was founded. The residents of these villages are considered to be intruders by the state. They therefore lack access to public services, adequate education, roads, and hospitals. They suffer from large-scale house demolitions and the spraying of agricultural fields and livestock with herbicides such as Roundup.

The unjust land allocation demonstrates the complex layers of discrimination in Israeli society and how the Israeli state uses divide-and-conquer policies to turn minority groups against each other in order to maintain the status quo.

This is Shir Hever for The Real News.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at

latest stories

What's Behind the Taliban's Call for Talks?
Russian Espionage, or Troll Farm? (1/2)
Baltimore's Metro Shutdown Underscores City's Transportation Problem (2/2)
Billy Graham: An Old Soldier Fades Away
State's Attorney's Office fires prosecutor amid Gun Trace Task Force controversy, lawyers call shenanigans
Improving Baltimore's Schools Will Take More Than Just Money
Safe Streets in America's 'Most Dangerous City'
Saudi Arabia's Unholy Alliance with Israel
Can Trump's Neocons Exploit Russiagate? (2/2)
Once a Poster Child for Austerity, Latvia Becomes a Hotbed of Corruption
Is Russia a Threat?
Why is a Russian Troll Farm Being Compared to 9/11?
Wilkerson: The Trump-Netanyahu Iran Plan Means War
President Ramaphosa: From Militant Revolutionary to Corporate Magnate
Were Baltimore's Corrupt Cops High When They Made Attempted Murder Arrest?
Baltimore's Metro Shutdown Underscores City's Transportation Problem (1/2)
Empire Files: In the Deadliest Country for Unions & Social Leaders
A New 'Cancer Alley' for Appalachia
Colombian Peace Agreement with FARC on the Brink of Collapse
Philippine War on Drugs a Cover for President Duterte's Fascism?
Mother of Woman Shot by Baltimore County Police Speaks Out
South Africa: Criminality and Deep Rot in the ANC Will Continue Under New President Ramaphosa (2/2)
Do Russiagate Skeptics Go Too Far?
The Return of Berlusconi: Can A Fractured Left Defeat Him?
Potomac Pipeline Would Be 'Another Contradiction' From Larry Hogan
Police Union Keeps Audit Secret Despite Allegations of Massive Overtime Fraud
Guns, Toxic Masculinity, and the Alt-Right
Zuma's Catastrophic Presidency Ends in Forced Resignation (1/2)
Brother of Crooked Cop Says He Knows Who Killed Detective Suiter
Israeli Strikes in Egypt Kept Secret for Years,, The Real News Network, Real News Network, The Real News, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of Independent World Television inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and The Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Web Design, Web Development and Managed Hosting